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Library of Islam 





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First published 1987 by Library of Islam 

P.O. Box 1923 

DesPlaines, IL 60017-1923 (U.S.A.) 

Copyright© 1987 Library of Islam 

All rights resGrvGd. No part of this publication may ba reproduced 
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.> , Kazi Pubticattons Inc. 
"^ 3023 West Belmont Awnue 
f^;^. Chicago, I L 60618 (U.SJ^.) 


Ahmad, Kh. Jamil ?' 


ISBN: 0-933511-16-7 


A-1 Typesetting, Chicago 

Printed in tiie United States of America 

123456789 10 

To His Majesty Shah Faisal Shaheed 

The most conscientious and courageous, sagacious and respected 

Muslim ruler since the time of Salahuddin the Great — one who was 

a symbol of Muslim unity and solidarity, piety and strength 

during the present century. 




Abu Bakr 

Umar the Great 


All (The Lion Hearted) 

Abuzar Ghaffari 

Imam Hussain 

Umar bin Abdul Aziz 

ni. Great Women: 


Khadija tal-Kubra 
Aisha Siddiqa 
Fatima az-Zahra 
Rabia Basri 

IV. Religious Teachers, Legists and Traditionists : 


Imam Jafar Sadiq 


Imam Abu Hanifa 


Imam Malik 


Imam Shafii 


Imam Hanbal 


Imam Bukhari 


Imam Muslim 


Imam Ghazali 


Imam ibn Taimiya 



Foreword by L. F. Rushbrook Williams 

Preface to First Edition xii 

I. Muhammad (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam 3 

II. Great Leaders : 













VI Contents 

V. Sutis and Saints: Page 

1. Abdul Qadir JUatii 119 

i. Bayazid Bustami 123 

3. Data Ganj Bakhsh 125 

4. Khawaja Mueenuddin Chishti 1 28 

5 . Ibrahim bin Adham 1 32 

6. Nizamuddin Aulia 135 

VI. Thinkers and Scientists : 


Vn. Poets and Writers : 


VIII. Artists and Musicians : 

1 . Abu Nasr Farabi 263 

2. Amir Khusrou 268 

3. MianTansen 274 

4. Sinan 277 


Muhammad bin Musa Al-Khawarizmi 


Jabir ibn Hayyan 


Abu Ishaq Kindi 


Zakrriya al-Razi 


Abu AM Sina 




Ibn al-Haitham 


Ibn al-Baitar 


Ibn Rushd 




Nasir al-Din Toosi 


Abul Qasim al-Zahrawi 


Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman 








Hafiz Shiiazi 


Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi 


Umar Khayyam 


Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib 


Maulana Altaf Husain Hali 


Maulana Shibli Nomani 




Maulvi Abdul Haq 


Syed Sulaiman Nadvi 

Contents vii 


5. Behzad 279 

6. Ibn al-Bawwab 282 

7. Bundoo Khan 284 

DC. Refonneis, Revolutionaries and Patriots: 

1. The Saint of Sirhind 291 

2. ShahWaUuUah 297 

3. Shaikh Abd al-Wahhab 304 

4. Syed Ahmad Barelvi 307 

5. Jamaluddin Afghani 313 

6. Syed Ahmad Khan 319 

7. Mustafa Kamal 326 

8. Maulana Muhammad Ali 333 

9. Maulana Hasrat Mohani 339 
10. Muhammad Ali Jinnah 345 

X. Rulers, Statesmen and Administrators: 

1. Waleed- The Umayyad Caliph 359 

2. Haroon-ar-Rashid 362 

3. Yahya Barmaki 367 

4. Mamoon-ar-Rashid 370 

5. Abdur Rahman al-Nasir 379 

6. Nizamul Mulk Toosi 384 

7. Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni 387 

8. Zahiruddin Babur 391 

9. Sher Shah Suri 395 

10. Sulaiman the Magnificent 401 

1 1 . Aurangzeb Alamgir 405 

12. Tipu Sultan 412 

13. Malik Abd al- Aziz ibn Saud 420 

14. Malik Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz 424 

XI. Soldiers, Generals and Conquerors: 

1. Sa'ad ibn Wakkas 431 

2. Khalid bin Waleed 434 

3. Musa ibn Nusair 443 

4. Tariq ibn Ziyad 446 

5. Muhammad bin Qasim 449 

6. Sultan Bayazid Yildirim 452 

7. Timur, the World Conqueror 457 

8. Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi 465 

viu Contents 


9. Muhammad 11, The Conqueror, (Seventh Ruler of the 471 
Ottoman dynasty.) 

10. YusufibnTashfm 475 

1 1 . Khairuddin Barbarossa 479 

12. Ahmad Shan AbdaU 481 

Xn. Historians, Geographers and Explorers: 

1. Tabari 489 

2. Al-Masudi 492 
3." Tbn Khaldun 496 

4. Ibn Batuta 500 

5. Sulaiman al-Mahiri 507 

Index 513 


Khwaja Jamil Ahmad is well known in Pakistan as a journalist with long 
and varied experience of newspaper work, broadcasting and feature 
articles. He is also a good scholar, trained in my University of Allahabad, 
and a pupil of the savants like Dr. Ishwari Prasad and Dr. Tripathi whom, 
in their early years I was privileged to recruit to work in the Department of 
Mughal Studies which I founded. I have known Mr. Jamil Ahmad for many 
years through his writings; and it was with great pleasure that I was able to 
make his personal acquaintance while he was in Government service as 
Information Officer. During more than one of my visits to Pakistan as a 
government guest, he acted as my Conducting Officer, and helped me in a 
number of ways. 

I was, therefore, very interested to learn that he has now written a book on 
Hundred Great Muslims, and that he is embodying in this book, among 
other pieces, some of his admirable biographical studies of prominent 
Muslim poets, philosophers, scientists, scholastics, statesmen, warriors 
and explorers. One of the remarkable features of the Great Men whom Islam 
has given birth to is the wide range of their genius. History can show many 
examples of warriors who have also been distinguished men of letters, of 
statesmen who have been excellent poets, and of scholars who have risen to 
the positions of great power and responsibility. 

Nearly a generation ago, I edited a book entitled Great Men of India, in 
which I naturally included studies, each written by a distinguished 
specialist, of a number of prominent Muslims from Mughal times to our own 
day. This book has long been out of print, although I still receive letters 
asking from where copies can be obtained. Thus I am quite sure that there 
will be a steady demand of the book which Mr. Jamil Ahmad has written, 
angled as it is from the stand-point of a patriotic Pakistani, proud of his 
country's great tradition of Muslim culture. I have read a number of the 
individual biographies which will be included in this book, and am 
impressed with their excellence. I feel confident that the book will appeal to 
many readers both in Pakistan and outside. 

September 26, 1967. L.p. RUSHBROOK WILLIAMS 



Muhammad (PBUH) the Prophet of Islam and the greatest benefactor of 
mankind, had accomplished not only an impossible task of uniting the savage 
and warring Arabs tribes but also gave birth to a society which created the 
greatest revolution in the annals of mankind— a revolution which embraced all 
spheres of human activity. In less than thirty years, after the death of the 
Prophet, the Arabs swept over two of the mightiest empires of those times- 
Persians and Romans— and later became pioneers in the realm of art and learning. 

The memorable words of the Holy Prophet of Islam, "Seek knowledge 
even unto the distant China," awakened a love of learning and a spirit of enquiry 
among the Muslims which hitherto lay dormant in them. They were responsible 
for reviving not only the dead Greek and Indian learnings but also made lasting 
contributions to almost all branches of sciences and arts and thus provided the 
necessary link between the ancient and modern civilizations. The light of learn- 
ing which illuminated Cordova, the seat of Arab culture in Spain, at last dispelled 
the gloom that had enveloped the Mediaeval Europe, giving birth to Western 

The Arabs, being practical people, had employed both observation and 
experiment in their pursuits of science-an advance over the Greek scientists 
who confined themselves to observation only. Their efforts in the realm of 
science were, therefore, crowned with greater success. 

The invention of the Mariners Compass enabled the sea-faring Arab 
mariners to explore the distant seas. The latest research by the celebrated 
South African anthropologist. Dr. Jefferys, has credited the Arabs with the 
discovery of the New World— America-five centuries ahead of Columbus. 

The teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam had given birth to an ideal 
society, composed of a group of selfless people, who for thirty years success- 
ffllly experimented in true democracy in the world-based on equality, fraternity 
and justice— which has no parallel in the annals of mankind. In that ideal demo- 
cracy, there was no material distinction between the Caliph and an ordinary 


xii Preface 

Some of the most outstanding and charming personalities of Islam come 
from among the Companions of the Prophet, who lived during this period of 
ideal democracy. It is very difficult to make a selection from this group of 
selfless devotees to hlam, who staked their all for the glory of their New Faith. 

But, the scope of the book demanded a larger canvas for selection which 
was provided by the outstanding scientists and scholars, historians and explorers, 
artists and writers, statesmen and rulers, revolutionaries and reformers of later 

The inspiration to write this book I got from One Hundred Great Lives 
published by the Home Library of the Times of India Press, Bombay, in the 
early thirties of the present century. Hundred Great Muslims has been modelled 
on the same lines and has been divided into 1 2 biographical categories. 

The Editors and the Publishers of the One Hundred Great Lives have done 
great injustice to the Muslims by including only two biographies of the sons of 
Islam— Muhammad (PBUH) the Prophet of Islam and Kamal Ataturk. It is 
strange that some of the greatest conquerors of the world like Timur, Khalid, 
Tariq and Salahuddin Ayyubi; great rulers like Harun, Mamun, Sulaiman, the 
Magnificent and Abdur Rahman al-Nasir; great scientists and scholars like Ibn 
Khaldun, ibn Sina, Baruni, Razi and Khwarizmi; great historians and explorers 
like Tabari, Masudi, Ibn Batuta and Sulaiman al-Mahiri; great writers and poets 
like Hafiz, Saadi, Firdausi, Omar Khayyam and Iqbal did not find a place in this 

It is only to counter this utter injustice to the sons of Islam that I decided 
to write this book. There is another reason as well. 

The ignorance of our educated class towards the achievements of their 
ancestors in different spheres of human activity, especially in the realm of 
sciences and arts impelled me to raise the curtain which hung over the glorious 
achievements of the sons of Islam. 

The Western education is responsible for creating an inferiority complex 
among our educated classes who link the entire development of sciences and 
arts to the West. They are much familiar with Western Scientists like Newton 
and Stephenson, Harvey and Maiconi but not with greater Muslim scientists like 
Khwarizmi and Ibn Sina, Baruni and Ibn Nafis. But, modern research, including 
some outspoken admissions by Western orientalists have brought out the truth 
about the achievements of Muslim scholars and scientists during the mediaeval 
times. These orientalists are Robert Briffault, John Draper, Phillip K. Hitti, 
George Sarton, Max Meyerhof, H. G, Farmer and Carta De Vaux. 

Efforts have been made to provide documentary evidence for the achieve- 
ments of the sons of Islam from the writings of Western orientalists, in order 
to save the author from a possible charge of partisanship towards Islam. 

Preface xiii 

Most of the biographies included in this book have been widely published 
in the leading papers and periodicals of Pakistan and also of abroad. 

The selection of outstanding Muslims representing different spheres of 
human activity was not an easy task. A number of Muslim scientists and scholars 
possessed encyclopaedic knowledge and versatile taste. It was found very difficult 
to place them in anyone category. However, this problem was solved by placing 
the person in a category to which he has made the most outstanding contributions. 

The readers will find in this book a number of biographies from Muslim 
India. It is but natural as the author has more intimate knowledge of the achieve- 
ments of his own countrymen, and has also sentimental attachment with them. 

Absence of good libraries in Pakistan, especially in its only international 
city, Karachi, has greatly hampered good research work in different spheres of 
learning and has damped the enthusiasm of many promising scholars. The 
author of this book, too, had to surmount innumerable hurdles and had to 
sacrifice many-a-paid leave in order to have an access to the only good library 
in the city— Liaquat National LiBrary— which till recently had no catalogue and 
was run during Central Government Office hours. 

Lastly, I wish to thank all those persons who have encouraged me to write 
this book, including the founder-Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, late Mr. 
Zahid Hussain; ex-Managing Director of National Bank of Pakistan, Mr. Mumtaz 
Hasan; the ex-Governor-General and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Khawaja 
Nazimuddin; the ex-Speaker of Pakistan National Assembly, Moulvi Tamizuddin 
Khan; the novelist-Attorney General of Pakistan, late Mr. Fayyaz Ali; the 
renowned historian of Pakistan, late Dr. Mahmood Husain, former Vice- 
Chancellor of Karachi University and the outstanding Indian Urdu writer and 
columnist, Maulana Abdul Majid Dariyabadi. 

I am particularly grateful to the celebrated British historian and writer, 
Professor Rushbrook Williams, who has written an illuminating and encouraging 
Foreword for this book. 




The Prophet of Islam 


(Peace be upon him) 


Before the advent of Islam, Arabia was inhabited by warring tribes, whose 
inter-tribal feuds lasted for generations, and at times culminated in bloody 
conflicts in which hundreds of precious lives were lost. Idolatory was prevalent 
among the Arabs and the sacred house of God built by Prophet Abraham, 
housed hundreds of deities of demigods which were worshipped by the Arabs. 
They suffered from false sense of prestige and killed their female issues remorse- 
lessly. The Arabian society had degenerated to its lowest depths— feudalism was 
at its zenith and the poor were ruthlessly oppressed and exploited. Justice was 
denied to the weak and the maxim "might is right" was at no other time more 

In such a gloomy atmosphere which had encompassed pre-Islamic Arabia, 
there glittered a light in the birth of Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Never 
before or after any individual placed in such adverse circumstances had so 
completely purged his society of the multifarious deep-seated evils, giving it a 
new and healthier shape, and had so much influenced the course of contem- 
porary and future history. Muhammad's (PBUH) practical teachings had 
transformed a savage race into a civilized people who brought about the most 
wonderful revolution in the history of mankind. He was the benefactor of 
humanity and being the last and greatest of all the prophets, his teachings were 
universal and for all times to come. 

Born in Makkah in 571 A.C., Muhammad (PBUH) sprang from Arabia's 
noblest family, Banu Hashim of Quraish, to whom had been entrusted the 
custodianship of Kaaba, built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ismail. 
Muhammad's (PBUH) father, Abdullah, the youngest son of his grandfather, 
Abdul Muttalib, the Custodian of Kaaba, had died before his son was born. His 
mother, Amina, too, died, six years later. 

Young Muhammad (PBUH) was afterwards brought up by his grandfather 
Abdul Muttalib and on his death, two years later, by his uncle Abu Talib, the 
father of famous All, the lion-hearted. 

4 Hundred Great Muslims 

Islam, the religion sponsored by Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 
through the injunctions of the sacred book of God— the Holy Quran, evolved a 
complete code of life, and the great Prophet translated its precepts into practice 
which made a lasting salutary effect on his countrymen. He stood like a rock 
against the surging waves of opposition and ultimately won the field. His 
forbearance, magnanimity., patience, and ability for organisation, stand 
unparalleled in the annals of mankind. 

Muhammad (PBUH) proclaimed the sovereignty of God and liberated 
mankind from the thraldom of unholy associations with His Divinity. He upheld 
the dignity of man and practised the high ideals of equality, fraternity and 
justice he preached. 

He advocated the unity of God and thereby the unity and equality of 
mankind. He denounced the differences of colour and race and was the "Prophet 
in human colour and consequently a true specimen of Islamic unity and brother- 

He was a great promoter of education and advocated the "pursuit of 
learning even unto distant China". He inculcated a love for learning among the 
illiterate Arabs which paved the way for their outstanding intellectual achieve- 
ments, ultimately making them pioneers in the domains of science and arts 
during the Mediaeval times. 

As a peace maker he set an example for the world to foUow. The peace 
terms dictated by him on the conquest of Makkah stand as a landmark in the 
armals of treaties made among various nations of the world from time immemorial. 
No conqueror has ever offered more generous terms to the conquered, who were 
his sworn enemies and who harassed and maligned him throughout his life. Even 
his greatest living enemy, Abu Sufian, the leader of the nefarious Quraish group, 
was not touched. So much so , when his ten thousand crack troops were gasping 
to avenge the misdeeds of the Quraish of Makkah, the erstwhile enemies of 
Islam, the Prophet due to his boundless magnanimity and spirit of tolerance, 
gave orders not to strika anyone and declared that anyone who would take 
refuge in the house of Abu Sufian would be safe. 

As an administrator, the Prophet accomplished what looked like an 
impossible task and overcame situations which would have defied the ablest 
administrators of the world. 

The mission of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was to emancipate mankind 
from the shackles of slavery-mental or physical. He translated his noble ideas 
into practice by establishing a State in Medina based on equality, liberty, 
fraternity and justice. 

The Prophet of Islam fulfilled during his lifetime the almost impossible 
task of knitting together the warring tribes of Arabia, who forming into an 

Hundred Great Muslims 5 

irresistible force, heralded the greatest revolution in the annals of mankind 
—both material and mental. 

The four obligatory duties prescribed by Islam, namely Prayer, Fasting, 
Zakat and Haj, enabled the Prophet to realise the moral as well as material 
well-being of his follower : 

Prayers— five times a day— in which the ruler and the ruled stood shoulder 
to shoulder, taught them the inestimable advantages of fraternity, and instilled 
in their hearts the spirit of equality of man. 

Fasting— inixised in them the spirit of sacrifice and abstenation from 
worldly pleasures. It elevated their moral standard. 

Zafez/— enabled the adherents of the new faith to evolve an egalitarian 
economy, as it provided a check on the rich becoming richer and the poor 
becoming poorer. This added immensely to the equitable distribution of wealth 
and to the material well-being of the poorer classes of the community. 

//a/-Annual pilgrimage to Makkah— enabled the MusUms all over the 
world to meet one another and exchange views on problems facing the world of 

The Prophet of Islam, being a great leader of men, both in war and peace, 
proved his mettle during the defensive wars fought against his enemies, including 
Badr, Ohad, Khandak and Khyber. His organising, capacity and the spirit which 
he had inculcated among his warriors, won the field for him despite enemy's 
superiority in men and arms. 

Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) possessed innumerable, qualities of head and 
heart. He was a very kind-hearted man, who never abusdd or cursed anybody. 
Whenever such occasion arose and his Companions implored him to curse his 
torturers, he prayed for the latter's reformation. Once, while praying in Kaaba, 
when he prostrated, one of his opponents placed the heavy skin of a camel on 
his back. He remained in this condition for a pretty long time till he was rescued 
by some of his Companions. Even then he did not curse the miscreant. On 
another occasion, when he had gone to Taif, the hostile elements instigated the 
hooligans and children to shower stones on him and his Companions. He was 
badly injured and his Companions requested him to curse the children. But, 
kind-hearted as he was, he said instead : "O God, forgive these ignorant ones and 
show them the right path". Once an evil-minded Jew became his guest. He 
entertained him to his fill and gave him his bedding to sleep, but, out of spite, 
the Jew discharged faeces on the bedding and slipped away, leaving his sword 
behind. The Prophet, finding his guest gone, was sorry because he had left his 
sword behind, and began to wash the bedding with his own hands. Meanwhile, 
the Jew returned to fetch his sword and observed the Prophet washing the 
dirtied bedding. The Prophet did not utter even a wdrd of complaint. Iri^tead 

6 Hundred Great Muslims 

he said : "Dear friend, you had left behind your sword. Here it is". Struck by the 
unusual courtesy and angelic character of Muhammad (PBUH), the Jew 
instantaneously embraced Islam. 

The teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam created a society based on 
principles of equality and justice, thus demolishing all barriers b Jtween one man 
and the other. He was the greatest benefactor of mankind who liberated them 
from the shackles of race and colour bars. This spirit of equality taught by the 
Prophet later led to the birth of several slave ruling dynasties in Muslim countries. 

The Prophet of Islam was totally impartial in his dealings with his relations 
and strangers. He refused a maid servant even to his dearest daughter, Hazrat 
Fatima, who was overworked and badly needed such a help. He, no doubt, 
advised his followers to help their relations, neighbours and needy persons 
according to their means. "No religion of the world prior to Islam", says Ameer 
AU, "had consecrated charity, the support of the widow, the orphans and the 
helpless poor, by enrolling its principles among the positive enactments of the 
system". Mercy and kindness were the virtues mostly emphasised by Muhammad 
(PBUH) who, according to a Hadith in Bukhari, once said : "The man who plants 
a tree is blessed when people and birds are benefited by its fruit. A man was sent 
to Paradise, simply because he saved a thirsty dog from death by offering him 
water and the other was condemned because he tied and starved a cat to death". 

The Holy Prophet defined and prescribed the rights of individuals as set 
forth in the Holy Quran. He said: "It is the part of faith that you should like for 
your brother what you like for yourself (Bukhari). He enjoined upon the 
faithful to show the greatest respect for one's mother after God when he said : 
"Paradise lies under the feet of your mother." (Bukhari) For other relations he 
said: "Anyone who is not kind to his youngsters and obedient to his elders is 
not from us" (Tirmizi). As regards Muslims as a whole, he proclaimed: "The 
Muslims are a single hand like a compact wall whose bricks support each other" 

Even during his early life, when Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) had not yet 
been bestowed the mantle of Prophethood, he was known for his piety, truth- 
fulness and trustworthiness. He was known by the title of "Amin" (Trust- 
worthy) aihong the Makkahans, who kept their valuables with him. When he 
migrated to Medina, he left behind his cousin Hazrat Ali, to return to their 
owners the articles kept with him as a trust. Even his sworn enemies acknow- 
ledged his truthfulness. Once he climbed the hill of Safa and addressed the 
Quraish, asking them. "If I tell you that there is a huge army hidden behind this 
hill ready to attack you, will you believe me?" All shouted with one voice: 
"Surely, because you have never spoken a lie." Such was the high reputation of 
the Prophet of Islam, even before God conferred Prophethood on him. 

The generosity of the Prophet of Islam knew no bounds. Indeed, it was 

Hundred Great Muslims 7 

one of the greatest characteristics of the House of Muhammad (PBUH) that no 
supplicant was ever refused, and this principle was rigidly followed not only 
by Hazrat Fatima and her sons but even by their grand children. Once while 
he was grazing his herd of goats he gave the entire herd to a person who asked 
for it. The supplicant was surprised by his extraordinary generosity. During the 
last days of the Holy Prophet of Islam, the Muslims iiad become very prosperous. 
Nevertheless, he lived abstemiously contending himself with frugal diet and at 
times going without food. 

He always resisted the temptation of power and vengeance. His was the 
sublimest morality of returning good for evil : to the weak and undefended he 
was a helper; to the defeated he showed unusual mercy. Never proud or haughty, 
known for his strict adherence to justice, one who undertook his share of 
common labour, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shunned no hardship and led 
the life of a common man. 

Delivering his last address to the Muslims from Mount Arafat, the Prophet 
said : 

"O People ! Listen to my words as I may not be with you another year in 
this place. Be humane and just among yourselves. The life and the property of 
one are sacred and inviolable to the other. Render faithfully everyone his due, as 
you will appear before God and He will demand an account of your actions. 
Treat women well; they are your help-mates and can do nothing by themselves. 
You have taken them from God on trust. People ! Listen to my words and 
fix them in your memory. I have given you everything; I have left to you a law 
which you should preserve and be firmly attached to a law clear and positive : 
the Book of God and the Sunnah " (i.e., Practice of the Prophet). 

This greatest benefactor of mankind and the last Apostle of God passed 
away from this world on 12th Rabiul Awwal 1 1 A.H., 632 AC and was buried 
in the room occupied of his wife, Aisha Siddiqa. He had accomplished his task. 

Muhammad (PBUH) led an exemplary life. Even before he was assigned his 
mission, he spent his time in meditation, devotion, contemplation, fasting and 
service to his fellow beings. His virtuous life earned for him the title of 'Amin ' 
(Trustworthy). Later the Revelation commanded him to preach the faith to the 

He taught them the unity of God and the four obligatory duties enjoined 
by Islam— namely Prayer, Zakat, Fasting and Haj (Annual Pilgrimage to Makkah). 
He hin";lef practised what he preached and set an example for others. He stood 
sometimes so long in prayers during the night that his feet got swollen. He spent 
the major part of night in prayers and meditation. He prayed not only for him- 
self but for the entire creation. 

His prayers and devotion to God enabled him to check such worldly 
desires and impulses which could distract him from the supreme goal. 

8 Hundred Great Muslims 

Islam enjoins upon its followers to observe one month's fast in a year. 
This has proved to be a very effective source of controlling one's worldly desires. 
The Holy Prophet of Islam fasted for more than three months during a year, 
besides one month's obUgatory fast. 

His was a comprehensive life. He went through all sorts of trials and 
tribulations for establishing the kingdom of God on earth. Faithfully and 
sincerely he performed his duties to God and His creatures, to wife and children, 
to relations and neighbours, to friends and foes, to the needy and disabled, to 
allies and aliens— in fact to all human beings. An account of his comprehensive 
life preserved in Traditions (Hadith) has served as a beacon light not only for his 
followers but to entire humanity during the last fourteen centuries or more. 
His exemplary life covering different spheres of human activity continues to 
inspire and guide human beings for the last more than 1 ,400 years. 

Such were the exceptional qualities of head and heart possessed by the 
great Prophet of Islam whose noble teachings produced a society of virtuous 
people who laid the foundation of tme democracy in the world in which there 
was no distinction between the ruler and the ruled. 

Writing in the Legacy of Islam, David De Santillana says : "The Prophet 
uttered some charming words with regard to neighbourly relations : "Be kind to 
your neighbour. Draw the veil over him. Avoid injury. Look upon him with an 
eye of kindness, if you see him doing evil forgive him. If you see him doing 
good to you, proclaim your thankfulness". 

The celebrated British writer, George Bernard Shaw, in his letter to Mr. 
Najmi Saqib of Cyprus acknowledges that Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) teach- 
ings on the status of women, exposure of female children and kindness to animals, 
were "far ahead of Western Christian thought, even of modem thought". 

The great Western historian, Edward Gibbon observes: "The good sense of 
Muhammad (PBUH) despised the pomp of royalty; the Apostle of God sub- 
mitted to the menial offices of the family; he kindled the fire, swept the floor, 
ijiilked the cows and mended with his own hands shoes and his woollen garments. 
Disdaining the penance and merit of a hermit he observed without effort and 
vanity, the abstemious diet of an Arab and a soldier. On solemn occasions he 
feted his Companions with hospitable plenty; but in his domestic life, many 
weeks would elapse without a fire being kindled in the hearth of the Prophet". 

"Muhammad (PBUH) was a man of truth and fidelity", says Thoma? 
Carlyle, "tme in what he said, in what he spoke, in what he thought; he always 
iheant something; a man rather taciturn in speech, silent when there was nothing 
to be said but pertinent, wise, sincere when he did speak, always throwing light 
on the matter". 

"His intellectual qualities, "says Washington Irving, "were undoubtedly of 

Hundred Great Muslims 9 

an extraordinary kind. He had a quick apprehension, a retentive memory, a 
vivid imagination and an inventive genius. His military triumphs awakened no 
pride nor vainglory as they would have done had they been effected for selfish 
purposes. In the time of his greatest power he maintained the same simplicity 
of manners and appearance as in the days of his adversity. So, far from affecting 
a regal state, he was displeased if on entering a room any unusual testimonial of 
respect was shown to him. If he aimed at universal domination it was the 
dominion of the faith: as to the temporal rule which grew up in Iiis hands, he 
used it without ostentation, so he took no step to perpetuate it in his family.' 

In his Histoire de la Turqui, Lamertine observes: "Philosopher, orator, 
apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of national dogmas, of a 
cult without images; the founder of 20 terrestrial Empires, that is Muhammad 
(PBUH). As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, 
we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?" 

"It is impossible," says Mrs. Aiuiie Besant, "for anyone who studies the 
life and character of the great Prophet of Arabia who knows how he taught and 
how he lived to feel anything but reverence for that mighty Prophet, one of the 
great messengers of the Supreme. And although in what I put to you I shall 
say many things which may be familiar to you, yet I re-read them as a new way 
of admiration, a new sense of reverence for the mighty Arabian leader." 

The famous English writer and literary critic Dr. Johnson says: "His 
purely historical character, his simple humanity, claiming to be a man among 
men, his intense realism, avoiding all mystical remoteness; the thoroughly 
democratic and universal form under which his idea of the divine monarchy led 
him to conceive the relations of men, the force of his ethical appeal aU affiliate 
Muhaitunad (PBUH) with the modem world". 

The celebrated English writer Robert Briffault pays rich tributes to the 
teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam, when he says : "The ideas of freedom for 
all human beings, of human brotherhood, of the equality of all men before the 
law of democratic government, by consultation and universal suffrage, the ideas 
that inspired the French Revolution and the Declaration of Rights, that guided 
the framing of the American Constitution and inflamed the struggle for indepen- 
dence in the Latin— American countries were not inventions of the West. They 
find their ultimate inspiration and source in the Holy Quran. They are the 
quintessence of what the intelligentsia of medieval Europe acquired from Islam 
over a period of centuries through the various societies that developed in Europe 
in the wake of the Grusades in imitation of the brotherhood associations of 
Islam. It is highly probable that but for the Arabs modern European civilization 
would never have arisen at all, it is absolutely certain that but for them it would 
never have assumed that character which has enabled it to transcend aU previoui 
phases of evolution." 



Medina, the heart of Islam, was gravely threatened by the enemy hordes. 
The Holy Prophet of Islam appealed for funds in order to finance the defensive 
campaign for meeting the impending danger, Hazrat Umar being in affluent 
circumstances at once thought of taking advantage of this golden opportunity 
and thus surpassed Hazrat Abu Bakr in the service of Islam. He hurried to his 
home and brought a considerable portion of his wealth. The Prophet was much 
pleased to see it and asked him, "Have you left anything for your dependants?" 

"Half of my wealth I have set aside for my children", replied Umar. 

When Hazrat Abu Bakr brought his share, the same question was posed to 

He promptly replied, "I have retained only Allah and His Prophet for my 

Deeply moved by these words, Umar said, "It would never be possible 
for me to surpass Abu Bakr." 

Hazrat Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of Islam and the most trusted as well as 
devoted lieutenant of the Prophet, was born in Malckah two and a half years 
after the year of the Elephant or fifty and a half years before the commence- 
ment of Hejira. He was known as Abul Kaab in pre-Islamic days and on conver- 
sion to Islam was given the name of Abdulla and the title of Al Siddiq (The 
truthful) by the Prophet. He belonged to the Quraishite clan of Bani Taim and 
his geneology joins with that of the Holy Prophet in the 7th generation. He was 
one of the most respected leaders even before and after embracing Islam. His 
ancestral occupation was business and occasionally he undertook commercial 
trips to Syria and Yemen. He visited Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) even before, 
and at the time of the revelation he was in Yemen. On his return to Makkah, 
the leaders of Quraish including Abu Jahl, Ataba and Shoba, ridiculed in his 
presence the declaration of Prophethood by Muhammad (PBUH). Thereupon 
Abu Bakr got very much excited and exasperated and hurried to the Prophet's 
place and embraced Islam. According to Suyuti, the author of 'Tarikh ul Khulafa ', 


Hundred Great Muslims 13 

the Prophet said, "Whenever I offered Islam to any person, he showed some 
hesitation before embracing it. But Abu Bakr is an exception a$ he embraced 
Islam without the slightest hesitation on his part." 

It is universally admitted fact that among the grown ups, Hazrat Abu 
Bakr, among the youngsters, Hazrat Ali, and among the women, Hazrat Khadija, 
were first to embrace Islam. As stated above, Hazrat Abu Bakr, being a wealthy 
person, placed his entire wealth at the disposal of the Prophet. Besides, he 
purchased and set free a number of slaves including Hazrat Bilal, who were 
bitterly persecuted for accepting Islam. He had to endure all sorts of hardships, 
intimidation and torture in the service of the new faith. Once he was severely 
beaten till he became unconscious. The courage and determination exhibited 
by the Holy Prophet and his faithful Companions in face of bitter opposition, 
will always be a source of hispiration for those who strive for Truth. Hazrat 
Abu Bakr who had 40,000 dirhams at the time of his conversion, had only 5 ,000 
left at the time of migration. Leaving his wife and children to the care of God, 
he left Makkah for Medina in the company of the Prophet. 

He also fought shoulder to shoulder with the Prophet in defensive battles 
which the adherents of the new faith fought for their existence. Abdur Rahman 
bin Abu Bakr, after his conversion to Islam, told his father that in the battle of 
Badr he got a chance when he could easily strike him down. Abu Bakr promptly 
replied that he would not have spared him if he had had the opportunity. 

Abu Bakr died on August 23, 634 A.C. at the age of 63 and his Caliphate 
lasted for two years, three months and eleven days. He was buried by the side of 
the Prophet. 

On the death of the holy Prophet, Hazrat Abu Bakr was elected as the 
first Caliph of Islam After his election, at which people scrambled to offer 
'bait', the Caliph delivered his memorable speech before the electorate. 

Said he : "Brothers, now I am elected your Amir, although I am no better 
than anyone among you. Help me if I am in the right and set me right if I am 
in the wrong. Truth is a trust : falsehood is a treason. The weak among you shall 
be strong with me till (God wiUing) his right has been vindicated and the strong 
among you shall be weak with me till (if Lx)rd will) I have taken what is due 
from him. Obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Prophet. If I disobey Him 
and His Prophet, obey me not." 

Intrinsically kind-hearted, Abu Bakr stood like a rock against the disrup- 
tive forces which raised their head after the death of the Holy Prophet. It 
seemed then that the entire structure of Islam which had been built by the 
departed master-mind would crumble down. Abu Bakr, being the faithful 
Companion of the Prophet, proved to be an exceptioiially strong man and 
stuck to the path shown by his master. During the illness of the Prophet an 
army of 700 men was mobilised under Usama bin Zaid to avenge the defeat of 

t4 Hundred Great Muslims 

Muslims at the hands of the Romans. There was a great turmoil in Arabia after 
the death of the Prophet, and his close associates counselled the new Caliph 
not to despatch forces outside Medina at such a critical juncture. Hazrat Abu 
Bakr was adamant on the point and replied that he would be the last person in 
the world to revise the orders of the Prophet. The charger of the commander 
Usama appointed by the Prophet was led by the Caliph himself. The army 
accomplished its object within forty days. The expedition had a salutary effect 
on the recalcitrant tribesmen who had begun to be sceptical about the inherent 
potentialities of Islam. The imaginative, timely and dynamic action taken by 
Abu Bakr, tended to establish Muslim power. 

Very soon another crisis confronted Abu Bakr. On the death of the 
Prophet of Islam, a number of pseudo prophets i.e., impostors raised their 
heads in various parts of Arabia, outstanding being Aswad Asni, Talha of Bani 
Asad, Musailma, the liar and Sajah, a woman of Yemen. The Caliph gave at 
Zuhl Qassa eleven banners to equal number of commanders and assigned them 
various sectors. The expedition against Musailma, the liar, was the toughest 
and Hazrat Klialid bin Walid, after a bloody battle, routed the enemy. Musailma 
was killed. According to historian Tabari, "Never did the Muslims fight a more 
stiff battle." 

Shortly after the election of the new Caliph, a large number of tribesmen 
pleaded with the notables of Islam in Medina to be exempted from the payment 
of Zakat. The situation looked so gloomy that even a person of the calibre of 
Hazrat Umar yielded on the point and counselled Hazrat Abu Bakr, "0 Caliph 
of the Prophet, be friendly to these people and treat them gently." The Caliph 
was immensely annoyed at this unexpected exhibition of weakness, and replied 
indignantly, "You were so harsh during the days of ignorance, but now you 
have become so weak. The Divine revelations have been completed and our faith 
has attained perfection. Now, you want it to be mutilated during my lifetime. I 
swear by Allah that even if a string is withheld from Zakat, I will fight for it 
with all the resources at my command." 

The Caliph lived up to his convictions and his integrity and strength of 
character, preserved the basic precepts of Islam at a very critical juncture of 
her history. 

All the punitive expeditions directed against the apostates and rebellious 
tribesmen successfully terminated by the end of 1 1 A.H., and the spirit of revolt 
and dissensions which gripped Arabia was curbed for ever. 

Free from the internal upheavals, the Caliph attended to the external 
dangers which imperilled the very existence of Islam. Kaiser and Kisra, the two 
most powerful emperors of the world, were lurking for an opportunity to strike 
at the very root of the new faith. The Persians, who for centuries ruled over 
Arabia as overlords, could never tolerate that the militant Arabs should unite 
and form themselves into a formidable force. Hurmuz, the tyrant governed 

Himdrcd Great Muslims 15 

Iraq on behalf of the Kisra. His persecution of the Arabs led to the skirmishes 
which developed into a full blooded war. Nature willed otherwise; the Persians, 
who in their arrogance, had underrated the power of Muslims, could not stem 
the tide of their advance and had to retreat from place to place till Iraq fell into 
the hands of the Arabs. Muthanna, in the beginning, led the Muslim army 
against the Persians. He earned many laurels against his enemy. He was later on 
joined by the invincible Khalid bin Walid, known as the Sword of God. The 
decisive battle against Hurmuz was won by Muslims in which Hurmuz was killed 
by Hazrat Khalid and the Persians were routed with heavy losses. A camel load 
of chains weighing seven and a half maunds was collected from the battlefield, 
hence it is known as the 'Battle of Chains." 

Hazrat Khalid bin Walid, who was the Commander of Islamic forces in 
Iraq, separated the administration of military and civil departments under 
different heads. Saeed bin Noman was appointed chief of the military depart- 
ment, while Suwaid bin Maqran was appointed chief of the civil administration 
of the conquered area in Iraq. Major portion of Iraq was captured during the 
Caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr and the Persians had had the sad experience of 
challenging of growing power of Islam. The decisive battle for Iraq was fought 
between Muslims and Persians during the reign of Hazrat Umar. 

Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, who ruled over Syria and Palestine, 
was the greatest and most powerful enemy of Islam. He had been constantly 
conspiring with the enemies of Islam in an effort to annihilate it. His intrigues 
and secret machinations brought about several uprisings of non-Muslim tribes 
in Arabia. He was a constant danger to Islam. In 9 A.H., the Prophet himself 
had marched against the Romans and the expedition of Usama bin Zaid was 
also directed against the threatening Romans. Hazrat Abu Bakr despatched the 
flower of his army to meet the Romans and divided his forces into four armies 
placed under the command of Abu Ubaidah, Shaijil bin Hasanah, Yazid bin 
Sufian and Amr bin al-Aas and assigned them different sectors in Syria. The 
ill-equipped, untrained and numerically inferior army of Islam, was no match 
for the well equipped, well trained and numerically much superior Roman 
forces. Khalid was ordered by the Caliph to join the Muslim forces in Syria and 
his lightning march through a waterless desert added a memorable chapter to 
the history of military campaigns. 

The opposing forces met on the plain of Yarmuk. The formidable Roman 
forces comprised more than 3-lakh well equipped soldiers, out of which about 
80,000 were chained in order to ward off the possibility of retreat. The Muslim 
army was composed of hardly 46,000 men in all, which, according to the strate- 
gic plan of Hazrat Khalid, was broken up into 40 contingents in order to impress 
its numerical superiority upon the enemy. This memorable battle ended in the 
crushing defeat of the Romans who retreated, leaving a large number of dead on 
the battle-field. This decisive victory sealed the fate of Roman rule in Syria. 
The battle of Yarmuk, whose initial preparations were started during the 
Caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr was won in the reign of Hazrat Umar. 

16 Hundred Great Muslims 

Hazrat Abu Bakr was the most trusted Companion of the Prophet of Islam. 
The Prophet said, "I am not aware of a person who can surpass Abu Bakr in 
beneficence". When the illness of the Prophet became serious, he bade Abu 
Bakr to lead the prayers. Accordingly, he led the prayers seventeen times during 
the lifetime of the Prophet. 

The Prophet said : "I have paid back the obligations of all except that of 
Abu Bakr who will have his reward on the Day of Judgement." 

According to Tirmizi, Hazrat Umar said, "0, You! (Abu Bakr) are the 
best of men after the Prophet of God." 

According to a statement of Imam Ahmad, Hazrat Ali said, "The best 
among the members of this Ummat (Muslims) after the Prophet are Abu Bakr 
and Umar." 

Glowing tributes have been paid to the character and achievements of 
Hazrat Abu Bakr by the contemporary and later historians. He was one of the 
mighty pillars of Islam who was instrumental in making the new faith a great 
force in the world. He was one of the great champions of the Islamic revolution 
which, in a short span of 30 years, brought about the greatest social, political 
and economic changes in the history of mankind. He was one of the founders 
of the true democracy that existed in the world more than 1400 years ago and 
never thereafter. That was a democracy in which the highest authority of the 
state (Caliph), who was also the most powerful monarch of his time, roamed 
about in the streets unguarded and unescorted, ate coarse food and wore 
tattered clothes. Even an ordinary citizen could approach him at any time of the 
day and question his actions publicly. 

Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Ali were distinguished for their eloquence 
among the Muslims. Once he advised Hazrat Khalid bin Walid: "Try to run 
away from greatness and greatness will follow you. Seek death and life will be 
conferred on you." 

He had issued instmctions to his army which, according to Ibn Athir, 
formed the moral code that guided the conduct of the soldiers of Islam. This 
should serve as a model for war-ravaged world. He instructed his forces: "Don't 
commit misappropriations; don't deceive anybody; don't disobey your chief; 
don't mutilate human bodies; don't kill old men, women or children; don't 
cut fruit trees or bum them; don't slaughter animals except for food; don't 
molest Christian priests and don't forget God for His blessings that you have 
enjoyed." It was obligatory on the armed to maintain a high standard of 
morality even during the campaigns and to show due respect to human, animal 
and plant life. Any deviation from these principles was severely dealt with. 

He appointed Hazrat Umar as his Grand Qazi, but people had grown so 
honest and their social life was so much purged of the immoralities of the 

Himdred Great Muslims 1 7 

pre-Islamic days that no complaint was lodged w'th the Qazi for one year. 
Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Usman and Zaid bin Sabit worked as Khatibs. 

Hazrat Abu Bakr's simplicity, honesty and integrity was personified. He 
sacrificed everything in the service of Islam. He was a prosperous businessman 
owning more than 40,000 dirhams in cash when he embraced Islam, but he was 
a pauper when he died as the First Caliph of Islam. 

He did not abandon his ancestral occupation when he was elected as 
Caliph and for about six months carried cloth sheets on his shoulders for selling 
in the markets of Medina. However, his official duties did not leave him much 
time for his private work, hence he was advised to accept some maintenance 
allowance. The Assembly of the Muslims fixed a monthly stipend which enabled 
him to pass the life of an ordinary citizen. He had to deposit his old clothes 
for replacement by new ones from the Baitul Mai (Public Treasury). 

Before his assumption of the exalted office of Caliph, he used to milk 
the goats of his locahty. Once while passing through a street of Medina, he 
heard a girl's remark's, "Now he has become the Caliph, hence he would not 
milk our goats." He replied instantly, "No, my daughter, I shall certainly milk 
the goats as usual. I hope that' by the grace of God, my position will not alter 
my routine." He had great affection for children who used to embrace him and 
call him '5afta' (Father). 

An old destitute woman lived on the outskirts of Medina. Hazrat Umar 
visited her occasionally to handle her household chores. But whenever he went 
there, he was told that someone else had preceded him in that service. Once he 
visited her house in the early hours of the morning and hid himself in a corner 
to watch the mysterious person who arrived at the usual time. He was surprised 
to see that he was none other than the Caliph himself. 

Hazrat Abu Bakr was extremely scrupulous in drawing his stipend from 
the Baitul Mai. He charged only as much as would suffice for the barest 
necessities of an ordinary life. One day his wife asked for sweets, but he had no 
spare funds for that. She saved a few dirhams in a fortnight and gave it to him 
to get sweets for her. Forthrightly he gave her to understand that her savings 
had established that he was drawing stipend in excess of their requirements. 
Hence he refunded the amount to the Baitul Mai and reduced his stipend for the 

He delighted in doing all his work with his own hands, and never tolerated 
anyose to share his domestic works. Even if the reins of the camel happened to 
drop from his hand, he would never ask anyone to hold it for him. He would 
rather come down and pick it up himself. 

Whenever a man praised him in his presence he would say, "O, God! 
You know me more than myself and I know myself more than these people. 

1 8 Hundred Great Muslim 

Forgive those sins of mine which are not in their knowledge and do not hold 
me responsible for their praise." 

He was a man of exceptionally simple habits. A richly dressed prince of 
Yemen, who anived in Medina found him putting on only two brown sheets of 
cloth-one wrapped round his waist and the other covered the rest of his 
body. He was so much touched with the simplicity of the Caliph that he, too, 
discarded his gorgeous dress. He said, "Under the influence of Islam, I get no 
pleasure in such artificialities." 

On his death bed he enquired from the person incharge of Baitul Mai 
about the amount he had drawn from the Baitul Mai as his stipends. He was 
informed that he had drawn, 6,000 dirhams (roughly 1,500 rupees) during his 
two and a half years of Caliphate. He instructed that a particular plot of land 
owned by him should he disposed of and the entire proceeds be refunded to 
the Baitul Mai. His dying wish was duly compUed with. He had been a camel and 
a piece of cloth worth Re. 1/4/- for his private use, which he ordered to be 
returned to the new Caliph after his death. When these articles were brought 
in the presence of Hazrat Umar, the new Caliph, he burst into tears and said, 
"Abu Bakr, You have made the task of your successor extremely difficult." 

Just on the eve of his death he enquired from his daughter Hazrat Aisha, 
the number of the pieces of cloth used as a shroud of the Prophet. She replied, 
"Three". Thereupon he said that the two sheets wiiich were on his body should 
be washed and used for the. purpose and the third one might be purchased. 
With tears in her eyes she said that she was not so poor as to ill-afford a shroud 
for her father. The Caliph replied that the new cloth could be used more profit- 
ably for the living than for the dead. 

Eloquent tributes have been paid to Caliph Abu Bakr's qualities of head 
and heart. Friends and foes alike have universally commended his devotion to 
the new faith and his simplicity, honesty and integrity of character. Jurji Zaidan, 
the Egyptian Christian historian writes : "The age of pious Caliphs is the real 
golden age of Islam. The Caliphs of this period are known for their temperance, 
piety and justice. When Hazrat Abu Bakr was converted to Islam, he was in 
possession of 40,000 dirhams, an enormous fortune at that time, but he spent 
the whole of it in furthering Islam including that which he earned in trade. 
When he died he had nothing except a dinar. He would ordinarily walk to his 
house in Sunh, on the outskirts of Medina and scarcely ever rode his horse. He 
came to Medina to conduct public prayers and return to Sunh in the evening. 
Each day he would go to buy and sell and had a small flock which at times he 
had to pasture himself. Before he became Caliph, he used to milk the sheep of 
his tribe and when he became Caliph, a slave girl regretted that her sheep would 
not be milked. But he assured her that he would continue her work of milking 
the sheep and dignity would cause no change in his conduct. Before his death, 
he ordered that a small plot of land which belonged to him should be sold and 
the proceeds returned to the Muslim community as set off for the sums which 
he had taken from them as an honorarium." 


The envoy of the Roman Emperor set out for Medina attended by a large 
retinue and equipped with all the pomp and pageantry which the Roman Empire 
could boast of. On arrival in the metropolis of Islam, he enquired of a passer-by: 
'Tell me please, where is the palace of the Caliph"?. 

The Arab looked around. He was surprised by this strange question, 
"What do you mean by a palace"? retorted the Arab." I mean the palace of 
Umar, the Caliph of Islam," added the envoy. "0! you want to see Umar. Come 
on, I will take you to his presence," replied the Arab. 

The envoy was escorted to the Mosque of the Prophet, and to his utter 
astonishment, a person who was lying on the bare floor of the mosque was 
introduced to him as Caliph Umar Farooq, the greatest uler of his time, whose 
armies held sway over the three known continents of the world. The envoy was 
taken aback at such a strange sigiht and the report of what he observed in Medina 
was enough to terrorise the Roman Emperor and impress him with the invincible 
might of Islam. 

Hazrat Umar ibn Khattab was born in Makkah in 40 B.H. (Before Hejirah). 
His lineage joins that of the Prophet of Islam in the eighth generation. His 
forefathers had held ambassadorial posts; commerce was his ancestral occupation. 
He was one of the seventeen literate persons of Makkah, when Prophethood 
was conferred on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He entered the pale of 
Islam at the age of 27. An interesting anecdote is told about his conversion to 
Islam. He was one of the most powerful enemies of the new faith. One day, he 
set out with the intention of killing the Prophet of Islam. On the way he came 
across one Naeem ibn Abdullah, who asked him where he was bound for. Umar 
told him that he had resolved to do away with Muhammad (PBUH). Naeem 
tauntingly asked him to reform his own house first. Umar at once turned back 
and on arrival in his house, found his brother-in-law reciting the Holy Quran. 
He got awfully infuriated and mercilessly beat him, but he and his sister refused 
to renounce Islam. The firm stand of his sister at last calmed him and he asked 
her to recite the lines of the Quran again. She readily complied. Umar was so 
much charmed and enthused that he hurried to the Prophet's place and embraced 
Islam. The small brotherhood was so much overwhelmed with joy that they 
raised the cry of 'Allah-o-Akbar' (God is great) and the surrounding hills 
resounded with the echo. 


20 Hundred Great Muslims 

The conversion of Umai greatly added to the strength of the Muslims. He 
later on became the principal adviser to Hazrat Abu Bakr during his two and a 
half years reign. On the death of Hazrat Abu Bakr he was elected as the Second 
Caliph of Islam, a post which he held with unique distinction for ten and a half 
years. At last he was assassinated in 644 A.C., while leading the prayers in the 
mosque of the Prophet, by one Feroz alias Abu Lulu, a disgruntled Parsi (Majusi). 

The teachings of the holy Prophet of Islam had transformed the warring 
Arab tribesmen into a united people who brought about the greatest revolution 
in living history . In less than thirty years the nomadic Arabs had become masters 
of the greatest empire of their time. Their arms held sway over the three known 
continents of the world and the great empires of Caesars (Rome) and Chosroes 
(Persia) lay tottering before their invincible arms. The Prophet had left behind 
a band of selfless people who dedicated themselves with singleness of purpose 
to the service of the new religion. One of these persons was Hazrat Umar Farooq 
who was great both in war and peace. Few persons in the history of mankind 
have displayed better qualities of head and heart than Umar in guiding their 
armies on the war front, in the discharge of their duties to their people and in 
adherence to justice. He gave detailed instructions to his armies fighting 
thousands of miles away and it was, to a great extent, due to his faultless judge- 
ment in the selection of the commanders and the tactics of war that Arab 
armies inflicted such crushing defeats on their two powerful enemies. His master 
mind was visible not only in planning easy victories but also in the consoli- 
dation of conquerred countries. 

Islam has been charged with having been spread at the point of sword, 
but now it has been established through modern historical researches that 
Muslims waged defensive wars, during Caliphate Rashida. Sir William Muir, an 
English historian, records in his celebrated book, "Rise, Decline and Fall of the 
Caliphate, " that after the conquest of Mesopotamia, Zaid, a certain General, 
sought the permission of Hazrat Umar to pursue the fleeing Persian forces into 
Khorasan, but the Caliph forbade him saying, "I desire that between Mesopota- 
mia and the countries beyond, the hills shall be a barrier so that the Persians 
shall not be able to get at us, nor we at them. The plain of Iraq sufficeth for our 
wants. 1 would rather prefer the safety of the people than thousands of spoils 
and further conquests." Commenting on the above Muir observes : "The thought 
of a world wide mission was yet in embryo; obligation to enforce Islam by 
universal crusade had not yet dawned upon Muslim mind." 

The Romans and Persians who always lookjed down upon the Arabs as 
an uncultured race, viewed with alarm the rising power of Islam and were 
anxious to crush it. The Persians sent reinforcement to the rebels of Bahrain 
against Islam. They instigated Sajah, who pretended to be a Prophetess in Iraq, 
to march upon Medina. Rustam, the famous Persian General, had sworn that he 
would destroy the entire Arab race. Such designs and machinations of the 
Persians warned the Muslims of the dangers ahead, and being a spirited people, 
they accepted the challenge. Hence the war was actually forced upon the unwill- 
ing Muslims and they could not ignore this threat to their very existence. 

Hundred Great Muslims 21 

The first defeat of the Persians came as a great surprise to them as they 
expected little resistance from the Arabs. They had already felt alarmed at their 
unexpected defeats during the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr. Every disaster in the 
battle-field only added to the flame of Persian fury. Theirs, was a vast empire, 
so were their resources. They recklessly deployed their forces and material in 
order to stem the advance of the Arabs and crush their striking power for ever. 
A handful of ill-equipped Arabs were arrayed against the formidable forces of 
Romans and Persians. One can hardly find in recorded history an instance, 
where, in spite of such disparities between the opposing forces, the weaker 
triumphed over their too powerful opponents. 

The tempo of war increased when Hazrat Umar was elected as Caliph. 
Muslims were fighting on two fronts. In Syria, they were engaged with the 
powerful forces of the mighty Roman Empire and in Iraq they were arrayed 
against the formidable forces of Chosroes (Persians). Buran Dukht, who 
ascended the Persian throne, had appointed Rustam as the Commander-in- 
Chief of the army. All these arrangements could not check the Muslim advance 
and the Persians under the command of Narsi were routed at Kasker. Rustam 
appointed Bahman, a sworn enemy of Arabs, as the Commander of Persian 
forces in Iraq. A bloody battle was fought at Berait in 635 A.C. in which the 
Persians beat a hasty retreat leaving behind a large number of dead bodies. 
Muthanna, the Muslim General, declared that he had taken part in several 
engagements against the Persians in pre-Islamic days. Previously, 100 Persians 
could overpower 1 ,000 Arabs, but the tables had turned now. 

The battle of Qadisiyah fought in 635 A.C. under the command of Hazrat 
Saad bin Abi Waqas, was a decisive one, inasmuch as it sealed the fate of the 
Persian Empire in Iraq. Rustam, the greatest war hero of Persia, had mustered 
a strong force against the Muslims. The Muslim commander who was ill had 
appointed Khalid bin Aratafa in his place and guided his movements through 
written instructions. A poet named Abu Mahjan Saqfi, who was in chains for his 
drunkenness implored the Commander's wife, Salma, to release him for a short 
while in order to take part in the battle. He promised to return when the battle 
was over. His request was granted forthwith and Abu Mahjan taking a sword in 
his hand went like a bolt in the thick of the battle and fought with exceptional 
bravery. He put himself in chains again when the battle was over, but Hazrat 
Saad released him on knowing his exploits. Ka'k'a had divided a portion of 
Muslim army into several groups which were held in reserve. These fell upon 
the enemy one after another. These tactics of Ka'k'a disheartened the Persians 
who were forced to retreat. Rustam, who tried to escape was killed. Hazrat 
Umar was very anxious about the result of this battle. He was a master-mind 
who used to issue detailed instructions for military operations in Iraq and for 
hours he waited daily outside Medina in the hope of good news. He actually 
ran behind the messenger up to Medina, who had brought the happy tidings, 
asking him the outcome of the battle. On reaching Medina, the people asked 
him: "Amirul Momineen: (Commander of the Faithful) what is the news"? 
The messenger was awe-stricken to know that the man who had been ruiming 

22 Hundred Great Muslims 

behind him enquiring the deails of the battle was no other than Hazrat Umar 
himself. He implored the Caliph to be pardoned for his impertinence in not 
posting him with all the details before, but Hazrat Umar repUed that he did not 
want to delay the happy news reaching the inhabitants of Medina. Thereupon, 
the great Caliph made a memorable speech before the Medinites. "Brothers of 
Islam ! I am not your ruler who wants to enslave you. I am a servant of God and 
His people. I have been entrusted with the heavy responsibility of r\mning the 
Caliphate administration. It is my duty to make you comfortable in every way 
and it will be an evil day for me if I wish you to wait on me every now and then. 
I want to educate you not through my precepts but by my practice." 

The Persians made their last stand in Iraq in front of Madain, the Capital. 
They destroyed the bridge built on the Tigris, Such obstacles could not check 
Hazrat Saad, the Commander of the Muslim forces who plunged his horse into 
the river. The rest of the army followed suit and they crossed the river in a 
moment without disrupting thek formations. The Persians were terrified at this 
unusual sight and cried out : "Demons have come", Saying this they took to 
fli^it in utter confusion. A vast treasure fell into the hands of the Muslim 
conquerors which included the invaluable Persian carpet. This treasure was 
brought to Medina and heaped in the courtyard of the Mosque of the Prophet. 
The great Caliph burst into tears on its sight. The audience asked him the reason 
for his unusual expression of grief. The Caliph replied promptly, "This wealth 
was the cause of the downfall of Persians and now it has come to us to bring 
ou& downfall." He ordered that the wealth be distributed among people in- 
stantaneously. Even that priceless carpet was not spared and under the advice 
of Hazrat Ali, it was torn to pieces and was distributed among the populace. 
Hazrat Umar commended the high character of his soldiers who did not touch 
a single thing out of this colossal booty. 

Syria was another theatre of war, where the Muslims were arrayed against 
the formidable Roman forces. Hazrat Abu Bakr, during his lifetime suirunoned 
Hazrat Khalid bin Walid, the Sword of God, to assist the Muslims in Syria. 
The Syrian cities, one after another, capitulated to the Muslims. Hems, Hama 
(Epiphania) Kinnisrin (Chalcis), Aleppo and other important towns surrendered 
and opened their gates to the forces of Islam. The city of Damascus which was 
held by a large garrison, offered considerable resistance. One night Hazrat 
KhaUd bin Walid who was stationed on the other side of the city scaled its 
walls and opened the gate. The Muslim army entered the city from the one side. 
Immediately the Romans offered themselves for peace to the Commander-in- 
Chief Hazrat Abu Ubaidah who was stationed on the other side of the city. 
Hazrat Khalid and Hazrat Abu Ubaidah who came from opposite directions 
met in the centre of the city. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah asked the Muslims not to 
plunder anyone as he had accepted the peace terms. 

Antioch, the Capital of the Roman East, also capitulated to the Muslims 
after stubborn resistance. The Roman Governor named Artabin, had mustered 
a strong force for the defence of his province. Placing small bodies of troops 

Hundred Great Muslims 23 

at Jerusalem, Gaza and Ramleh, he had assembled a large army at Ajnadain. 
The Muslims who were deeply concerned at these movements of the Roman 
forces, withdrew their garrisons from various sectors and advanced to face 
Artabin. While withdrawing from Hems, Hazrat Abu Llbaidah, Commander-in- 
Chief of the Muslim forces, asked his treasury officer to return the 'jazia' 
(Protection Tax) to the inhabitants, as they could not undertake the responsi- 
bility of the protection of their non-MusUm subjects there. The order was 
instantaneously carried out and the whole amount was repaid to the local 
inhabitants. The Christian populace was so much touched by this unusual 
generosity of the conquerors that they wept bitterly and cried out : "May God 
bring you here again." The Jews swore on Torat that they would resist the 
Romans to the last man if they ever ventured to caputure the city. 

A bloody battle ensued in the plain of Yarmuk in 634 A.C. between the 
forces of Islam and the Romans. The Romans had mustered a strong army of 
3 lakh soldiers, while the MusUm army comprised of 46 thousand unskilled and 
ill-equipped soldiers only. The Muslims fought like heroes and routed the Romans 
after a fierce conflict. More than a hundred thousand Romans perished on the 
battle-field while Muslim casualties hardly exceeded three thousand. When 
apprised of this crushing defeat, Caesar cried out sorrowfully, "Good-bye Syria", 
and he retired to Constantinople. 

The few Roman soliders who escaped from Yarmuk found a refuge within 
the walls of the fortified city of Jerusalem. This city which was garrisoned by a 
heavy force, resisted for a considerable time. At last the Patriarch sued for peace 
but refused to surrender to anyone except the Caliph himself. Hazrat Umar 
acceded to his request and travelling with a single attendant without escort and 
pomp and pageantry he arrived at Jabia. When he arrived in the presence of the 
Patriarch and his men, he was leading the camel while the attendant was riding 
on it. The Christian priests and their associates were profoundly struck with this 
strange respect for the equality of man exhibited by the Caliph of Islam. The 
patriarch presented the keys of the sacred city to the Caliph and he entered the 
city along with patriarch. Hazrat Umar refused to offer his prayers in the Church 
of Resurrection saying, "If I do so, the Muslims in future might infringe the 
treaty, under pretext of following my example." Just terms were offered to the 
Christians whilst the Samaritan Jews, who had assisted the Muslims, were granted 
their properties without payment of any tax. 

The subjugation of Syria was now complete. "Syria bowed under the 
sceptre of the Caliphs", says a well-known historian, "seven hundred years 
after Pompey had deposed the last of the Macedonian kings. After their last 
defeat, the Romans recognised themselves hopelessly beaten, though they still 
continued to raid into the Muslim territories. In order to erect an impassable 
barrier between themselves and the MusUms they converted into a veritable 
desert a vast tract on the frontiers of their remaining Asiatic possessions. AH 
cities in this doomed tract were razed to the ground, fortresses were dismantled, 
and the population carried away further north. Thus what has been deemed to 

24 Hundred Cireat Muslims 

be the work of Arab Muslim hordes was really the outcome of Byzantine bar- 
barism". This shortsighted scorched earth policy was of no avail and could not 
stem the tide of Muslim advance. Ayaz, the Muslim Commander passing through 
Tauras, reduced the province of Cilicia, captured its Capital Tarsus and reached 
as far as the shores of the Black Sea. His name was a terror for Romans in 
Asia Minor. 

After clearing Syria of the Roman forces, the Muslim army marched on 
Persia and conquered Azerbaijan in 643, Bostan in 643, Armenia in 644, Sistan 
in 644 and Mekran in 644 A.C. According to the celebrated historian Baladhuri, 
the Islamic forces had reached as far the plain of Debal in Sind. But Tabari says 
that the Caliph prevented his army making any further advances east of Mekran. 
The defeated Roman forces had taken refuge in Alexandria and threatened the 
Muslim-conquered Syria. Hence Amr bin al-Aas implored the CaUph to allow 
him to advance on Egypt. The request was granted and Muslim forces under 
Amr bin al-Aas captured Alexandria in 641-642. The Egyptian Christians called 
Copts were treated with great kindness by the Muslim conquerors and were 
granted landed properties. A mischievous story had been circulated by the 
interested parties that the famous Library in Alexandria was destroyed by the 
Muslim invaders, but it has now been estabUshed through impartial historical 
researches by Western Scholars that the said library was partly destroyed by 
Julius Caesar and the remaining by the Roman Emperor Theodosius. a devout 
Christian who hated works written by the pagans. 

A strong fleet was also built by the Arabs in order to meet the challenge 
of Romans as masters of the seas. Thus the naval supremacy of Arabs was also 
established and the Roman fleet fled before them to the Hellespont. A number 
of islands of Greek Archipelago were captured by the Muslims. 

A study of the military operations would reveal the factors which were 
responsible for the sweeping victories of MusUms in such a short period. During 
the reign of the Second Caliph, Muslims ruled over a vast area of land, which 
included Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Persia, Khuzistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kirman, 
Khorasan, Mekran and a part of Baluchistan. A handful of ill-equipped and 
unskilled Arabs had overthrown two of the mightiest empires of the world. The 
teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam had infused a new spirit in the adherents 
of the new faith, who fought simply for the sake of God. The wise poUcy 
followed by the Second Caliph of Islam in the selection of his generals and his 
liberal terms offered to the conquered races were instrumental in the lightning 
victories won by the Mushms. Hazrat Umar was a great military strategist, who 
issued detailed instructions regarding the conduct of operations. A perusal of 
the history of Tabari would reveal that Farooq, the Great, sitting thousands of 
miles away, guided his armies on the battle fronts and controlled their move- 
ments. The great Caliph laid much stress on the moral side of the conquests by 
offering liberal terms to the conquered races and by granting them all sorts of 
privileges which are denied to the conquered races even in this advanced modern 
age. This greatly helped in winning the hearts of the people, which ultimately 

Hundred deal Muslims 2.5 

paved the way for the consolidation of the conquered countries and their 
efficient administration. He had strictly forbidden his soldiers to kill the weak 
and desecrate the shrines and places of worship. A treaty once concluded would 
be observed in letter and spirit. Contrary to the repression and ferocity of great 
conquerors like Alexander, Caesar, Atilla, Changiz Khan and Hulaku, Hazrat 
Umar's conquests were both physical as well as spiritual. When Alexander 
conquered Sur, a city of Syria he ordered a general massacre and hanged one 
thousand respectable citizens on the city walls. Similarly, when he conquered 
Astakher, a city of Persia, he beheaded its entire male population. Tyrants like 
Changiz, Atilla and Hulaku were even more ferocious. Hence, their vast empire 
crumbled to pieces after their death. But the conqiiests of the Second Caliph 
of Islam were of a different nature. His wise policy and efficient administration 
added to the consolidation of his empire in such a way that even today after 
a lapse of more than 1400 years, the countries conquered by him are still in 
Muslim hands. Thus Hazrat Umar Farooq is in a sense the greatest conqueror the 
world has produced. 

The honesty, truthfulness and integrity of Muslims in general and their 
Caliph in particular strengthened the faith of the non-Muslims in the promises 
given by Muslims. Hurmuzan, a Persian chief, who was a sworn enemy of 
MusUms, was captured on the battle-field and was brought in the presence of 
the Caliph at Medina. He knew that he was sure to be beheaded for his massacre 
of Mushms. He thought out a plan and asked for a glass of water. The water was 
brought, but he was reluctant to drink it, saying that he might be killed while 
drinking it. The unsuspecting Caliph assured him that he would not be killed 
unless he drank it. The wily Hurmuzan at once threw away the water saying 
that since he got the assurance of the Caliph, he would not drink water any 
more. The CaUph kept his word and did not kill him. Hurmuzan, much struck 
with the honesty of the Caliph, accepted Islam. 

Similarly, once the MusHm forces laid siege of Chandi Sabur. One day, 
the citizens opened the gate and busied themselves in their work. On enquiry, 
it transpired that a Muslim slave had granted them pardon. The matter was 
referred to the Caliph who upheld the terms granted by the slave, saying. "The 
word of an ordinary MusUm is as weighty as that of his commander or the 

The true democracy as preached and practised during the Caliphate 
Rashida has hardly any parallel in the history of mankind. Islam being a demo- 
cratic rehgion, the Quran had explicitly laid it down as one of the fundamentals 
of Muslim polity that the affairs of the state should be conducted by consul- 
tation and counsel. The Prophet himself did not take momentous decisions 
without consultation. The plant of democracy in Islam planted by the Prophet 
and nourished by Hazrat Abu Bakr, attained its full stature in the Caliphate of 
Umar. Two consultative bodies functioned during his reign, one was a general 
assembly which was convened when the state was confronted with critical 
matters and the other was a special body comprised of 'persons of unquestionable 

26 Hundred Great Muslims 

integrity who were consulted on routine and urgent matters. Even matters 
relating to the appointments and dismissals of public servants were brought 
before this working or special committee and its decision was scrupulously 
adhered to. Non-Muslims were also invited to participate in such consultations. 
The native Parsi chiefs were frequently consulted regarding the administration 
of Iraq (Mesopotamia). Similarly, local leaders were consulted in Egyptian 
matters and a Copt had been invited to Medina as the representative of Egypt. 
Even the provincial governors were appointed on the advice of the people and 
the local inhabitants. At times, the various posts in the provinces were filled 
by election. When the appointment of the Tax Officers was to be made for 
Kufa, Basra and Syria, Hazrat Umar permitted the inhabitants of those pro- 
vinces to select suitable and honest officers of their own choice. The selection of 
the people was later on endorsed by the Caliph. He used to say that the people 
must have an effective hand in the administration of the Caliphate. Even a poor 
old woman could publicly question the great Caliph for his various activities 
and he had to explain his conduct at the spot. 

The Caliph had tried to inculcate true democratic spirit in the people as 
well as in his administrators. The public servants had been frankly told that 
they were paid for the service to the people and would be severely dealt with 
for any genuine public complaint. The Caliph himself practised what he preach- 
ed. He was rather the very incarnation of true public service. Never in the history 
of mankind one comes across such instances of public service as one finds in 
the history of early Caliphate of Islam. Hazrat Umar lived like an ordinary man 
and every man was free to question his actions. Once he said, "I have no more 
authority over the Baitul Mai (Public Treasury) than a custodian has over the 
property of an orphan. If I would be well-to-do, I would not accept any 
honorarium; if not, I would draw a little to meet the ordinary necessities of life. 
Brothers ! I am your servant and you should control and question my actions. 
One of these is that the public money should neither be uimecessarily hoarded 
nor wasted. I must work for the welfare and prosperity of our people." Once 
a person shouted in a public meeting, "O, Umar! fear God." The audience 
wanted to silence him but the Caliph prevented them from doing so saying: "If 
such frankness is not exhibited by the people, they are good for nothing and, if 
we do not listen to them, we would be like them." Such encouragement to the 
expression of public views as given by the Caliph himself ensured the efficiency 
and honesty of public service and state-administration. The people realised the 
real worth of public opinion. 

The great Caliph had established separate departments for different sub- 
jects which were headed by efficient and honest officers. He had separated the 
judiciary from the executive, a remarkable achievement which has not yet been 
achieved even in the most modern states of the present day. The judiciary was 
free from the control of the Governors and the Qazis imparted justice free from 
fear or favour. 

The success and efficiency of his administration mainly depended on his 

Hundred Great Muslims 27 

Strict vigilance over the staff. When a governor was appointed, his letter of 
appointment which detailed his duties and privileges was pubUcly read, so that 
people could know the terms of appointment and could hold him responsible 
for abusing his power. Addressing a group of governors once he said, "Remember, 
I have not appointed you to rule over your people, but to serve them. You 
should set an example with your good conduct so that people may follow you." 

He took particular care to emphasise that there should not be much 
distinction between the ruler and the ruled, and the people should have an easy 
and free access to the highest authority of the state. Every Governor had to sign 
a bond on his appointment that "he would put on coarse cloth and would eat 
coarse bread and that the complainant would have an easy access to his presence 
at any time." According to the author of the 'Futuh ul-Buldan', a list of the 
movable and immovable properties of the selected high officials was prepared 
at the time of his appointment which was examined from time to time and he 
had to account for any unusual increase in his property. AH the high officials 
had to report to the Caliph every year at the time of HafJ and according to the 
writer of Kitab-ul-Kharaj every person was authorised to make complaints 
against the highest authorities which were immediately attended to. Even the 
highest officials of the state were not spared if their faults were proved. Once 
a person complained that a certain Governor had flogged him for no fault of 
his. The matter was enquired into and the Governor was also publicly awarded 
the same number of stripes. 

Hazrat Muhammad bin Muslamah Ansari, a person of unquestionable 
integrity was appointed as the roving investigator, who visited different countries 
and enquired into pubUc complaints. Once a complaint was lodged with the 
Caliph that Hazrat Saad bin Abi Waqas, Governor of Kufa, had constructed a 
palace there. He at once despatched Muhammad Ansari who pulled down a 
portion of the palace which hindered the easy entry of the pubUc. On another 
complaint, Saad was deposed from his post. A report was received by the CaUph 
that Ayaz bin Ghanam, the Amil (Governor) of Egypt had kept a gate-keeper 
for his house. Muhammad Ansari who was immediately sent to Egypt found 
the report to be correct and brought the Governor to Medina. The Caliph 
humiliated him publicly. At times a commission was appointed by the CaUph 
to enquire into various charges. Such strict measures adopted by Hazrat Umar 
ensured an efficient and ideal administration in his vast State. Even the officials 
working thousands of miles away from Medina could not dare to do anything 
against the interests of the people and the state. None could ever contemplate 
incurring the displeasure of the iron CaUph. The fundamental difference between 
the administrations of the tyrants and his was that while the tyrants used rod for 
their own good, Umar used it for the good of the people. 

Writing in the Encyclopaedia of Islam an European historian says : "But 
the part of Umar was nevertheless a great one. The regulation of his non-Muslim 
subjects, the institution of a register of those having a right to military pensions 
(the diwan), the founding of military centres (amsar) out of which were to 

28 Hundred Great Muslims 

grow the future of the great cities of Islam, the creation of the office of Kadi 
(Qazi), were all his work, and it is also to him that a series of ordinances go 
back, religious taravih prayer of the month of Ramazan, the obligatory pilgri- 
mage as well as civil and penal punishment of drunkenness and stoning as punish- 
ment of adultery." 

The Caliph paid great attention to improving the state finances which was 
placed on a sound footing. He had established the "Diwan " or the finance 
department to which was entrusted the administration of revenues. The revenue 
of the commonwealth was derived from three sources: (1) Zakat or the tax 
levied on a gradual scale on all Muslims possessing means, (2) Khimj or the land 
tax levied on zimmis, and (3) Jaiia or capitation tax. The last wo taxes for which 
the Muslims have been much condemned by the Western historians were realised 
in the Roman and Sasanid (Persian) empires. The Muslims only followed the 
old precedents in this respect. The taxes realised from the non-Muslims were 
far less burdensome than those realized from the Muslims. 

Islam which preached an egalitarian type of state laid greater emphasis 
on the equitable and fair distribution of wealth. Hoarding of wealth was against 
the teachings of Islam. The Second Caliph scrupulously followed this golden 
principle of Islam. He organised a Baittil Mai (Public Treasury) whose main 
function was distribution rather than accumulation of wealth. 

The Caliph himself took very little from the Baitul Mai. His ancestral 
occupation was business. Naturally he had to be paid some honorarium for his 
exalted office. The matter was referred to the special committee in which the 
opinion of Hazrat Ali was accepted that the Caliph should get as much honora- 
rium from the Baittil Mai as would suffice for the necessities of an ordinary 

The Caliph fixed the rates of land revenue according to the type of the 
land. While he charged four dirhains on one jarib of wheat, he charged two 
dirhams for the similar plot of barley. Nothing was charged for the pastures and 
uncultivated land. In this way he systematised the fixation of revenues, which, 
before his time was charged haphazardly. Different rules were framed for the 
revenues of Egypt, whose agricultural output depended on the flood of the 
Nile. According to reliable historical sources, the annual revenue of Iraq 
amounted to 860 million dirhams, an amount which never exceeded after the 
death of the great Caliph though he was very lenient in its realisation. The main 
reason behind this easy reaUsation of the state money was that the people had 
become very prosperous. 

He introduced far reaching reforms in the domain of agriculture, which 
we do not find even in the most civilized countries of the modern times. One 
of these was the abolition of Zamindari (Landlordism) and with this disappeared 
all the evils wrought on the poor tenants by the vested landed interests. When 
the Romans conquered Syria and Egypt, they confiscated the lands of the tillers 

Hundred (Ireal Muslims 29 

of the soil and allotted these to the army, nobles, churches and the members 
of the royal family. Hazrat Umar, on the conquest of these countries, returned 
these properties to the local inhabitants who were the rightful owners of the 
land. The just and benevolent Caliph was exceptionally generous to the local 
tillers of the soil and even issued strict orders that no other persons including 
the Muslim soldiers who were spread all over these countries, should be granted 
any piece of land for cultivation purposes. Such steps taken by the Caliph not 
only restored confidence among the local populace but also gave a great impetus 
to agriculture in these countries and contributed to the enormous increase in 
agricultural output. The tenancy became prosperous and their standard of living 
was much raised. It led to the easy realisation of land revenue by the custodians 
of the state. According to a French historian. "The liberal policy followed by 
the Arabs in the fixation of revenues and their land reforms have greatly 
contributed to their military conquests." It was due to this liberal policy of the 
Second Caliph that the Christian Copts who were farmers always sided with 
the Muslim Arabs in preference to Roman Christians. The Caliph was not 
content with these reforms. He worked out beneficial schemes for the advance- 
ment of agriculture and constructed irrigation canals, wells and tanks in his 
vast dominions. He established a public welfare department which looked after 
such construction works and furthered these beneficial schemes. The celebrated 
historian Allama Maqrizi says that more than one lac and twenty thousand- 
labourers were continually employed in such works throughout the year in 
Egypt alone. A number of canals were constructed in Khuzistan and Ahwaz 
during this period. A canal called "Nahr Amirul Momineen" which connected 
the Nile with the Red Sea was constructed in order to ensure quick transport 
of grain from Egypt to the holy land. 

Caliph Umar is particularly known for his administration of impartial 
justice. Justice during his reign was administered by Qazi (civil judges) who 
were appointed by the Caliph and who were free from the control of the 
governors. He was the first man who separated judiciary from the executive, 
thus ensuring free and even-handed justice. "The judge was named and is still 
named," says Von Hammer, "the Hakim ush-sharaa, i.e., ruler though the law, 
for law rules through the utterance of justice and the power of governor carries 
out the utterance of it. Thus the Islamite administration even in its infancy, 
proclaims in word and in deed the necessary separation between judicial and 
executive power." Such separation of executive from judiciary has not been 
attained by some of the most civilized states in the modern times. The adminis- 
tration of justice during his time was perfectly impartial and he himself set an 
example by scrupulously carrying out the orders of the Qazi. 

The letter written by the Caliph to Abu Musa Asha'ari detailing the 
fundamental principles of justice, is an invaluable piece of jurisprudence which 
can be favourably compared with the Roman law. The Caliph took particular 
care to enforce the equality of justice. In the eyes of law, all are equals. He 
personally visited several courts in order to have practical experience of it. 
Once he had to attend the court of Qazi Zaid bin Sabit as a defendant. The Qazi 

30 Hundred Great Muslims 

showed some preferential respect to him, which, the Caliph resented and warned 
him, "Unless you consider an ordinary man and Umar as equals, you are not 
fit for the post of Qazi. " 

Jablah bin Al-Aiham Ghassani was the ruler of a small state in Syria. He 
was converted to Islam, and one day while he was offering Hajj, a part of his 
gown was unintentionally trampled upon by a poor Arab. Jablah gave him a 
slap. He too, paid him in the same coin. The infuriated Jablah hastened to the 
Caliph and urged him to severely deal with the Arab. Thereupon the Caliph said 
that he had already received the justice. Jablah retorted saying : "Had he done 
such an insult to me in my own land, he would have been hanged." The Caliph 
repUed calmly: "Such was the practice here in pre-Islamic days, but now the 
pauper and the prince are equal before Islam. 

Hazrat Umar was so strict in the enforcement of impartial justice that he 
did not spare even his near and dear ones if they were at fault. Once, his own 
son Abu Shahma was reported to have drunk wine. The CaUph flogged his son 
with his own hands tiU he died, and the remaining stripes were deUvered on his 
grave. The history of the world cannot produce a single instance in which a 
state or pubhc leader showed greater respect for justice and the rule of law. 

Hazrat Umar took keen interest in the army administration. He founded 
many army centres including Medina, Kufa, Basra, Mosul Fustat (Egypt), 
Damascus, Hems and Palestine where barracks for the soldiers were constructed. 
He paid attention to the minutest details which were required for making an 
efficient army. He divided the army into regulars and volunteers or the reserve. 
There were big military cantormients in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The wise 
Caliph organised different departments of the army in such an efficient manner 
that one is astounded to notice the advancement he made in this sphere. 
Separate departments of supply and sappers and miners were attached to the 
army establishments. The Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim army used to lead 
the daily prayers. "The great superiority of Saracenic armies", says Ameer Ali, 
"consisted in the extreme mobility, their perseverance and their power of 
endurance— qualities which, joined to enthusiasm, made them invincible." 

The greatness of Caliph Umar is visible in his sympathetic treatment of 
his non-Muslim subjects. Before the advent of Islam the rights of other races in 
the Roman and Persian empires were worse than those of slaves. Even the 
Syrian Christians had no right over their lands, so much so that with the transfer 
of their lands they were also transferred. When Hazrat Umar conquered these 
countries, he returned the lands to their tiUers who were mostly non-Muslims. 
He granted peace to the Christians of Elia who had surrendered. The peace 
terms run as follows: "This is the peace, granted by Umar, the slave of God, 
to the inhabitants of EUa. Non-Muslims will be allowed to stay in their churches 
which will not be demolished. They wiU have full freedom of reUgion and will 
not be harmed in any way." According to Imam Shafii, once a Muslim murdered 
a Christian. The matter was brought to the notice of the CaUph, who allowed 

Hundred Great Muslims 31 

the heirs of the Christian to avenge the murder and the Muslim was beheaded. 
He consulted non-Muslims in State matters. Their voice carried much weight in 
the handling of affairs of special interest to them. The author of the Kitab al 
Kharaj writes that the last will of Hazrat Umar enjoined upon the Muslims to 
respect the assurances given to non-Muslims, and protect their lives and pro- 
perties even at the risk of their own. The Caliph had been too indulgent to non- 
Muslims and even pardoned their treasons which no present day civilized govern- 
ment could tolerate. The non-Muslims were so much moved by these unusual 
sympathies of the Muslim conquerors that they sided with them in preference 
to their co-religionists. The Christians and Jews of Hems prayed for the return 
of Muslims. The Caliph, no doubt, imposed Jazia, a protection tax on the non- 
Muslims but such tax was not realised from those non-Muslims who joined the 
Muslim army. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah, the Commander-in-Chief of Muslim forces 
in Syria, returned the Jazia realised from the inhabitants of Hems, when he had 
to withdraw his garrison from Hems due to emergency and therefore, he could 
not undertake the responsibility of their protection. The people of Jaijoma 
refused to pay the Jazia on the ground of their having enlisted in the Muslim 
army. The Christian patriarch of Jerusalem was wonderstruck with the sense of 
justice displayed by the great Caliph when he refused to offer prayer in the 
Church of the Resurrection on the plea that his example would be followed by 
other Muslims thus amounting to the breach of the treaty. 

Such benevolent and generous treatment of non-Muslims at the hands of 
the Caliph endeared him to all of his subjects, thus laying the foundation of a 
stable g9vernment and an efficient administration. 

Hazrat Umar possessed an exemplary character and practised himself 
what he preached. He was intrinsically conscientious; his motto had always been 
the service of his people. He never favoured his own pious and learned son 
Abdullah bin Umar. In the fixation of monthly honorarium he gave preference 
to those who were close Companions of the Prophet, otherwise he observed 
equality even between the Quraish and the slaves. When he fixed the salary of 
Usama bin Zaid higher than that of his son Abdullah, the latter complained, 
"Usama had never surpassed me in the service of Islam." The pious Caliph at 
once replied, "But he was closer and dearer to the Prophet." 

Unstinted service to humanity was his foremost concern. He roamed about 
during the night often incognito in order to acquaint himself with the condition 
of his people. One night as he was roaming outside Medina, he observed in a 
house a woman cooking something and two girls sitting beside her crying for 
food. After waiting for sometime, he asked the woman what was the matter. 
She told him that the children were hungry, that there was nothing in the 
kettle except water and a few pieces of stones and that she was lulling them to 
believe that food was being cooked for them. The Caliph without disclosing his 
identity hurried to Medina, three miles-away, brought a bag of flour on his 
back, cooked the food himself and was not contented until the appetite of the 
children was fully satisfied. The next day he called again to apologise to the old 
woman for his negUgence and fixed dole-money for her. 

32 HiiinJrcJ (Ileal Muslims 

The great Caliph led a very simple life. His standard of living was in no 
case higher than that of an ordinary man. Once the Governor of Kufa visited 
him while he was taking his meals comprising of barley bread and olive oil. The 
Governor said, "Amirul Momineen (Commander of the Faithful) enough wheat 
is produced in your dominions, why do you not take wheat bread". Feeling 
somewhat offended the Caliph asked him in a melancholy tone, "Do you 
think that wheat is available to each and every person inhabiting my vast 

"No", replied the Governor. 

"Then how can I take wheat bread unless it is available to all of my people"? 
added the Caliph. 

Honesty and integrity were the highest virtues in the character of the 
Second Caliph. Once, during his illness his physician prescribed honey for him. 
Tons of honey was kept in the Baittil Mai, but he did not take a drop of it unle^ 
he was permitted by the people's committee. His wife, Umme Kulsum, once 
presented a few bottles of perfumes to the Empress of Rome. The Empress 
returned the bottles filled with precious stones. When Hazrat Umar learned of 
it, he deposited the jewels in the Baitul Mai. 

The Caliph had great respect for the social equality of man. The Patriarch 
of Jerusalem was profoundly struck by the respect for social equaUty shown 
by the esteemed Caliph when he observed the slave was riding on the camel 
and the Caliph was leading the camel by the string. 

According to a report of Abdur Rahman bin Auf , the Caliph came to him 
one day and asked him to accompany him to a certain place. On enquiry, he 
told Hazrat Auf that a caravan had anived in Medina and since the members 
must be tired, the Caliph considered it obligatory to guard them for the whole 
of night so that they might rest undisturbed. 

Once he addressed a gathering saying, "Brothers, if I stray from the right 
path what will you do"? A man stood up and said, "We will behead you." 
Umar shouted in order to test him : "You dare utter such impertinent words for 
me?" "Yes, for you," replied the man. Umar was very much pleased with his 
boldness and said, "Thank God, there exist such bold men in our nation that 
if 1 go Mtray they will set me right." 

"It was only to his high moral character," says a European historian, 
"that Umar owned the respect which he inspired, for the physical force at his 
command was none. Umar was not only a great ruler but also one of the most 
typical models of all the virtues of Islam". Tradition makes the Prophet of 
Islam say : "If God had wished that there should have been another prophet 
after me, he would have been none other than Umar." 

Hundred Great Muslims 33 

The second Caliph of Islam occupies an outstanding place in the history 
of the world. One would hardly come across a ruler who led so simple a life, 
and dedicated himself to the service of his people and was a terror for his foes. 
"Of simple habits, austere and frugal, always accessible to the meanest of his 
subject, wandering about at night to enquire into the condition of the people 
without any guard or escort, such was the greatest and most powerful ruler of 
the time." Perhaps Dr. Iqbal, the poet of the East has said for him only : 

Jis se jigar-i-lala me thandak ho woh shabnam 

Daryaan ke dil jis se dahel jaen woh too fan 

(Like the dew which cools the heart of lily and like the storm which shakes 
the heart of the rivers). 

Jurji Zaidan, the celebrated Christian historian of Egypt pays glowing 
tribute to the achievements of Hazrat Umar in the following words : 

"In his time various countries were conquered, spoils were multiplied, 
the treasures of the Persian and Roman Emperors were poured in streams 
before his troops, nevertheless he himself manifested a degree of abstemiousness 
and moderation which was never surpassed. He addressed the people clad in a 
garment patched with leather. He was himself the first to practise what he 
preached. He kept a vigilant eye over his Governors and Generals and enquired 
strictly into their conduct. Even the great Khalid bin Walid was not spared. He 
was just to all mankind and was kindly even to the non-Muslims. Iron discipline 
was maintained everywhere during his reign." 


Ibn Saba, a Yemenite Jew converted to Islam, was the moving spirit 
behind a conspiracy hatched against Hazrat Usman, the third Caliph of Islam, 
which in reality, aimed at undermining the very foundations of Islam. His later 
activities proved beyond doubt that his acceptance of Islam was only a made to 
cover his evil designs. The storms brewing in Fustat (Cairo), Kufa and Basrah, 
later burst upon Medina and culminated in the martyrdom of Usman. On 
smelling the foiil play. Amir Muawiya, the Governor of Syria, had begged the 
Caliph either to move to Damascus, or to keep a strong guard for his self-pro- 
tection. The pious Caliph refused both, saying that he would be the last person 
to leave the resting place of the Prophet and that he would never like to be 
guarded at public expense. 

Hazrat Usman ibn Affan, known as Abu Abd Allah, was bom in Makkah. 
Zunnurain was his epithet of honour as he had married two daughters of the 
Prophet one after another. He belonged to the Bani Umayyad clan of the 
Quraish and his ancesteral pedigree joins that of the Prophet in the fifth 
generation. The Bani Umayyads were only second to Bani Hashims in political 
importance and were entrusted with the custody of National Flag of the Quraish 
before the advent of Islam. 

Hazrat Usman, aftei his early education, adopted his ancestral occupation 
and was one of the leading businessmen of Arabia. He was known for his honesty 
and integrity, piety and modesty throughout Hejaz. He was an intimate friend 
of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq, the first Caliph of Islam. It was Hazrat Abu Bakr, 
who was the first man to carry the message of Islam to him. Hazrat Usman 
along with Talha bin Ubaidullah, accepted Islam at the hands of the Prophet. 
He was much tortured by his uncle Hakem for joining the new faith but he 
refused to renounce it, even at the cost of his life. 

Hazrat Usnun migrated to Abyssinia along with other Muslims under the 
orders of the Prophet. He was only second to ^u Bakr in rendering financial 
assistance to the new faith. He served Islam whole-heartedly evep at the cost 
of his business. He took active part in the inner councils of Islam. Later on he 
migrated to Medina along with other Muslims, leaving his valuable properties 
behind. Medina had then only one well of drinking water called Bir Rumah, 
which was owned by non-Muslims, who charged heavy water tax from the 


Hundred Great Muslims 35 

Muslims. The Holy Prophet wanted some Muslims to purchase it. Hazrat Usman, 
at once came forward, purchased it for 30 thousand dirhams and made it a 
public property. Similarly, Hazrat Usman purchased the land adjoining the 
Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, which could not accommodate a large number 
of MusHms and undertook its extension at his own expense. 

Except Badr, Hazrat Usman took part in all battles fought during the 
lifetime of the Prophet for the defence of the new faith. At the time of Badr 
he was asked by the Prophet to look after his wife Ruqayya, who was on death 

During the caUphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar, he occupied 
the position of highest trust. He was a prominent member of the inner council 
and his opinion was sought on all important matters of state. He was one of the 
two persons who were first consulted by Hazrat Abu Bakr on his death bed for 
nominating Hazrat Umar as his successor. 

The circumstances which led to his election as the third Caliph of Islam 
are a controversial issue and diverse historical theories have been advanced which 
greatly differ from one another. But it has been established beyond doubt that 
Hazrat Umar, on his death bed, had nominated six persons, out of whom his 
successor was to be selected. The four nominees withdrew their names, leaving 
Hazrat Usman and Hazrat Ali, as the contestants. The two consented to accept 
the verdict of Hazrat Abdur Rahman bin Auf, who, on the third day, cast his 
vote in favour of Hazrat Usman who became the third Caliph of Islam. There- 
after, the populace of Medina vied with each other in taking the oath of 
allegiance on the hands of Hazrat Usman.. There are certain historical sources, 
which state that there had been secret machinations in the election of Hazrat 
Usman and that of Hazrat Ali was the more popular and deserving of the two. 

The first six years of the reign of Hazrat Usman are noted for great 
territorial expansion of the Islamic Empire as well as achievements in other 
spheres of life. Only six months after the election of the Third Caliph, the 
Persians rose in revolt against the authority of Islam. The ejc-king of Persia, 
Yezdejird, who was in exile, was at the bottom of this upheaval and his agents 
were active throughout Persia. Hazrat Usman promptly handled the situation 
with a strong hand. He immediately despatched reinforcements which quelled 
the revolt and pursued the insurgents beyond the Persian frontiers, thus annexing 
extra territories. By 30 A.H., the territories lying north and east of Persia 
including Balkh, Turkistan, Herat, Kabul, Ghazni, Khorasan, Tus, Neshapur and 
Merv, fell before the invincible arms of Islam and thus were incorporated in the 
fast expanding Muslim Empire. Yezdejird, who had fled for his Ufe, died in 
exile in 32 A.H. It led to the establishment of perpetual peace in Persia. The 
Muslims who encountered Turks and Romans in the North-West of Persia, 
inflicted crushing defeats upon their opponents. The Romans were pursued far 
beyond the western frontiers of Persia and the flag of Islam was firmly planted 
on the shores of the Black Sea. 

36 Hundred Great Muslims 

In the second year of his caliphate, the Romans poured into Syria through 
Asia Minor. The garrison at the disposal of Amir Muawiya, Governor of Syria, 
was numericaUy much inferior to the invaders, and could hardly cope with the 
situation. The arrival of fresh reinforcements routed the Romans who were 
hotly pursued as far as the shores of the Black Sea. Armenia, Azerbaijan and 
Asia Minor fell into Muslim hands and Tiflis on the Black Sea, was also captured. 
In 32 A.H., Amir Muawiya laid siege to Constantinople. Strong fortifications 
were raised on the frontiers in order to check further Roman inroads into 
Muslim lands. 

The Romans had set up in Egypt and West Africa spring boards for the 
invasion of Muslim lands. They captured Alexandria in 25 A.H. (646 A.C.) 
but Muslims under the command of Amr bin al-Aas soon recovered it. Gregory, 
the Roman Commander of Tripoli, had a strong army of 120,000 soldiers under 
his command. It was a constant menace to the neighbouring MusUm State. 
A strong contingent which included great veterans like Abdullah bin Zubair, 
was hurriedly despatched from Medina to face the desperate situation. The 
Romans offered a stubborn resistance, but, at last, with the fall of their com- 
mander at the hand of AbduUa bin Zubair, their resistance crumbled down and 
they were routed with heavy losses. 

It was during Usman's reign that the Muslims first launched a naval warfare. 
Earlier, Muawiya was prevented by the CaUph to attack Cyprus, which was a 
Roman stronghold alongside Syria and was a constant danger for her security. It 
was from this strategic island that the Romans made repeated incursions on the 
Syrian coast. Hazrat Usman allowed Muawiya, under certain conditions, to 
invade the island. Muawiya built a strong naval fleet, which was the first of its 
kind in Islam. Curiously enough, Cyprus was occupied by the Syrians, without 
much resistance. 

In 31 A.H. (654 A.C), the Romans launched an invasion of Egypt with 
500 ships. The Muslim Governor of Egypt met them with a small fleet. He tied 
his ships with one another and in a hand to hand fight inflicted a crushing 
defeat upon the Romans. This estabhshed the reputation of Muslim Navy in 
the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The reasons underlying the dissensions among the MusUms which 
culminated in an open revolt against the authority of an elected Caliph are 
manifold. But the main factor at the back of this conspiracy was a hatred for 
MusUm power, which Ibn Saba and his followers wanted to fan from within. 
The democratic principles practised in Islam and the simplicity as well as the 
piety of Hazrat Usman who, at any cost, could not contemplate the horrid 
prospect of bloodshed among the Muslims, gave a free hand to the conspirators 
to malign and undermine his regime. The entreaties of the Administrators of 
affected provinces to be allowed to deal firmly with the agitators could not 
move the pious Caliph. 

Hundred Great Muslims 37 

The Administration during the first six years of his Caliphate had not 
lost the effectiveness of his predecessor and the nation-building activities 
continued as before. The insurrections in Persia were put down with a strong 
hand; the state frontiers were extended and fortified naval warfare was 
introduced with great success and the state had not lost the vigour and vitality 
which characterised the phenomenal growth of Muslim Empire during the reign 
of the Second Caliph. But a large number of Christians and Jews, who had 
embraced Islam with mental reservation in order to take advantage of its 
democratic principles and who disliked the restrictions imposed by it on 
debauchery and general moral laxity, which they were addicted to, found an 
able leader in Ibn Saba, a Yemanite Jew newly converted to Islam. The Arab 
colonies of Basrah, Kufa and Fustat (Cairo) which were inhabited by Arabs of 
non-Hejaz origin fell an easy prey to the secret machinations of Ibn Saba and his 
henchmen. Ibn Saba spread the net of his intrigues throughout Iraq and Egypt, 
Kufa, Basrah and Fustat which formed the nerve centre of his nefarious activities 
against the Caliph. 

The Caliphs adversaries charged him with following a policy of nepotism, 
favouritism and partisanship. But he had made no change in the old order 
during the first 6 years of his rule. As far as humanly possible, he was rigid and 
impartial in dispensing justice. This is borne out from his having awarded the 
required number of stripes to Waleed, a provincial Governor who was related 
to him and was accused of drunkenness. He dismissed several governors belong- 
ing to the Umayyad clan, when charges against them were found to be true. 
Moreover, Umayyad governors appointed by him justified their selection by 
their able administration. However, the dictates of statecraft and political 
acumen demanded of him to streamline his administration by drawing into it 
non-party elements not wanting in integrity, capabilities and dynamics. He 
would have been well advised to follow the example of his illustrious predecessor, 
who ignored even his talented son, Abdulla bin Umar for filling a particular 
high job . This would have deprived the insurgents of the only weapon, so skil- 
fully used against the Third CaUph. The faulty advices of Merwan, his Secretary, 
were no less responsible for hastening the doom which awaited the pious CaUph. 

At last the fateful hour drew near. The insurgents besieged Medina and 
the inhabitants of the Metropolis of Islam, who wanted to defend the Caliph 
with their lives, were prevented by him lest it might shed Muslim blood. Not- 
withstanding all this, Hazrat AU posted his two sons at the Caliph's door to 
defend his person even at the cost of their Uves. Others, too, followed suit. 
The Caliph also conceded one of the demands of the insurgents and appointed 
Muhammad bin Abu Bakr as the Governor of Egypt, whereupon the rebels 
withdrew apparently satisfied with the appointment letter in their hands and it 
seemed that the storm clouds which threatened Medina had melted away. But, 
after a few days, the rebels reappeared and laid siege of Medina. On enquiry it 
was given out they had intercepted a secret letter of the Caliph ordering the 
Governor of Egypt to behead Muhammad bin Abu Bakr as soon as he reached 
there. The messenger who was said to be carrying the letter was never produced. 

38 Hundred Great Muslims 

The Caliph denied knowledge of any such letter, which was accepted by the 
insurgents who held his Secretary Merwan responsible for this forgery. They 
demanded that he should be handed over to them, but the Caliph refused to 
oblige them without any definite proof against him. The insurgents, however, 
could not give satisfactory reply to the query of Hazrat Ali. "How all of them 
returned together at the same time when their routes led to divergent directions." 
He considered the letter to be forged. The pious Caliph addressed the 
rebels : 

"As to death, I have no fear of it and I consider it the easiest thing. As to 
fighting, if I wished such a thing, thousands would have come forward to 
fight for me. But I caimot be the cause of shedding a drop of Muslim 

At last the critical hour arrived. A large number of Medinites had gone to 
Makkah for pUgrimage. The insurgents considered it a suitable opportunity for 
carrying out their evil designs. They stormed the Caliph's house, as they could 
not dare to enter through the gate which was guarded by the valiant sons of 
Ali. They scaled the walls on the opposite side and slew the aged Caliph, who 
was reciting the Quran with extraordinary composure. The little fingers of his 
wife raised for his protection were chopped off. The Caliph attained his 
martyrdom on June 17, 656 A.C. and thus offered his life as "a sacrifice at the 
altar of Muslim solidarity." He was at this time 82. His Caliphate lasted 12 

Hazrat Usman rendered very valuable financial help to the new faith 
before and after his election as Caliph. He placed his entire resources at the 
disposal of the Prophet of Islam. His generosity knew no bounds. When he 
was elected to the high post of the Caliph, he did not take anything from the 
Baitul Mdl (Public Treasury) and served the people even at the cost of his flourish- 
ing business. Tabari, the celebrated historian of Islam, quotes as follows from an 
address of the Third Caliph : 

"When the reins of the Government were entrusted to me, I was the 
biggest owner of camels and goats in Arabia. Today I possess neither 
a goat nor a camel save two, which are meant for the pilgrimage. By 
God I have taxed no city beyond its capacity so that such a thing might 
be imputed to me. And whatever I have taken from the people I have 
spent on their own welfare. Only fifth of it comes to me (i.e., in Baitul 
Md or in Public Treasury). Out of this, too, I consider nothing for my 
personal use. This is spent on the deserving people, not by me, but by the 
Muslims themselves, and not a farthing of public funds is misappropriated. 
I take nothing out of it, so that even what I eat out of my own 

His financial help was indeed invaluable for the growth of a new organisa- 
tion during the lifetime of the Prophet. 

Hundred Great Muslims 39 

The greatest achievement of Hazrat Usman is the compiling of a standard 
copy of the Holy Quran. During his regime Islam had spread far and wide in 
distant lands— lands inhabited by diverse nationalities. The differences of pro- 
nunciations and dialects in Arabia led to variety of Quranic recitations. Hence, 
he felt the necessity of compiling a standard copy of the Quran, which might 
ensure uniformity in pronunciation of Quranic lines all over the world. Hazrat 
Abu Bakr, the First Caliph, had got compiled a standard copy of the Quran 
after comparing it with the help of reliable sources. This copy was in possession 
of Prophet's wife. Several copies of this volume were prepared by the Caliph 
after consultation with prominent Companions of the Prophet and despatched 
to centres of Islamic Empire to serve as the standard version. In order to avoid 
differences in versions, all unauthentic copies were burnt down. These steps 
were taken with the consent of all the well-known Companions of the Prophet, 
who formed a committee for ensuring wide circulation of the standard copy. 
The step taken was also in conformity with the wishes of the Holy Prophet who 
desired the compilation of a standard volume of the Quran. 

There had been no slackening of nation-building activities during his 
reign. New colonies, bridges, roads, mosques and guest houses were built and 
new cities sprang up throughout the vast Islamic dominions. The roads leading 
to Medina were fully equipped with caravan serais and other amenities of life 
for the travellers. The Prophet's Mosque in Medina was enlarged and built of 
stones. Extensive arrangements for drinking water were made in Medina and 
other desert towns. Farms for camel and horse breeding were opened on a 
large scale. The Council of Consultation was maintained as before, which 
comprised of prominent Companions of the Prophet, who counselled the Caliph 
on all important matters. The Caliph, like his predecessors, was at all times 
accessible to the meanest of his subjects and the complaints against the highest 
authorities of the state were promptly attended to. 

The Third Caliph of Islam was particularly known for his integrity and 
simplicity, piety and modesty of character. His character was above suspicion 
and none, not even his greatest enemies, ever doubted his sincerity. No doubt, 
certain people took advantage of his simphcity, but whatever he did he did with 
the best of intentions. 



The Qazi's court in Medina was packed to its capacity. The Qazi had 
summoned Hazrat Ali, the Caliph of Islam, to appear in a case filed against 
him by a Jew who had claimed the Caliph's armour. The Caliph arrived at the 
court and stood by the side of the plaintiff without caring about his own exalted 
position. The claimant produced several witnesses in support of his claim 
The learned Qazi, then asked Hazrat Ali if he had to say anything in his 
defence. Ali replied in the negative. Thereupon the Qazi decided the case in 
favour of the Jew and awarded the armour to the Jew, which, Ali had actually 
purchased from him. The Jew wis taken aback by the impartial judgement oi 
the Qazi and returned the armour to the Caliph saying that the illustrious 
Caliph had actually purchased the armour from him. He had filed the suit in 
order to test the impartiality of the Caliph and his courts which had magnifi 
cently withstood the test. 

Hazrat Ali, the Fourth Caliph of Islam, was a versatile genius. Few persons 
have ever been endowed with the unsurpassable traits of chivalry and learning, 
piety and clarity of thought and imagination that distinguished the illustrious 
son-in-law of the Prophet of Islam who had brought him up under his own 
fostering care and ideal guardianship. Hazrat Ali has universally been acclaimed 
as one of the best products of Islam. His bravery had won him the title of 
"Lion of God," says a well-known orientdist; "his learning, that of the 'gate of 
knowledge,' chivalarous, humane and forbearing as a ruler, he came before his 
time. Most of the grand undertakings, initiated by Umar for the welfare of the 
people, were due to his counsel. Ever ready to succour the weak and redress 
the wrongs of the injured, the accounts of his valorous deeds are still recited 
with enthusiasm from the bazaars of Cairo to those of Delhi." 

Ali ibn Abu Talib, whose kunniyat was Abul Hasan, was born in the 13th 
year of the Year of Elephant. He was a cousin of the Prophet and his clan Banu 
Hashim having been entrusted with the high function of the custody of the 
sacred Kaaba, was held in high esteem, throughout Arabia. Abu Talib, who had 
a large family entrusted his son Ali to the care of the Prophet of Islam. Ali 
was brought up by the Prophet himself from his very childhood— a fact which 
greatly contributed to cultivating extraordinary virtues in him. According to 
reliable historical sources, Khadija was the first \yoman, Abu Bakr, the first man 


Hundred Great Muslims 41 

amd AH, the first child to embrace Islam. Hazrat Ali played a conspicuous role 
at the time of the Prophet's migration from Makkah. While Hazrat Abu Bakr 
accompanied the Prophet, constantly harassed and hunted by the Quraish of 
Makkah, on his perilous journey to Medina, Hazrat Ali was kept behind to 
return to the owners the valuables they had entrusted to the custody of the 
Prophet. It speaks volumes for the integrity of the Prophet that even his sworn 
enemies reposed full trust in his honesty and deposited their valuables with him. 
Hazrat Ali slept soundly in the house of the Prophet besieged by his enemies. 
The next morning he cleared the accounts and departed for Medina. 

The Prophet selected the young talented Ali, as the life partner for his 
favourite daughter Fatima az-Zahra, the beautiful. The nuptial ceremony was 
performed with utmost simplicity which will serve as an example for all times 
to come. The dowry given to the beloved daughter of the Prophet consisted of 
a sheet of cloth, a few earthen utensils and a grinding stone. Three sons, Hazrat 
Imam Hasan, Husain and Mohsin and two daughters Zainab and Umme Kulsum 
were born. The hneage of the Prophet continued through Imam Hasan and 
Hussain, hence their descendants are called Syed (Master). 

Hazrat Ali lived a humble and simple life; he earned his living through 
manual labour. He could not add anything to the property of the house and 
Ws beloved wife performed all household duties with her own hands. Faced 
with extreme poverty, the humanitarianism and the spirit of charity and self- 
sacrifice and self-denial of this ideal couple of Islam have hardly any parallel in 
the annals of mankind. They invariably preferred to go without their humble 
meals rather than refuse a beggar knocking at their door. 

Hazrat Ali was chosen by the Prophet to carry the message of Islam to 
the people of Yemen, where earlier Muslim missionaries had failed. There he 
met with great success and the tribe of Hamdan embraced Islam the same day. 
His mellifluent eloquence, high intellectual and persuasive power were greatly 
instrumental in popularising Islam in those hostile regions. 

It was in the realm of chivalry that Hazrat Ali has left ineffaceable marks 
in the history of early Islam. He was gifted with extraordinary daring and 
courage which he devoted to the service of Islam, performing wonderful deeds 
of heroism. In fact, he proved to be the strongest bulwark in the defence of the 
votaries of the new faith against the repeated hostilities of aUen powers. During 
the lifetime of the Prophet, he took a leading part in all defensive campaigns 
except Tabuki when reluctantly he had to stay back in Medina under the orders 
of the Prophet who said, "You stand to me in the same relation in which Aaron 
stood to Moses, except that there is to be no Prophet after me." 

Hazrat Ali displayed his unique valour for the first time in the battle of 
Badr, when he overpowered Waleed and Sheba, the renowned warriors of Arabia 
in single combats. In the battle of Ohad, when the standard bearer of Islam fell 
fighting, he took hold of the standard and killed the enemy standard bearer. 

42 Hundred Great Muslims 

This exceptional heroism made people declare, 'La Fata Ilia AW (There is no 
youth like Ali). Two years after, he met Amr ibn Abad Wudd, the greatest 
known warrior of Arabia in a duel and killed him. Of all his martial exploits, 
the most outstanding was the capture of the citadel of Khaibar which was 
regarded impregnable. It was strongly fortified by the Jews and withstood 
repeated attacks by Muslims under the command of Hazrat Abu Bakr and 
Umar. Thereupon the Prophet said, "Tomorrow the standard of Islam will be 
entrusted to a person who would capture it and who loves God and His 
Messenger and whom God and His Messenger also love." The next morning Ali 
was summoned in the presence of the Prophet. Incidentally he was suffering 
from bad eyesore. The ftophet applied his saliva to his eyes, and placed the 
standard in his hands. Ali made a dash and captured the fort by tearing asunder 
the huge gate which could not be moved by dozens of men. 

Mercy on flie defeated and overpowered foe is a part of chivalry. Hazrat 
Ali who had drunk enough of the milk of human kindness, pitied and pardoned 
the vanquished on several occasions. Once during a campaign, when his 
opponent fell on the ground and became naked, he left him aside. According 
to Ibn Saad, when his assailant Ibn Muljem was brought before him, he asked 
his men to treat him gently and make him comfortable. 

Ehiring the reign of the first two Caliphs, Hazrat Ali as the principal 
adviser of the State. He solved all knotty problems and no important decision 
was taken by the Caliphs without his advice. His advice was sought on all matters, 
especially legal and religious on which he was considered an authority. His 
sound judgements were highly respected by friends and foes alike. After the 
death of the Prophet, he mostly devoted his energies to the development of the 
moral and inteUectual life of the adherents of the new faith and seldom took 
part in warfare. Most of the great administrative works during the reign of 
Hazrat Umar were undertaken at his instance. 

Hazrat Ali was elected Caliph after the martyrdom of Hazrat Usman, 
at a time when the world of Islam was in great turmoil and Medina,' the Metro- 
polis, was besieged by insurgents. The inhabitants of Medina and neighbouring 
provinces vied with one another in taking the oath of allegiance to him, as he 
was the most deserving person for the high post among the faithful. But Muayiya, 
who had gathered great power around himself, clamoured for avenging the 
blood of Hazrat Usman. Muawiya, being a clever person, realized that he had 
hardly any chance for the exalted position in the presence of Hazrat Ali, hence 
he devised this means of winning popular support. The insurgents were two 
powerful to be dealt with and a hasty step would have culminated in the 
disintegration of the Empire. This restrained AU's hands. He wanted to deal 
firmly with the disruptionists at an opportune moment. To Talha and Zubair 
who insisted on the assassins of Usman being punished immediately, Hazrat Ali 
replied, "I am myself no less anxious about it, but I simply cannot help it. 
It is a critical time. If there is any disturbance of peace, the Beduins and 
foreigners will rise in revolt and Arabia will once more relapse into the days of 

Hundred Great Muslims 43 

ignorance. These men are yet beyond our control. Wait and see till Allah shows 
me some way out of the difficulty." The situation had become so critical and 
the political atmosphere was so much explosive, that any drastic action taken 
against the insurgents would have endangered the security of the new state. 
M's opponents had, however, resolved to exploit the situation to their advan- 
tage. Almost all great MusUm historians have expressed doubts about the motive 
behind the opposition of Muawiya. They maintain that sincerity of purpose 
behind the opposition of Hazrat Aisha, Talha and Zubair was lacking in the 
case of Muawiya. 

His demand for avenging Usman's blood was not inspired by high motive. 
M explored all possibilities of amicable settlement before declaring war against 
Muawiya in the interest of national solidarity. Hazrat Aisha, too, was deeply 
stirred by the martyrdom of Usman. Accompanied by Talha and Zubair, she 
marched upon Basra which surrendered in October 656 A.C. Hazrat Ali when 
apprised of the situation hurriedly reached there. On 12th Rajab 36 A.H. Kufa 
accorded a royal welcome to the Caliph and made elaborate arrangements for 
liis entertainment in the local palace. But being a saintly person, Ali shunned 
all pageantries and preferred to camp in an open field. The two forces lay facing 
each other, as Hazrat AU and Hazrat Aisha wanted to avoid a clash and negotiate 
for a settlement. Obviously it would have gone against the interests of the 
Sabaites who formed a component part of Hazrat AU's forces and who were all 
out to fan the fire of enmity between the contending parties with the ulterior 
purpose of undermining Islam. Hence, one night, when settlement was almost 
iin sight, they secretly fell upon the opposing forces and started fighting. Both 
ithe parties suspected that the fighting was started by the other side. Hazrat Ali 
tried his best to pacify the feeUngs of the fighters and reminded Zubair of a 
prophecy of the Prophet. This induced Zubair to withdraw at once from the 
battle-field, while he was praying on his way back to Makkah, a Sabaite slew 
Mm. When the ruffians brought the head of Zubair to Ali for a reward, he said 
wrathfully, "Give the assassin of Zubair the tidings of hell". At last the forces led 
by Hazrat Aisha were defeated and the Caliph himself called on the reverend lady 
for enquiring about her health. She was respectfully sent back to Medina escorted 
by noble ladies and the Caliph in person saw her off for a considerable distance. 

Caliph Ali now diverted his attention to Muawiya, the rebel Governor of 
Syria, who was threatening the solidarity of the young state. Being humane by 
nature, Hazrat Ali tried his level best to bring about a peaceful settlement and 
avoid shedding of Muslim blood. But Muawiya advanced impossible conditions. 
Ali offered to end the quarrel by personal combat, but the Umayyad declined 
the challenge. At last the fateful hour arrived and the two forces fought a bloody 
battle. "The rebels were defeated in three successive battles," says a well-known 
historian, "and Muawiya was ready to fly from the field, when a trick of his 
accomplice Amr, son of Aas, saved them from destruction. He made his 
mercenaries tie copies of the Quran to their lances and flags, and shout for 
quarter. The soldiers of the Caliph at once desisted from pursuit, and called on 
him to refer the dispute to arbitration." 

44 Hundred Great Muslims 

The arbitration ended in a chaos in which Hazrat Abu Musa Ashari, the 
representative of Ali was duped by the clever Amr bin al-Aas, the representa- 
tive of Amir Muawiya. 

These internal dissensions within the house of Islam gave birth to a new 
fanatical horde called Kharijis, which proved to be a great menace for the 
administration of Hazrat Ali. They spread disorders throughout the domains 
of the Caliph, killing innocent people and converting them to their fanatical 
creed by force. The Caliph, who faced the turmoils and turbulence around 
him with extraordinary courage and patience dealt with the Khariji fanatics 
with a strong hand and exterminated them after a bloody battle. 

The people of Kerman and Persia revolted against the authority of the 
Caliph. Ziad bin Abiha was despatched who soon suppressed the disorder and 
restored peace in that region. Instead of punishing the rebels, Hazrat Ali treated 
them with such kindness that the Persians recalled the rule of Nausherwan, 
the Just. 

The Khariji insurrection to which he ultimately fell a victim, too, was 
handled by him firmly. Three Kharijis (fanatics) had planned to kill the three 
persons namely, Hazrat Ali, Muawiya and Amr bin al-Aas at an appointed time. 
Ibn M'aljem, who was assigned the task of killing the Caliph, struck the deadly 
blow at him when he was going to offer his prayer. The just and kind-hearted 
Caliph instructed his men to treat the assassin with all kindness. Thus died at 
the age of 63, one of the greatest sons of Islam. His rule lasted 4 years and 9 
months and he was destined to steer the ship of Islam through the most stormy 
seas of internecine dissensions. He took pride in simplicity, piety, humility and 
kindheartedness. Being humane by nature, he loved to help the needy and 
forgave even his deadliest enemies. His kindness, at times, verged on the side of 
weakness. Worldly power and splendour had no fascination for him. "Thus 
died", says a celebrated writer "in the prime of his life, the best hearted Moslem, 
to use Colonel Osborn's words, 'that ever lived'. Mild, beneficent and humane, 
ready to help the weak and the distressed, his life had been devoted to the 
cause of Islam. Had he possessed the sternness of Umar's character he would 
have been more successful in governing an unruly race like the Arabs". 

Hazrat Ali was elected as a Caliph in the most stormy period of Islamic 
history. Endowed with extraordinary daring and sound judgement, he battled 
against the surging waves of disruption which wanted to knock the new State 
off its foundation. In chivalry, he had hardly any match in the annals of early 
Islam. Known as the 'lion of God', his bravery has become proverbial, and 
stories connected with it are still related throughout the world of Islam. 

Hazrat Ali was a versatile genius. Being brought up by the Prophet himsell' 
and having had the chance of spending about 30 years in his company, Ali 
occupies the unique position of being the greatest intellectual among the Com- 
panions of the Prophet. Like Aristotle he is known as the father of Islamic 

Hundred Great Muslims 45 

learning. Writing in 'Izalat-ul-Khifa ', Shah WaliuUah attributes the high intellec- 
tuaUsm of Hazrat Ah to the ideal training of the Prophet. He reports on the 
authority of Imam Hanbal that Hazrat Ali possessed the highest intellectual 
attributes among the Companions. This is further corroborated by the decla- 
ration of the Prophet: "I am the store-house of knowledge while Ali is its gate." 
He was a 'Haflz ' of the Quran and a commentator of high standing. Along with 
Hazrat Ibn Abbas he is considered as the greatest authority on the Quran of 
which he arranged the chapters in order of their revelation during the first six 
months of the Caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr. 

Ibn Nadim in his celebrated work 'Al Fihrist', has given this order of 
arrangement. Hazrat Ali exercised utmost circumspection in sifting reports 
about the traditions, so much so that the traditions reported and collected by 
him are universally taken to be authentic. He was the greatest Mujtahid and 
jurist of his time and one of the greatest of "all times. He solved all vexing and 
compUcated problems which defied solution. As already stated he was the 
principal adviser on religious and legal matters during the reign of the first three 
Caliphs. All knotty problems were referred to him and his verdict was considered 
final. Even such high personaUties as Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Aisha referred 
their difficulties to him. All schools of religious thought regard him as the 
father of Islamic mysticism. The celebrated mystic, Junaid Baghdad! acknow- 
ledges Ali as the highest authority on the subject and according to Shah Wali- 
uUah, who says in 'Izalat-ul-Khifa' that Ali devoted much time to mysticism 
before his being elected as Caliph. He was one of the two greatest orators of 
early Islam— the other being Hazrat Abu Bakr. According to Ibn Nadim, Hazrat 
M is known as the founder of Arabian grammar. 

Hazrat Ali was undoubtedly the greatest jurist of early Islam. Once two 
v/omen who were quarrelling over an infant child— each claiming it, were pro- 
duced before him. On hearing the statements of both the. claimants, Hazrat Ali 
ordered the child to be cut to pieces. The real mother was overwhelmed with 
grief and weepingly pleaded to the Caliph to spare the child. Hazrat Ali awarded 
the child to its real mother and punished the other woman. Hazrat Umar used 
to say about him; "God forbid, we may be confronted with any controversial 
issue, which Ali might not be able to solve". According to Hazrat Abdullah bin 
Masood, Ali possessed the best power of judgement in Medina. The Prophet 
himself relied on the judgements of Ali and had appointed him the Qazi of 
Yemen. He had instructed him not to deliver his judgement without hearing 
both the contending parties. Even his opponents like Amir Muawiya referred 
their knotty problems to him and accepted his judgement. The early Islamic 
history is full of learned judgements delivered by him. 

Hazrat AU led a very simple and poverty-stricken life. His whole lile was 
characterised by abstemiousness. He was the very incarnation of simpUcity, 
piety and tender-heartedness. Wordly splendour had no attraction for him. 
The treasures of the conquered Roman and Persian Empires lay at his feet, but 
he never cared to cast an eye at them. Once he distributed the entire wealth 

46 Hundred Great Muslims 

kept in Baitul Mai among the poor. When he was accorded a royal welcome in 
Kufa, he preferred to stay in the open field instead of the local palace in which 
arrangements for his boarding had been made. He could not add to the 
prosperity of his house during the lifetime of Hazrat Fatima. He had only one 
blanket, which was barely enough to cover his head and feet when he slept. 
Even, during the days of his Caliphate, he did not give up his simplicity and 
wore tattered clothes and ate coarse food. He loathed to engage a servant for 
performing household chores, which were handled by his beloved wife Fatima 
who was the favourite daughter of the Prophet. She was accustomed to grinding 
the corn with her own hands. 

Writing in Izalat-ul-Khifa, Shah Waliullah says that Hazrat M once 
received baskets of oranges from some country. Hazrat Imam Hasan and Husain 
picked up one orange each which Hazrat All snatched from the hands of his 
sons and distributed all the oranges among the common people. As Islam forbids 
accumulation of wealth, Hazrat Ah, always lived up to his convictions; neither 
he ever amassed wealth, nor he believed inhoarding wealth in the Public Treasury . 

During his Caliphate, he had to offer even his favourite sword for sale 
in order to purchase a piece of cloth. In spite of being extremely poor, he 
never turned away in disappointment anyone who knocked at his door. One 
night he watered a garden of Medina and received grain as his wage. The next 
morning when he returned home he got a portion of grain boiled. But he gave 
the whole of it to a beggar who knocked at his door. This was repeated on 
three successive days with the result that he himself had to go without food for 
three days. 

Unlike Muawiya who recklessly distributed the wealth of Baitul Mai 
among his own men, with ulterior motives, Hazrat Ali scrupulously followed 
the principles laid down by the Second Caliph and equally distributed the pubUc 
money among the people. This impartial justice of the Caliph antagonised his 
supporters, who began to side with Muawiya. Despite surmounting difficulties 
Hazrat Ali faced them with courage and conviction and kept up the higlfi 
traditions of the Prophet. 

His Administration steered clear of partisanship, favouritism or nepotism. 
He was particularly severe on his Governors and kept a regular watch on their 
actions. Once his own cousin Ibn Abbas, the Governor of Basra, drew some 
money from the Baitul Mai for his personal expenses. Hazrat Ah questioned his 
action and Hazrat Ibn Abbas was so much frightened that he left Basra for 
Makkah. It becomes abundantly clear from this that AU did not spare even 
his dear once who strayed from the path chalked out by the Prophet. 

"All's Administration", says Ameer AU, "was too disturbed by civil war 
to remedy the evils of the previous Administration; but he removed most of the 
corrupt Governors and restored the policy of Umar where he had the power; 
established a state archive for the safe custody and preservation of the records 

Hundred Grea t Muslims 4 7 

of the Caliphate; created the office of Haj'ib or Chamberlain, and of the Sahib- 
ush-Shurta or Captain of the Guard; and reorganised the Police and regulated 
their duties." 

Notwithstanding the internecine warfare, the Muslims extended their 
iiontiers during All's regime. After the suppression of revolts in Kabul and 
Sistan, the Arabs made a naval attack on Konkan (Bombay Coast). Being highly 
experienced in warfare, the Caliph established army establishments on the 
Syrian frontiers. He strengthened his frontiers and raised impregnable fortifica- 
tions on the northern frontiers of Persia. 

Contemporary and later historians have paid high tributes to Hazrat 
i\li's qualities of head and heart. The celebrated historian Masudi says : "If the 
Ij^orious name of being the first Muslim, a comrade of the Prophet in exile, his 
faithful companion in the struggle for the faith, his intimate in life, and his 
kinsman; if a true knowledge of the spirit of his teachings and of the Book; if 
self-abnegation and practice of justice; if honesty, purity and love of truth; if a 
knowledge of law and science, constitute a claim to pre-eminence, then all must 
regard Ali as one of the foremost Muslims." The celebrated traditionist Shah 
WaUullah has' discussed at length the high qualities of Hazrat AU in his well- 
known work, 'Izalat-ul-Khifa'. He concludes that, chivalry and strength of 
character, humanity and sincerity which are attributes of great men, were 
possessed in abundance by Hazrat AU. 

With the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali, ended the glorious regime of the 
pious Caliphs. 'Thus vanished", says a philosophical writer, "the popular regime, 
which' had for its basis a patriarchal simplicity, never again to appear among 
any Mussalman nation; only the jurisprudence and rules which depended on 
Koran survived the fall of the elective Government." 

Another historian says : "The example of simplicity presented by the 
Prophet and his four successors stands unrivalled in the annals of kingship. 
Monarches of vast empires, they led the lives of hermits and never cast a glance 
at the worldly riches which were laid in heap at their feet. Kingly palaces and 
robes came in their way, but the four kings, temporal as well as spiritual, ever 
took pride in their cottages they lived in and in the rough clothes they wore 
while they laboyred for their daily bread. Their lives were simpler than those of 
the common people and like them they would go to the mosque for the five 
daily prayers unaccompanied by a bodyguard. For their person they had no 
police or guard. But for the welfare of the State they were so watchful that the 
smallest incident on a most distant frontier would forthwith engage their 
attention. Their hearts were devoted to the love of God and their bodies to the 
service of man." 


Islamic economy is, to a great extent, based on egalitarian principles 
which aim at maintaining the equality of man through equitable distribution 
of wealth, thus eliminating disparity between the rich and the poor. Islam has 
struck at the root of the principle of making the rich richer and the poor poorer, 
which has been followed in the capitalist and imperialist states since times 
immemorial. It has prevented the exploitation of the poor at the hands of the 

Islam has evolved its economic principles on such lines as to minimise 
these disparities and eliminate distinctions in the distribution of human fortunes. 
The wealthy people are to be heavily taxed through Zakat in order to help the 
poor and this taxation forms one of the cardinal principles of Islam which no 
true Muslim can violate. Its denunciation of "interest" and emphasis on the 
annual payment of Zakat-i religious obligatory tax levied on capital income 
forming one of the fundamentals of Islam, is an effective step towards non- 
accumulation of wealth. The Holy Quran, while enumerating the qualities of a 
Momin (true Muslim) states that he is one who distributes his wealth for Allah, 
among his needy brethren. The Prophet of Islam has observed that if the 
Muslims would faithfully pay their Zakat, a time would come when there 
would be no needy person left to receive the same. 

Islam in its early days produced many zealous exponents of the egali- 
tarian principles of Islam. They sacrificed their all for the sake of God. Instances 
of unparalleled generosity and benevolence are two numerous to be adduced 
from the life of the Companions of the Prophet. But the most vocal and fearless 
exponent of non-accumulation and wider distribution of private wealth was 
Hazrat Abuzar Ghaffari, a highly respected and trusted Companion of the 

Bom in a tribe of brigands, named Ghaffar, residing near the caravan 
route leading from Makkah to Syria, Jundab , later known as Abuzar, soon rose 
to be a great leader of marauders and a terror for the surrounding country. 

But Jundab possessed a live conscience and a moving heart. The ravages 
caused by his terrible raids and the miseries of his victims provided a turning 
point in his career. Introspection led to remorse, which not only made him 


Hundred Great Muslims 49 

abandon the vicious life but also dissuade others from it. This created a furore 
in the tribe and an unwholesome atmosphere for him which obUged him to leave 
the place and take shelter elsewhere. 

He had now developed an extreme revulsion for his past immoral life of 
lust and plunder. This turning point in the life of Abuzar is of great significance 
as it gave the world of Islam one of its most sincere and revolutionary figures. 

He, along with his mother and brother Anees, migrated to Upper Najd, 
where one of his maternal uncles resided. This was the first migration of Abuzar 
in search of truth and righteousness. Here, too, he could not stay for long. His 
revolutionary ideas had antagonised his tribesmen who complained to his maternal 
uncle. In a world of lust and vice, he seemed to be a strange figure. He left 
his maternal uncle's house and took refuge in a village near Makkah. 

Abuzar now yearned for something else. He was in search of truth. Even 
before embracing Islam, he was against idol worship and considered God as one 
and supreme. Once he said : 

"I used to say my prayers three years before I had the honour of 
beholding the Holy Prophet of Islam" 

His brother, Anees who had gone to Makkah brought him the news of the 
dawn of a new horizon— Islam. It was the time when the teachings of the Holy 
ftophet of Islam had created a stir in Makkah and had sent a wave of resentment 
throughout Arabia. Abuzar was naturally drawn towards the Messenger of God 
and longed to see him. He arrived in Makkah, occasionally visited Kaaba and for 
more than a month closely studied the conduct and teachings of the Holy 
Prophet in the hostile enviroimients of Makkah. 

The Kaaba which, in those days, was packed with idols and was frequently 
Msited by idol worshipers of Quraish was a popular meeting place. The Prophet 
of Islam, too came to offer his prayers there. Abuzar at last had a chance of 
meeting him. This provided him an opportunity of fulfilling his heart's desire. 
There and then he embraced Islam and became one of its most zealous and 
dauntless champions. 

Now started his period of trials and tribulations. He openly offered prayer 
iuid preached the new faith in Kaaba. One day, the Quraish idolaters fell upon 
Jiim and had he not been rescued by Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, who 
reminded the assailants that their victim was an important member of the 
Ghaffar clan, who happened to inhabit the area encompassing their trade route 
to Syria. As such, the members of the clan were in a position to put a stop to 
Aeir commerce with that country. This argument cooled down their fury for 
Ae time being. 

Thenceforward, Abuzar dedicated himself to the service of Islam and its 

50 Hundred Great Muslims 

founder. He soon earned an enviable and venerable place among the Companions 
of the Prophet and came to be recognised as one of his very close and trusted 

He was deputed by the Prophet to preach Islam in his own tribe. He went 
to his own land and enthusiastically preached the new faith and met witli 
tremendous success. Not only his mother and brother Anees, but almost the 
entire clan of marauders and brigands also embraced Islam. He was one of the 
foremost and rather the first missionary of Islam. Crowned with exceptionail 
success in his difficult mission, he returned to Makkah to be all the more 
honoured by the Prophet and his Companions. 

He was held in high esteem by the Prophet. When he later left Medina to 
participate in the "Battle of Rags", Abuzar was appointed as the Imam and 
Administrator of Medina. On his death bed, the Prophet sent for Abuzar and 
embraced him, declaring : 

"Abuzar would be the same all through his life. He would not change even 
after my death". 

The words of the Prophet proved true. Abuzar passed an utterly simple and 
pious life, abhorring pomp and show and denouncing the capitalists and their 
wealth throughout his life, specially in the time of the Third Caliph of Islam, 
when the members of Quraish were rolling in wealth. 

Abuzar was a staunch champion of the egaUtarian principles of Islam. His 
adherence to and interpretation of "Aya-i-Kanz" (verse on concentration of 
wealth) raised a great controversy during the time of Hazrat Usman, the Third 
Caliph. This "Aya" in "Sura-i-Tauba" of the Holy Quran runs as follow : 

"Those who accumulate fondly gold and silver and do not spend in the 
path of Allah, tell them dire perdition will be their lot. On that day, 
their foreheads, sides and backs will be branded with the very gold and 
silver, made red-hot and it will be said : "This is what you had accumulated 
for your benefit. Now taste what you had accumulated". 

Deadly opposed to the idea of accumulating wealth he considered it 
against the spirit of Islam. He could not reconcile himself with the growing 
capitalism among the MusUms in Syria governed by Muawiya. In his opinion, 
it was obhgatory on all true Muslims to distribute their surplus wealth among 
their needy brethren. In substantiation he cited the following incident in the 
life of the Prophet : 

"One day as the Holy Prophet was going for a walk along with Abuzar, 
the mountain of Ohad came in view, he said to Abuzar : "If I have gold 
equal to the weight of the yonder mountain, I would never care to look at 
it and have it with me on the third day except that which will be required 
to pay off my debts. The rest I would distribute among the slaves of Allah". 

Hundred Great Muslims 51 

He lived up to his convictions and practised what he preached. In his 
attitude towards capitalism he was so uncompromising that he did not care for 
the highest dignitaries. Hazrat Abu Hurairah, a very renowned Companion of 
the Prophet, was appointed the Governor of Bahrain. He came to see Abuzar 
who refused to see him at first. But, on enquiry, as to why he was so annoyed 
with him, Abuzar repUed : 

"You have been appointed Governor of Bahrain". 

"Yes", was the reply. 

"Then you must have built a palatial house and purchased a big estate 
there", added Abuzar. 

"Nothing of this sort" , replied Abu Hurairah. 

"Then you are my brother", retorted Abuzar and instantly embraced him. 

His preachings were never challenged during the time of the first two 
Caliphs. He passed a peaceful life, and was respected by all. But the trouble 
arose during the time of the Third Caliph. 

Abuzar had migrated to Syria, where he found Governor Muawiya living 
in luxury and consolidating his authority with the support of a privileged class 
which had amassed enormous fortunes. Abuzar's egalitarian preachings awaken- 
ed the masses against this privileged class. He became a problem for the local 
Goveriunent. When Muawiya built his green palace, Al-Khizra, Abuzar questioned 
him : 

"If you have built this palace out of the state funds, you are guilty of 
misappropriation; if out of your personal income, you are guilty of 'israf 
(extravagance)." Muawiya was stunned and could give no reply. 

Muawiya tried his best to dissuade Abuzar from his egalitarian preachings 
but Abuzar was adamant and uncompromising on his principles. The Ameer 
arranged discussions with him by learned scholars of Islam, whose arguments 
cut no ice with him. People were forbidden to associate with or listen to him. 
Nevertheless people thronged around him for advice. At last Muawiya 
complained to Caliph Usman that Abuzar was preaching class hatred in Syria 
which might lead to serious consequences. 

Thereupon, Abuzar was summoned to Medina by the Caliph. Long before 
his arrival in the city, the residents of Medina had come out of their houses to 
welcome this revered Companion of the Prophet. 

In Medina, too, he could not have a peaceful life. The wealthy section of 
the population felt uneasy over his activities advocating equitable distribution 
of wealth. 

52 Hundred Great Muslims 

The Caliph at last arranged a discussion on the subject between him and 
Kaab Ahbar, a learned person. The latter questioned the desirability of keeping 
the law of inheritance in Muslim jurisprudence when Islam did not permit the 
accumulation of wealth. Bat this was off the point. The discussion bore no 
result and Hazrat Usman asked him eventually to leave Medina and settle at 
Rabza, a small village on the caravan route from Iraq to Medina. The enennies 
of Islam like Abdullah ibn Saba, tried to incite him to revolt against the Calliph 
but he rebuked them saying : 

"If Usman hangs me on the highest mountain, I will not lift my finger 
against him". 

Like a true Muslim, Abuzar bowed before the orders of the Central 
Authority of Islam. He migrated to Rabza and died there on the 8th Zil-Hijja, 
32 A.H. His dead body lay near the caravan route, watched by his widow. 
There was none to bury him. Suddenly, on the horizon appeared a caravan of 
Hajis heading towards Makkah. On being informed that the dead body was 
that of Abuzar, the revered Companion of the Prophet, they got down, offered 
funeral prayer, led by AbduUa ibn Masood, the celebrated scholar of Islam and 
buried him. 

Thus ended the life of this trusted Companion of the Prophet who 
preached and practised true sociaUsm more than a thousand years before Karl 
Marx. He lived and died for his principles denouncing the accumulation of wealth. 

The Holy Prophet of Islam had certified him as the "most truthful", 
and Hazrat Ali had declared about him : 

"There is now none, except Abuzar, in the world, who is not afraid of 
the tirade of recriminations from the side of delinquents in matters of 
religion. Even I am no exception". 


No event in the history of mankind has, perhaps, stirred human sentiments 
more deeply than the tragedy of Karbala. The martyrdom of Imam Husain, 
grandson of the Prophet of Islam at Karbala, is being celebrated for the last 
14 centuries with tears and wails throughout the world of Islam. The sacrifice 
of the pious Imam for the cause of truth and righteousness was so colossal and 
the tragedy which resulted from it was so piognant that it continues to serve 
as a beacon light to all fighters for freedom and truth. This has inspired not 
only Muslim but also non-Muslim writers, including Shelley, Chakbast, Sarshar 
and Nasim. 

Husain was born in the 4th A.H. in Medina. His mother, Fatima, was the 
favourite daughter of the Prophet of Islam and his father, Hazrat Ali, was one of 
the most talented and outstanding personalities of early Islam. Brought up by 
this ideal couple under the fostering care of the Prophet, Husain soon 
distinguished himself as a promising scholar, warrior and saint. The ideal training 
which he received from his parents and maternal grandfather made him as one 
of the noblest sons of Islam. Even in his early teens, he was noted for his piety 
and nobility, chivalry and scholarship. 

The two brothers. Imam Hasan and Husain, continued to flourish during 
the time of the first four Caliphs. They commanded great respect of aU classes 
of Muslims for their sterling traits. They were shown great consideration even 
by the successive Caliphs. It was during the Caliphate of their father, Ali, that 
trouble arose when Ameer Muawiya revolted against the Central authority of 
Islam which led to the division of Muslim Caliphate into two-one led by Hazrat 
Ali and the other by Ameer Muawiya. The martyrdom of Hazrat Ali left the 
field open for Ameer Muawiya. Imam Hasan, who succeeded his father compro- 
mised with and abdicated in favour of Ameer Muawiya in the larger interests of 
Islam. He was soon poisoned to death. 

Muawiya dealt the greatest blow to the democratic spirit of Islam during 
the closing years of his reign when, on the advice of Mughira, the Governor of 
Basra, he nominated his son Yazid as his successor. The democratic spirit of 
Islamic Caliphate degenerated into monarchy. It was also a breach of contract 
with Imam Husain. He obtained the oath of fealty to Yazid through question- 
able means. He himself visited Medina for the purpose and was successful in his 


54 Hundred Great Muslims 

efforts to some extent. But the four notable personalities of Islam who took 
exception to his un-Islamic practice were Husain, the son of All, Abdulla, the 
son of Umar, Abdur Rahman, the son of Abu Bakr and Abdulla, the son of 
Zubair. "Two men threw into confusion the affairs of the Muslims", says Imam 
Hasan of Basra, "Amr, the son of Aas, when he suggested to Muawiya the 
lifting of the Koran on the lances and Mughira, who advised Muawiya to tiake 
the covenant of allegiance for Yazid. Were it not for that, there would have been 
a Council of Election till the day of resurrection, for those who succeeded 
Muawiya followed his example in taking the covenant for their sons" (History 
of Saracens). 

Yazid, the most cursed personality in the armals of Islam, ascended the 
throne of Damascus in April 683 A.C. He was a tyrant who revelled in vicious 
pleasures of life. He hated and took delight in persecuting MusUm divines. He 
tried to obtain the allegiance of the four notable Muslims including Imam 
Husain through intrigue and force. But, Husain, who had inherited the virtuous 
and chivalrous disposition of his father, Ali, was not a man to be won over by 
force or favour. He remained adamant and refused to acknowledge such a vicious 
and dissolute person, as the Caliph, supposed to be the spiritual as well as 
political Head of the world of Islam. 

Immediately after his accession, Yazid ordered Waleed ibn Utaba, the 
Governor of Medina, to force Imam Husain for the oath of fealty to him. Mean- 
while, Husain received messages from the citizens of Kufa imploring him to free 
them the tyrarmical Omayyad rule. He received hundreds of such letters from 
the residents of Kufa offering him their allegiance. The kind hearted virtuous 
Husain considered it his duty to respond to the call of the oppressed. He sent 
his cousin Muslim ibn Aqeel as his emissary to Kufa. Thousands of Kufis rushed 
to swear fidelity to Husain on Muslim's hands. The reports sent by Muslim from 
Kufa were highly heartening. He invited Husain to come to Kufa. 

But the Kufis were soon won over through force and favour and turned 
their backs on Muslim, the emissary of Husain. He met a pitiable death. In the 
meantime. Imam Husain, along with his family members, relations and com- 
panions left for Kufa. When he approached the borders of Iraq, he was surprised 
at the absence of the promised Kufi soldiers. A few stages from his destination 
he learned the tragic end of his emissary. Eager, fierce and impetuous, the Kufls 
were utterly wanting in perseverance and steadfastness. "They knew not their 
minds from day to day. One moment, ardent as fire for some cause or person, 
the next day they were as cold as ice and as indifferent as the dead." He was 
confronted with a strong detachment of Omayyad army under the command 
of Hur, who, under the orders of Ubaidullah ibn Zayad, forced Husain and his 
party to march towards Karbala, a place about 25 miles north— east of Kufa. 
Here, close to the bank of the Euphrates, Husain encamped along with his 
companions. The circle of steel formed by the Umayyad soldiers closed in 
around him. The Umayyad Governor, Ubaidullah ibn Zayad wished to persuade 
or force Husain to surrender. He cut off all access to the Euphrates, hoping to 

Hundred Great Muslims 55 

reduce him to thirst. But Husain, the son of Ali was made of a different metal. 
He remained obdurate and firm in his resolve not to acknowledge a vicious 
tyrant as the Caliph of Islam. 

This small band of 72 souls which included respectable ladies, men and 
children of the House of Fatima, encamped on the western bank of the 
Euphrates at Karbala surrounded by a powerful Umayyad army of 4,000 soldiers 
commanded by Amr bin Saad. A showdown seemed imminent as Husain was 
determined to shed the last drop of his blood for the sake of truth and righteous- 
ness and Ubaidullah was also bent upon preventing the flower of Muslim nobility 
escaping from his hands. Diabolical forces had arrayed themselves against the 
few members of the Prophet's house-hold. Husain, therefore, allowed his 
companions to leave him and go to places of safety. But who could bear to leave 
the grandson of the Prophet in the lurch ! 

Now started a period of trials and tribulations for the descendants of 
Muhammad (PBUH). For days, the vicious army of Ibn Saad surrounded their 
tents but dared not come within reach of Husain's sword. They immediately 
cut off their water-supply with a view to reducing them to hunger and thirst, 
thus forcing them to surrender. For four days, commencing from the 7th to the 
10th Muharram not a drop of water entered the mouth of Imam Husain and 
his companions who were dying of thirst in the grilling heat of the Arabian 
desert, without their fortitude and perserverance for a noble cause being 
impaired in the least. Faced with this dire catastrophe which would have made 
the stoutest heart shudder and, strongest feet stagger, Husain and his companions 
did not wince at all. The restraint and patience and the power of endurance 
exlliibited by this heroic band of Karbala were indeed superhuman. These noble 
qualities of theirs stand unrivalled. 

At last the fateful hour arrived. This was on the 10th of Muharram, a 
memorable day in the history of Islam. One of the enemy's chief named Hur, 
horrified at the miserable pUght of the grand children of the Prophet, deserted 
along with thirty followers to meet the inevitable death. None could dare face 
the Fatimides in single combats. But the enemy archers picked them off from a 
safe distance. One by one the defenders fell— friends, cousins, nephews and 
sons-until there remained the grandson of the Prophet and his infant son, 
Asghar. He was crying with thirst. Carrying him in his arms he drew near the 
enemy positions and delivered a memorable sermon. But, instead of giving water 
to the crying child, they transfixed him with a dart. Husain brought the dead 
child smeared with blood and placed him in the lap of his mother. 

He knew that the end was near. During his last moments Husain demons- 
trated the highest spiritual and moral greatness by praying for the very persons 
who had killed his infant child and other family members. Coming out of the 
tent, he made a desperate charge. The enemy soldiers fell back as they could 
not stand up against fierce attack of Husain, the son of the "Lion of God". 
But he was too much exhausted due to loss of blood and excessive thirst. The 

56 Hundred Great Muslims 

valiant Imam got down from his horse and offered his last prayers to his Creator. 
As he prostrated, the murderous crew rushed upon him and Saran ibn Uns 
struck the fatal blow. "They cut off his head, ruthlessly trampled on his body, 
and with savage ferocity subjected it to every ignominy". His tents were pillaged. 
His head was carried to the inhuman ObaiduUah, who struck his lips with a 
cane. "Alas" ! exclaimed an aged Muslim, "On these lips have I seen the lips of 
the Apostle of God". "In a distant age and climate", says Gibbon, "the tra]gic 
scene of the death of Husain will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader." 

Thus, fell on the 10th Muharram 61 A.H., one of the noblest personalities 
of Islam and along with him perished the members of the House of Fatima, the 
flower of Muslim nobility, piety and chivalry. The only male survivor was sickly 
Zainul Abedin, son of Husain who escaped general massacre at the intervention 
of Husain's sister, Zainub. 

The female members of Husain's family were despatched to Damascus 
along with Zainul Abedin. Their pitiable condition evoked sympathy even from 
alien quarters and Yazid, fearing an outburst in his capital in favour of the 
oppressed and persecuted family, hurriedly sent them back to Medina. 

The massacre of the Prophet's family at Karbala sent a wave of horror and 
indignation throughout the world of Islam. Medina rose in revolt against the 
Umayyad Caliph. Abdullah ibn Zubair installed himself as the Caliph in Makkiih. 
It gave birth to a new movement in Persia which ultimately brought about the 
doom of dmayyad rule and paved the way for the estabUshment of the 
Abbasside Caliphate. 

The martyrdom of Husain at Karbala provided the moral victory of 
virtue over vice. It was a triumph of good over evil. It continues to serve as a 
beacon light for all stnigglers for truth and righteousness. It leaves behind the 
message that it is glorious to die for a just and noble cause. It also establishes 
the moral victory of right over might. It revived the virtues of Islam, whiich 
were slowly being enveloped by evil. Maulana Muhammad Ali, the celebrated 
Muslim patriot, has rightly observed : 

"Katl-e-Husain asl main marg-e-yazid hai 
Islam zinda hota hai her Karbala ke bad. " 

"The martyrdom of Husain actually means the death of Yazid, as every 
such Karbala leads to the revival of Islam." 

How truthfully says a Persian poet : 

ei^ dr > S^ ^ *£^j err ^i/^. 

"They initiated a noble example of tossing in dust and blood May God 
bless these well-intentioned lovers (of His)." 


Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz, the celebrated Umayyad Caliph whose 
empire stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the highlands of Pamir, was 
sitting in his private chamber examining a pile of State documents. The dim light 
of the room was adding to the serenity and sombreness of the place and the 
Caliph could scarcely feel the arrival of his wife, Fatima, till she addressed him : 

"Sire! Will you spare a few moments for me? I want to discuss some 
private matter with you." 

"Of course", replied the pious CaUph, raising his head from the papers, 
"But, please put off this State lamp and light your own, as I do not want to 
burn the State oil for our private talk." 

The obedient wife, who was the daughter of Abdul Malik, the mighty 
Umayyad Caliph and the sister of two successive Umayyad Caliphs, Waleed and 
Sulaiman, complied accordingly. 

The short rule of Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz was like an oasis in a vast 
desert— a benevolent rain which had fallen on an arid soil. It was the brightest 
period in the 91 -year Caliphate of the Umayyads, which, though short lived, 
had transformed the outlook of the State and had released such powerful 
democratic forces that after his death the attempts for the restoration of 
autocracy under Hisham failed miserably and ultivately culminated in the fall of 
the Umayyads at the hands of the Abbasides. 

Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz, surnamed 'al Khalifat as Saleh' (The pious 
Caliph) was the son of Abdul Aziz, the Governor of Egypt, and his mother, 
Umme-Aasim was the grand daughter of Caliph Umar. He was born in 63 A.H. 
i.e. 682 A.C. in Halwan, a village of Egypt, but he received his education in 
Medina from his mother's uncle, the celebrated Abdulla ibn Umar. Medina, which 
in those days was the highest seat of learning in the world of Islam, was greatly 
instrumental in moulding his life to a pattern quite distinct from those of other 
Umayyad Caliphs. He remained there till his father's death in 704 A.C, when he 
was summoned by his uncle Caliph Abdul Malik and was married to his daughter 
Faitima. He was appointed Governor of Medina in 706 A.C. by Caliph Waleed. 
Unlike other autocratic governors, immediately on arrival in Medina, he formed 

58 Hundred Great Muslims 

an advisory council of ten eminent jurists and notables of the holy city and 
carried on the administration with their consultation. He empowered them to 
keep a watchful eye over his subordinates. This step had a salutary effect on the 
residents of Medina, who hailed his beneficent Administration. He successfully 
strove to erase the signs of ravages, committed in the holy cities of Islam under 
Yazid and Abdul Malik. Ehiring his two-year stay as the Governor of Medina, 
he repaired and enlarged the Mosque of the Prophet as well as beautified the 
holy cities with public structures; constructed hundreds of new aqueducts and 
improved the suburban roads leading to Medina. "Moderate, yet firm", says 
Ameer Ali, "anxious to promote the welfare of the people whom he governed, 
Umar's rule proved beneficent to all classes." His patriotic rule was for the 
good of his subjects. 

His just administration attracted from Iraq a large number of refugees 
who were groaning under the oppression of Hajjaj bin Yusuf. But, according to 
Tabari, this migration highly enraged the tyrant who prevailed upon Waleed to 
transfer him from Medina which he left amidst 'universal mourning.' 

The Umayyad Caliph Sulaiman ibn Abdul Malik who had great respect for 
Umar bin Abdul Aziz nominated him as his successor. On his death the mantle 
of Caliphate fell upon Umar bin Abdul Aziz who reluctantly accepted it. Giving 
up all pomp and pageantry the pious Caliph returned the royal charger, refused 
the police guard and deposited the entire equipment meant for the person of 
the Caliph in the Baitul Mai. Like a commoner he preferred to stay in a small 
tent and left the royal palace for the family of Sulaiman. He ordered that the 
horses of the royal stables be auctioned and the proceeds be deposited in the 
Treasury. One of his family members asked him why he looked downhearted. 
The Caliph replied instantly, "Is it not a thing to worry about? 1 have been 
entrusted with the welfare of such a vast empire and I would be failing in my 
duty if I did not rush to the help of a needy person." Thereafter, he ascended 
the pulpit and delivered a masterly oration saying: "Brothers! I have been 
burdened with the responsibilities of Caliphate against my will. You are at 
liberty to elect anyone whom you like." But the audience cried out with one 
voice that he was the fittest person for the high office. Thereupon the pious 
Caliph advised his people to be pious and virtuous. He allowed them to break 
their oath of allegiance to him, if he wavered from the path of God. 

His short rule was noted for great democratic and healthy activities. He 
waged a defensive war against the Turks who had ravaged Azerbaijan aind 
massacred thousands of innocent Muslims. The forces of the Caliph under ithe 
command of Ibn Hatim ibn Ali Naan Al BaliU repulsed the invaders with heavy 
losses. The Caliph permitted his forces to wage a war against the notorious 
Kharijis, but under conditions that women, children and prisoners would be 
spared, the defeated enemy would not be pursued, and all the spoils of war 
would be returned to their dependents. He replaced corrupt and tyrannical 
Umayyad administrators with capable and just persons. 

Hundred Great Muslims 59 

His first act after assuming office was the restoration to their rightful 
owners the properties confiscated by the Umayyads. He was hardly free from 
the burial ceremonies of Caliph Sulaiman and wanted to take a short respite 
when his son asked him if he would like to take rest before dealing with cases 
pertaining to confiscated properties. He replied "Yes, I would deal with these 
after taking rest." 

"Are you sure that you would live up to that time?" asked the son. The 
father kissed his dear son and thanked God that he had given him such a virtuous 
son. He immediately sat up to deal with this urgent matter and first of all 
returned all his movable and immovable properties to the public treasury. He 
deposited even a ring presented to him by Waleed. His faithful slave, Mazahim 
was deeply moved at this uncommon sight and asked, "Sir, what have you left 
for your children"? 

"God", was the reply. 

He restored the possession of the garden of Fidak to the descendants of 
the Prophet which had been appropriated by Marwan during the Caliphate of 
Usman. He bade his wife Fatima to return the jewellery she had received from 
her father Caliph Abdul Malik. The faithful wife cheerfully complied with his 
bidding and deposited all of it in the Baitul Mai. After her husband's death, her 
brother Yazid who succeeded him as Caliph offered to return it to her. "I 
returned these valuable during my husband's lifetime, why should I take them 
back after his death", she told him. 

The restoration of Fidak provoked mixed reaction from the people. The 
fanatical Kharijis who had become hostile to the Caliphate soon softened towards 
Umar bin Abdul Aziz, proclaiming that it was not possible for them to oppose 
a Caliph who was not a man but an angel. 

The house of Umayyads accustomed to luxuries at the expense of the 
common man, revolted against this just but revolutionary step taken by the 
Caliph and bitterly protested against the disposal of their age-long properties. 

One day, the Caliph invited some prominent members of the House of 
Umayyads to dinner, but advised his cook to delay the preparation of food. 
As the guests were groaning with hunger, the Caliph shouted to his cook to 
hurry up. At the same time he asked his men to bring some parched gram which 
he himself as well as his guests ate to their fill. A few minutes later the cook 
brought the food which the guests refused to take saying that they had satisfied 
theiir appetite. Thereupon the pious Caliph spoke owt, "Brothers! when you can 
satisfy your appetite with so simple a diet, then why do you play with fire and 
usurp the properties and rights of others." These words deeply moved the 
notables of the House of Umayyads who burst into tears. 

In general, he laid great stress on compensating the victims of illegal 
extortion in any form. 

60 Hundred Great Muslims 

His administration of impartial justice went against the interests of the 
Umayyads who were accustomed to all sorts of licences and could hardly 
tolerate any check on their unbounded freedom. They plotted against the life of 
this virtuous member of their clan. A slave of the Caliph was bribed to administer 
the deadly poison. The Caliph having felt the effect of the poison sent for the 
slave and asked him why he had poisoned him. The slave replied that he was 
given one thousand dinars for the purpose. The Caliph deposited the amount 
in the Public Treasury and freeing the slave asked him to leave the place 
immediately, lest anyone might kill him. Thus died in 719 A.C. at the young age 
of 36 at a place called Dair Siman (The convent of Siman) near Hems, one of 
the noblest souls that ever lived in this world. His martyrdom plunged the 
Islamic world into gloom. It was a day of national mourning; the populace of the 
small town came out to pay their last homage to the departed leader. He was 
buried in Dair Siman on a piece of land he had purchased from a Christian. 

Muhammad ibn Mobad who happened to be in the Durbar of the Roman 
Emperor at that time reports that he founcf the Emperor in drooping spirits. 
On enquiry he replied, "A virtuous person has passed away. This is Umar bin 
Abdul Aziz. After Christ if anyone could put a dead person to life it was he. I 
am hardly surprised to see an ascetic who renounced the world and gave himself 
to the prayers of God. But I am certainly surprised at a person who had all the 
pleasures of the world at his feet and yet he shut his eyes against them and 
passed a life of piety and renunciation." 

He reportedly left behind only 17 dinars with a will that out of tliis 
amount the rent of the house in which he died and the price of the land in 
which he was buried would be paid. 

"Unaffected piety," says Ameer Ali, "a keen sense of justice, unswerving 
uprightness, moderation, and an almost primitive simplicity of life, formed the 
chief features in his character. The responsibility of the office with which he 
was entrusted filled him with anxiety and caused many a heart searching. Once 
he was found by his wife weeping after his prayers; she asked if anything hjid 
happened to cause him grief, he replied, "O! Fatima! I have been made the 
ruler over the Moslems and the strangers, and I was thinking of the poor that 
are starving, and the sick that are destitute, and the naked that are in distress, 
and the oppressed that are stricken, and the stranger that is in prison, and the 
venerable elder, and him that hath a large family and small means, and the like 
of them in countries of the earth and the distant provinces, and I felt that my 
Lord would ask an account of them at my hands on the day of resurrection, 
and 1 feared that no defence would avail me, and I wept." 

His honesty and integrity have few parallels in the history of mankind. 
According to Tabaqat ibn Saad, he never performed his private work in the 
light of a lamp which burned the State oil. On every Friday, Farat ibn 
Muslama brought State papers for his perusal and orders. One Friday the Caliph 
brought a small piece of State paper in his private use. Muslama who was aware 

Hundred Great Muslims 61 

of the exceptional honesty of the Caliph thought that he had done it out of 
sheer forgetfulness. The next Friday when he brought back home the State 
papers, he found in them exactly the same size of paper which was used by the 

Out of the funds of Batul Mai, a guest house was founded for the poor. 
Once his servant burned the firewood of the guest house to heat water for his 
ablution. He forthwith got the same quantity of firewood deposited there. 
On another occasion, he refused to use the water heated from the State charcoal. 
A number of palatial buildings had been constructed in Khanasra out of the 
funds of Baitul Mai which were occasionally used by other Caliphs when they 
visited that place, but Umar bin Abdul Aziz never used them and always 
preferred to camp in the open. 

According to the author of 'Tabaqat ibn Saad ' he got his articles of luxury 
and decoration auctioned for 23 thousand dinars and spent the amount for 
charitable purposes. 

His diet used to be very coarse. He never built a house of his own and 
followed in the footsteps of the Prophet. AUama Siyuti in his well-known 
historical work 'Tarikh iil Khulafa' (History of the Caliphs) states that he spent 
only two dirhams a day when he was the Caliph. Before his election as Caliph his 
private properties yielded an income of 50 thousand dinars annually but 
immediately after the election he returned all his properties to the public coffers 
and his private income was reduced to 200 dinars per annum. 

In spite of the fact that Umar bin Abdul Aziz was a loving father, he 
never provided his children with luxuries and comforts. His daughter Amina 
was his favourite child. Once he sent for her, but she could not come as she was 
not properly dressed. Her aunt came to know of it and purchased necessary 
garments for his children. He never accepted any presents from anyone. Once 
a person presented a basket full of apples. The Caliph appreciated the apples 
but refused to accept them. The man cited the instance of the Prophet who 
accepted presents. The Caliph replied immediately, "No doubt, those were 
presents for the Prophet, but for me this will be bribery." 

Ibn al Jawi, his biographer, writes that "Umar wore clothes with so many 
patches and mingled with his subjects on such free terms that when a stranger 
came to petition him he would find it difficult to recognise the Caliph. When 
many of his agents wrote that his fiscal reforms in favour of new converts 
would deplete the Treasury, he replied, "Glad would I be, by AUah, to see every 
body become Muslim, so that thou and I would have to till the soil with our 
own hands to earn a Uving." (Encyclopaedia of Islam/. According to Fakhri, 
"Umar discontinued the practice established in the name of Muawiya of cursing 
"M from the pulpit in Friday prayers" (Encyclopaedia of Islam). 

He was very kind-hearted. Once he was moved to tears on hearing- a tale 

62 Hundred Great Muslims 

of woe related by a villager and helped him from his private purse. He was 
kind to animals even and several stories concerning this are found in the early 
historical records. 

He had complete faith in God and never cared for his life. Unguarded, 
he roamed about in streets listening to the complaints of the common man 
and assisting him as much as he could. 

He introduced a number of reforms; administrative, fiscal and educational. 
A reformer appears in the world when the administrative, political and ethical 
machinery is rusted and requires overhauling. This unsurpassable reformer of 
the Umayyad regime was born in an environment which was very gloomy imd 
necessitated a change. His promising son, Abdul Malik a youth of 17 advised 
his father to be more ruthless in introducing his beneficial reforms, but the 
wise father replied, "My beloved son, what thou tellest me to do can be achieved 
only by sword, but there is no good in a reform which requires the use of the 

Under his instructions, As Samh, his Viceroy in Spain, took a census 
of the diverse nationalities, races and creeds, inhabiting that country. A survey 
of the entire peninsula including those of her cities, rivers, seas and mountjiins 
was made. The nature of her soil, varieties of products and agricultural as vrell 
as mineral sources were also carefully surveyed and noted in records. A number 
of bridges in southern Spain were constructed and repaired. A spacious Friday 
Mosque was built at Saragossa in northern Spain. 

The Baitul Mai (Public Treasury) which was one innovation of Islam and 
had proved a blessing for poor Muslims during the regime of 'Pious Caliphs,' 
was freely used for private purposes by the Umayyad Caliphs, Umar ibn Abdul 
Aziz stopped this unholy practice and never drew a pie from Baitul Mai He 
separated the accounts for 'Khams, ' 'Sadqa' and 'Fi' and had separate sections 
for each. He immediately stopped the practice of richly rewarding the authors 
of panegyrics of the royal family from the Baitul Mai 

One of the most important measures was his reform of taxation. He made 
adequate arrangement for easy realisation of taxes and administered it on a 
sound footing. He wrote a memorable note on taxation to Abdul Hamid ibn 
Abdur Rahman which has been copied by Qazi Abu Yusuf ; "Examine the land 
and levy the land tax accordingly. Do not burden a barren land with a fertile 
one and vice versa. Do not charge the revenue of barren land." His generous 
reforms and lemency led the people depositing their taxes willingly. It is a 
strange paradox that in spite of all oppressive measures adopted by the notorious 
Hajjaj bin Yusuf for the realisation of taxes in Iraq, it was less than half of the 
amount realised during the benevolent regime of Umar bin Abdul Aziz. 

He paid special attention to the prison reforms. He instructed Abu Bakr 
ibn Hazm to make weekly inspection of jails. The jail wardens were warned not 

Hundred Great Muslims 63 

to maltreat the prisoners. Every prisoner was given a monthly stipend and proper 
seasonal clothing. He advised the jail authorities to inculcate love for virtue and 
hatred for vice among the prisoners. Education of the prisoners led to their 

The public welfare institutions and works received much stimulus All 
over his vast empire thousands of public wells and inns were constructed. 
Cliaritable dispensaries were also opened. Even travelling expenses were arranged 
by the Government for the needy travellers. A large number of inns were 
constructed on the road leading from Khorasan to Samarkand. 

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz was a capable administrator well versed in his 
duties towards this world and the hereafter. He was extremely hardworking and 
when people urged him to take rest, he never heeded them. He had set before 
himself Caliph Umar's administration as a model to be copied. According to the 
well-known Imam Sufian Suri, there are five pious Caliphs namely Abu Bakr, 
Umar Farooq, Usman, Ali and Umar bin Abdul Aziz. The outstanding feature 
of his Caliphate was that he revived Islam's democratic spirit which had been 
suppressed after the accession of Yazid. In a letter addressed to the Prefect of 
Kufa, he exhorted his governors to abolish all unjust ordinances. He wrote, 
"Thou must know, that the maintenance of religion is due to the practice of 
justice and benevolence; do not think lightly of any sin; do not try to depopu- 
late what is populous; do not try to exact from the subjects anything beyond 
their capacity; take from them what they can give; do everything to improve 
population and prosperity; govern mildly and without harshness; do not accept 
presents on festive occasions; do not take the price of sacred book (distributed 
among the people); impose no tax on travellers, or on the marriages, or on the 
milk of camels; and do not insist on the poU tax from anyone who has become 
a convert to Islam" 

The pious Caliph disbanded 600 bodyguards, meant for guarding the person 
of the Caliph. He received lesser salary than his subordinates. He attracted 
around him a galaxy of talented men who counselled him on State matters. 

That Umar bin Abdul Aziz was very kind and just towards non-Muslims 
h;is been acknowledged by the Encyclopaedia of Islam. As a devout Muslim 
he was not only graciously tolerant to the members of other creeds but also 
solicitous towards them. Christians, Jews and fire worshippers were allowed to 
retain their churches, synagogues and temples. In Damascus, Al-Waleed had 
tsiken down the 'basilika' of John, the Baptist, and incorporated the site in the 
mosque of Umayyads. When Umar became Caliph, the Christians complained 
to him that the Church had been taken from them, whereupon he ordered the 
Governor to return to the Christians what belonged to them. While he 
endeavoured to protect his Muslim subjects from being abused, he was also 
anxious that his Christian subjects should not be rushed by oppressive taxation. 
In Aila and in Cyprus the increased tribute settled by treaty was reduced by him 
to the original amount. 

64 Hundred Great Muslims 

Once a Muslim murdered a non-Muslim of Hira. The Caliph, when apprised 
of the event, ordered the Governor to do justice in the case. The Muslim v/as 
surrendered to the relations of the murdered psrson who killed him. A Christian, 
filed a suit against Hisham ibn Abdul Malik who later on succeeded as Caliph. 
The just Caliph ordered both the plaintiff and the defendant to stand side by 
side in the court. This annoyed Hisham who abused the Christian. Thereupon 
the Caliph rebuked him and threatened him with dire consequences. 

Umar bin Abdul A^iz laid great emphasis on the ethical aspects of educa- 
tion in order to turn the hearts of people towards charity, forbearance and 
benevolence. He relentlessly discouraged and punished laxity of morals. 

All these beneficial measures added to the stability of the State and the 
prosperity of the people who lived in peace and tranquility. During his short 
reign of two years, people had grown so prosperous and contented that one 
could hardly find a person who would accept alms. The only discontented 
people were the members of the House of Umayyads who had been accustomed 
to a life of vice and luxury and could hardly change their heart. 

Umar bin Abdul Aziz did not lay much stress on military glory. He paid 
greater attention to internal administration, economic development and con- 
solidation of his State. The siege of Constantinople was raised. In Spain, the 
Muslim armies crossed the Pyrennes and penetrated as far as Toulouse in central 

His short reign was like a merciful rain which brought universal blessings. 
One of its special features was that almost all Berbers in Northern Africa as 
well as the nobility of Sind embraced Islam of their own accord. "Umar, 
however, by no means felt obliged to spread Islam by the sword, " adds the 
Encyclopaedia of Islam "He rather sought peaceful missionary activity ito win 
members of other creeds to the faith of the Prophet." 

Umar bin Abdul Aziz was a unique ruler from every point of view. The 
high standard of administration set by him could only be rivalled by the fii :st 
four Caliphs of Islam. "The reign of Umar II," writes Ameer Ali "forms the most 
attractive period of the Umayyads" domination. The historians dwell with 
satisfaction on the work and aspirations of a Ruler who made the weal of Ids 
people the sole object of his ambition." His diort but glorious reign has no 
match thence after. "As a Caliph, Umar stands apart," acknowledges a European 
orientalist. "He was distinguirfied from his predecessors and successors alike. 
Inspired by a true piety, although not entirely free from biotry, he was very 
conscious of his responsibilities to God and always endeavoured to further 
what he believed to be right and conscientiously to do his duty as a xvler. In Ids 
private life he was distinguished by the greatest simplicity and frugality." 



The Prophet of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) had been devoting most 
of his time in meditation in the seclusion of cave Hira. One day, when he was 
absorbed in it, he had his first revelation. Angel Gibrael revealed to him the first 
commandment of God, contained in Sura Iqra of the Holy Quran. 

Muhammad (PBUH) was highly excited with his new experience and came 
home trembling with fear. He lay down on his bed with an attack of fever. 

His wife, Khadija, was much concerned with his unusual condition. She 
attended to him and enquired the reason of his excitement. Muhammad (PBUH) 
narrated the whole story relating to the strange experience of his first revelation. 

Elated, Khadija congratulated him on being elevated to the highest 
position of Prophethood saying, "Be consoled, God will never forsake you". She 
v/as the first to embrace the new religion, Islam. 

Khadija, daughter of Khuwailid of Quraish family of Abd-al-Uzza, had the 
distinction of being the first wife of Muhammad (PBUH). 

She was a rich widow endowed with exceptionally good qualities of head 
and heart. In the pre-Islamic days, due to her virtuous life, she was known by 
Ihe name of Tahira. According to Tabaqaat ibn Saad, she was the richest woman 
of Makkah. 

Miihammad (PBUH) who had been doing Inisiness independently, was 
known throughout the Hejaz for his honesty, integrity and morality. In recogni- 
tion of his good qualities, the people began to call him "Ameen" (Trustworthy). 

Khadija, too, was attracted by the brilliant qualities of yoimg Muhammad 
i(PBUH) and took him in service. He was sent to Busra with her merchandise. On 
return, after tliree months, she proposed the marri^e. Muhammad (PBUH) was 
25 and Khadija was 40 years old at that time. 

Arab women in those days exercised free volition in respect of matters 
pertaining to their marriage, therefore Khadija held a direct talk with Muhanmiad 
(PBUH) on the matter. On the appointed day, Muhammad's (PBUH) relatives, 


68 Hundred Great Muslims 

who included his uncle Abu Talib and Hamza assembled at the house of Khadija. 
Abu TaUb delivered the nuptial address. 

The Prophet did not marry any other woman during her lifetime. She lived 
for 25 years after her marriage vnth Muhammad (PBUH) and died thiee yeais 
before the Hejirat. 

Khadija bore him six children— two sons, Qasim and Abdullah, who died in 
infancy and four daughters, namely Fatima Zahra, Zainab, Ruqayya and Umme 
Kulsoom. It was with reference to Qasim that the Prophet was sometimes 
addressed as Abul Qasim (Father of Qasim). 

Xhadija's daughter Zainab was married to her cousin. Her daughters, 
Ruqayya and Umme Kulsoom were married to the Third Caliph Usman one after 
the death of the other. Khadija's daughter Fatima Zahra who was the dearest 
daughter of the Prophet was married to Hazrat Ali. The lineage of the Prophet 
progressed through her sons Hasan and Husain. 

The Prophet had all his issues by Khadija except Ibrahim who also died 

The house in which Khadija Uved was purchased by Ameer Muawiya and 
converted into a mosque which still bears the name of the great lady. 

The Prophet cherished greatest regard and love for Khadija. Even after hei' 
death, he remembered her frequently with love and gratitude. "When all other 
persons opposed me", he said, "she supported me, when all were infidels, she 
embraced Islam. When none was my helper, she helped me." 

Her great wealth and high status proved very useful for the propagation of 
Islam. The majority of Muslim religious leaders acclaim Khadija, Fatima and 
Aisha as the three greatest women in Islam. They class Fatima as the first, Khadija 
as the second and Aisha as the third highest and greatest woman in Islam. 

According to Hafiz ibn Qayyim, a disciple of Imam ibn Taimiya, if one 
considers the relationship with the Prophet, Fatima stands on the top, if one 
takes into account the priority in accepting Islam and the moral as well as the 
material support given to the new religion, Khadija to the first position, but in 
matters of learning and service rendered occupies the propagation of the Prophet's 
teachings, none stands in comparison to Aisha. 

A number of traditions of the Prophet of Islam are in praise of Khadija. 
According to Sahih Muslim, there are two women occupying the highest position 
in the eyes of God : Mariam (Mary) and Khadija. 


Small care-free girl, nine years old, was playing merrily with her mates. Her 
Itiair had gone disarray and her face was covered with dust. Suddenly a few elderly 
persons emerged on the scene from a neighbouring house. They took the gjrl 
home with them, dressed her neatly and the same evening she was married to the 
igreatest of men, the Prophet of Islam a unique honour that ever fell on a woman. 

Hazrat Aisha was the beloved daughter of Hazrat Abu Bakr, the faithful 
Companion of the Prophet who succeeded him as the first Caliph of Islam. She 
was bom in Makkah in 614 A.C., eight years before the commencement of the 
Hejira era. Her parents had already embraced Islam. They brought up and 
trained her from her very childhood in conformity with the highest traditions of 
the new religion which fully prepared and entitled her to her later exalted 

She remained with the Prophet for ten years. She was very young, when 
betrothed to the Prophet, but she acquitted herself extremely well and proved 
herself an intelligent, faithful and loving wife of the greatest benefactor of 
mankind. She is universally recognised as the most authentic reporter of the 
traditions of the Prophet and the teachings of Islam, as propounded by him. She 
was blessed with a proverbial memory and retained whatever questions were 
asked by the female callers to the Prophet and the repUes given by him. She 
retained fully the lectures deUvered by the Prophet to the delegations and 
congregations in the Mosque of the Prophet as Hazrat Aisha's room adjoined 
the Mosque. She attentively listened to the addresses, lectures and discussions of 
the Prophet with his Companions and other people. She also made queries to the 
Prophet on delicate and intricate matters relating to the tenets of the new 
religion. These immensely contributed to her becoming the greatest and most 
authentic scholar and reporter of the traditions of the Holy Prophet and the 
tenets of Islam. 

Hazrat Aisha was not destined to live with the Prophet for long. The union 
lasted ten years only when the Prophet died in 1 1 A.H., 632 A.C. and was buried 
in the room occupied by her. 

The Prophet was succeeded by his faithful Companion, Hazrat Abu Bakr, 
as the first Caliph of Islam. Hazrat Aisha continued to enjoy the position of the 


70 Hundred Great Muslims 

first lady and after Hazrat Fatima's death in 1 1 A.H., she was universally 
recognised as the most important woman in the Muslim world. But her father, 
Hazrat Abu Bakr, too, did not live long and died 2H years after the death of 
the Prophet. 

During the reign of Hazrat Umar Farooq, the Second Caliph, Hazrat Aisha 
enjoyed the status of the first lady of the rapidly expanding dominions of Islam 
and her wise counsels were sought and respected on all important matters. The 
martyrdom of Hazrat Umar, the second Caliph, and later of Hazrat Usman, the 
third Caliph, shook the foundations of the new State and led to a tragic division 
among the Muslims. It proved extremely harmful for the fast expanding and 
developing religion, which by this time had spread up to the confines of the 
Atlas Mountains in the West and the heights of Hindu Kush in the East. 

Hazrat Aisha could not remain a silent spectator to the disintegrating 
factors. She sincerely sided with those who were clamouring for avenging the 
martyrdom of the Third Caliph. In the 'Battle of Camel' fought against the 
Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali, her forces were defeated and she had to retreat to 
Medina under a guard provided by the Caliph's sons themselves. 

A number of interested historians, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have 
criticised Hazrat Aisha's role in fighting against the Fourth Caliph, but none have 
doubted her sincerity of purpose and her conviction in avenging the blood of 
Hazrat Usman. 

Hazrat Aisha witnessed the vicissitudes through which the new religion 
passed during the thirty years of the Pious Caliphate. She died in 678 A.C., 
during the reign of Amir Muawiya. The Amir, under whom the Islamic Caliphate 
was giving place to a temporal power, was extremely afraid of Hazrat Aisha and 
her outspoken criticism of the politically changing state of Islam. 

The First Lady of Islam was distinguished for her multifarious qualities- 
piety, learning, wisdom, simplicity, generosity and the care with which she 
safeguarded and faithfully reported the traditions of the Prophet. 

Her simplicity and modesty continue to serve as a guiding light to all 
Muslim ladies thereafter. She lived in a room hardly 12 x 12 feet along with 
the Prophet of Islam. The room had a low roof covered with date leaves and 
branches plastered with mud. The only entrance to the room had no shutters 
and an ordinary curtain was hung over it. There were hardly three successive 
days during the lifetime of the Prophet, when Hazrat Aisha had a full diet. The 
night when Prophet breathed his last, she had no oil to light her lamp, nor any- 
thing to eat. 

During the Caliphate of Hazrat Umar when the important Companions of 
the Prophet and his wives were sanctioned substantial monthly honorarium, 
Hazrat Aisha seldom kept the money and gifts she received for the second day 

Hundred Creai Muslims 71 

and promptly distributed these among the needy. Once, during the month of 
Bamzan, when Hazrat Abdullah ibn Zubair presented her a purse of one lakh 
dirhams she distributed these before breaking her fast. 

Hazrat Aisha was a well-known orator of her time. Her services to popu- 
laries and promote the knowledge of traditions and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) 
have few parallels in the annals of Islamic history. Whenever a difficult problem 
of tradition or fiqh was encountered which defied solution, the matter was 
ultimately referred to her and her word was final. Apart from Hazrat All, Hazrat 
Abdulla ibn Abbas and Hazrat AbduUa ibn Umar, she is regarded as the greatest 
intellect of early Islam. 

The great lady of Islam breathed her last on 17th Ramzan, 58 A.H. July 
13, 678 A.C. Her death cast a gloom over Madina and the entire Islamic world. 

Hazrat Aisha has been bracketed with Hazrat Khadija and Hazrat Fatima- 
iiz-Zahra as a most distinguished woman of Islam. Most of the religious scholars 
iuid theologians place Hazrat Fatima on the top, followed by Hazrat Khadija 
with Hazrat Aisha as last. Allama ibn Hazm ranks her only second to the Prophet 
of Islam-above all his wives. Companions and relations. According to Allama 
ibn Taimiya, Hazrat Fatima occupies the highest place, being the most beloved 
daughter of the Prophet. Hazrat Khadija is great because she was the first to 
embrace Islam. But there is none to rival Hazrat Aisha in her role in popularising 
the teachings of the Prophet. 


Once while Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was in his mosque at Medina, 
surrounded by his Companions, suddenly his beloved daughter, Fatima, wedded 
to the famous warrior-scholar of Islam, Hazrat M, arrived there. She implored 
her father to lend her a servant who could assist her in household work, as she, 
with her frail constitution and poor health, could not perform the strenuous 
duties of grinding com and bringing water from the distant well, besides looking 
after her children. The father, ostensibly moved by her pleading hesitated for a 
moment, but repressing his emotion, he told her solemnly : "My dearest daughter! 
I cannot spare anyone from among those who are engaged in the service of 
Ashab-e-Suffa. You should be able to bear the hardships of this world in order to 
get the reward of the world hereafter". The daughter went back, well satisfied 
with the reply of the Prophet and never sought any servant again during her 

Fatima az-Zahra, the beautiful, was bom 8 years before Hejira in Makkah. 
Her mother Hazrat Khadija, was the first and most respected wife of the Prophet. 
He did not marry any other woman during her lifetime. Fatima was the fourth 
and the youngest daughter of her mother. Others were Zainab, Ruqqaya and 
Umme Kulsoom. The last two were married to Hazrat Usman, who became the 
Third Caliph of Islam. 

Fatima was brought up under the fostering care of her father, the greatest 
teacher and benefactor of mankind. Unlike other children she possessed a sober 
and somewhat melancholy temperament. Her weak constitution and frail health 
kept her away from the children's get-togethers and games. Her great father's 
teachings, guidance and inspiration, developed her into an extremely cultured, 
amiable, sympathetic and enlightened lady. 

Fatima who greatly resembled her father in countenance and saintly habits 
was his most beloved daughter and had been immensely devoted to him after 
her mother's death. In this way, she, to a great extent, made up the loss of her 

The Prophet, on several occasions, gave expression to his extreme fraternal 
love for Fatima. Once he said: "O Fatima! God will not like a person who 
displeases you and will be pleased with a person who wins your favour". 


Hundred Great Muslims 73 

On another occasion, the Prophet is reported to have said: "Fatima is my 
cliild. One who distresses her, distresses me and one who comforts her comforts 

Hazrat Aisha, the beloved wife of the Prophet, once said : "I have never 
come across a greater personaUty than that of Fatima except that of her father, 
the Prophet of Islam." 

On an enquiry she once replied : "Fatima was the one whom the Prophet 
loved most. She was dearest to him." 

Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar both sought her in marriage but the 
F'rophet kept quiet. Hazrat Ah, who was brought up by the Prophet himself and 
v/ho combined in him the rare virtues of chivalry and bravery, piety and scholar- 
ship, hesitated to seek Fatima in marriage due to his poverty. But, at last he took 
courage to put forward the proposal which was readily accepted by the Prophet. 
M sold his beautiful cuirass which he had won in the battle of Badr for 400 
dirhams and made arrangements for the nupital ceremony, which was extremely 
simple. Evidently the primary object underlying the celebration of the great 
event with simplicity, was to impress upon the Muslims the need for celebrating 
maniages unostentatiously. 

Fatima was hardly 18 years old at the time of her marriage with All. All 
that she got in her dowry from her illustrious father was a leather water carrier, 
an earthen pitcher, a mat and a corn grinding stone. 

Addressing his daughter, the Prophet said, "My daughter, I have married 
you to a person who had stronger faith and is more learned than others and one 
who is distinguished for his morality and virtues." 

Fatima's married Ufe was smooth and simple. Indefatigable and persevering 
as he was. Ah laboured hard all day long to earn his Uvelihood, while his indus- 
trious, frugal and devoted wife laboured at home, performing her household 
duties which included grinding of com and carrying of water from the well. This 
ideal couple was known for their piety and generosity. They never turned away 
a be^ar from their door without giving him whatever they had. At times, they 
gave away their entire food to a beggar and themselves remained hungry. 

The humanitarian and benevolent nature possessed by the House of 
Prophet has few parallels in the annals of mankind. Fatima Zahra, the youngest 
daughter of the Prophet of Islam, was known for her benevolence. 

Once a person belonging to the Bani Sahm tribe, who was reputed to be 
a magician, came to the Prophet of Islam and exchanged hot words with him. 
The Prophet, on the other hand, returned the strangers abuse, with kind words. 
The magician was so much moved by this unusual behaviour that he embraced 
Islam. The Prophet asked him if he had anything to eat. On the stranger replying 

74 Hundred Great Muslims 

in the negative, the Prophet asked the Muslims present there if there was anyone 
who could present him a camel. Hazrat Sa'ad ibn Ibada offered him a camel. Tlie 
Prophet was much pleased and asked if anyone could offer his brother in Islam 
a cloth to cover his bare head. Hazrat All, instantly, took off his turban and 
placed it on the stranger's head. Thereafter, the Prophet directed Hazrat Salman 
to take him to some Muslim who could feed him as he was hungry. 

Salman led the new convert to several houses but none could feed him at 
this unusual hour. Suddenly, Salman came upon the house of Hazrat Fatima and, 
knocking her door, informed her the purpose of his visit. With tears in her eyes 
the daughter of the Prophet informed him that she had nothing to eat in her 
house for the last three days. Still the daughter of the Prophet was reluctant to 
refuse a guest saying : 

"I cannot send back a hungry guest without satisfying his hunger". Taking 
off her sheet of cloth, she gave it to Salman imploring him to take it to 
Shamoon, a Jew, and in its return bring some corn. Salman as well as the 
new convert were much moved by the angelic behaviour of the daughter of 
the Prophet. The Jew, who was also highly impressed by the benevolence 
of the Prophet's daughter, embraced Islam, saying that "Torat has informed 
us about the birth of this wrtuous family". 

Salman brought com to the Prophet's daughter, who herself grinded and 
baked loaves of it. On a suggestion by Salman that she should keep some loaves 
for her hungry sons, the Prophet's daughter replied that she had no right over it 
as she had given her cloth for the sake of God. 

The Prophet's beloved daughter was blessed with five children— three sons, 
Hasan, Husain and Mohsin and two daughters, Zainab and Umme Kulsoom. 
Hasan was born in the 3rd and Husain in the 4th year of Hejira. Mohsin died 
young. Both Hasan and Husain were the favourites of the Prophet who often 
carried them on his shoulders. They even sat on his back during his prostration in 
prayer. These two sons of Fatima and daughter Zainab later played a significant 
and memorable role in the history of Islam. 

Fatima tended her father's wounds in the battle of Ohad. She also 
accompanied him during his conquest of Makkah and also during his farewell 
pilgrimage towards the end of 11 A.H. 

The Prophet fell seriously ill soon after his return from the farewell pilgri- 
mage. Fatima stayed at his bedside. He whispered something in her ears which 
made her weep and later whispered something which made her smile. After his 
death in 1 1 A.H., she related the incident to Hazrat Aisha, saying that when her 
father told her that he was going to die, it made her weep, but when he told her 
that she would be the first person to join him in the next world, it made her 

Hundred Great Muslims 75 

Fatima could not survive the Prophet long ; she passed away during the 
same year, six months after his death. She was 28 at the time of her death and 
v^as buried by Ali in Jannat-ul-Baqih (Madina) amidst universal mourning. 

Fatima who represents the embodiment of all that is divine in woman- 
hood—the noblest ideal of human conception was proclaimed by the Prophet to 
be the "Queen of Women in Paradise." 


Rabia Basii is one of the earliest mystic saints of Islam. She renounced hei 
worldly life and devoted herself entirely to praying God. 

Both in a humble family of Basra in 713 A.C., she was the fourth daughter 
of her parents. A strange story is related about her birth. On the night of her 
birth, there was nothing in the house-not even oil to light the house, or a small 
rag to swaddle the newly bom child. Her mother implored her father to bonow 
some oil from a nei^bour. This was a moment of trial for the poor father, who 
had promised to God not to extend his hand for help before any mortal being. 
Reluctantly he went to a neighbour's house, tapped his door, but there was 
no reply. He thanked God for being able to keep his promise. He came back 
and went to sleep. That night he had a dream in which the Prophet of Islam 
congratulated him on his newly bom child who was destined to rise to a great 
spiritual position in Islam. 

Rabia lost her parents at an early age. Her three sisters also died in a 
famine which ravaged Basra. She fell into the hands of a tyrant who sold her as 
a slave for a paltry sum. Her new master was no less a tyrant. 

little Rabia spent most of her time in carrying out the orders of heir 
master. She spent the nights in praying. One night her master detected signs of 
her spiritual greatness. She was praying to God : "Almighty, You have made me 
the slave of a human being and I am duty bound to serve him. Had I been free I 
would have devoted every moment of my life to praying to You". Suddenly a 
halo of sacred light encircled her head and her master was awe-stricken to see 
this sight. The next morning he set her free. 

Rabia, being free, retired to a secluded place, for a life of meditation. 
Later she moved to a cell near Basra. Here she led a strictly ascetic life. A worn 
out mat, an earthen pot and a brick formed her entire belongings. 

She wholly devoted herself to prayers, had orJy a wink of sleep before the 
dawn and regretted even that much. 

A number of good offers of marriage were made to her. These included 
those from the Governor of Basra and the celebrated mystic saint, Hasan Basri. 


Hundred Great Muslims 77 

But Rabia was so much devoted to God that she had little time for worldly 
affairs, hence she declined them. 

Rabia had many eminent desciples including Malik bin Dinar, Raba-al-Kais, 
Shaikh al-Balkhi and Hasan of Basra. They often called on her to seek her 
counsel or prayers or listen to her teachings. 

Once Hazrat Sufian Soori, a respected and devout Muslim came to Rabia, 
raised his hands and prayed: "Almighty, I seek worldly welfare from Thee". 
Ftabia wept over it. When asked for it, she replied : "The real welfare is acquired 
after renouncing the world and I find that you seek it in this world only". 

A person once sent forty dinars to her. She wept and raised her hand 
towards the sky : "You know it well that I never seek worldly welfare from you, 
although You are the Creator of the world. How can I then accept money from 
a person who is not the real owner of it?" 

She enjoined her disciples not to disclose their good work to anyone and 
to conceal it just as they conceal their evil deeds. 

Considering illness as her Lord's will, Rabia always bore it with exemplary 
courage and fortitude. No pain however severe ever disturbed or distracted her in 
devotion to God. She often remained unaware of the injury, until pointed out 
by others. One day she struck her head against a tree and started bleeding. Some- 
one drew her attention to it saying, "Don't you feel pain"? "I am entirely 
devoted to God.* I am fully in communion with Him: He has made me occupied 
with things other than you generally perceive," she replied calmly. 

Rabia was the foremost mystic to preach disinterested love for God— a 
concept which was later adopted by other mystics. She would often urge : "I do 
not serve God for any reward— have no fear of hell or love of paradise. I will be a 
bad servant if I serve for material benefit. I am duty bound to serve Him only for 
His love." 

Once someone asked her whether she hated Satan. She replied: "No, the 
love of God has left no room for the hatred of Satan." 

She was a mystic of a very high stature and belonged to the first group of 
Muslim mystics. She enriched Islamic literature by expressing her mystical 
experiences in high class verses. 

She died in Basrali in 801 A.C. and was buried in the house in which she 
lived. Her fiineral was attended by a large number of saints, sufis and devout 

There are many things and sayings attributed to 

18 Hundred Great Muslims 

When questioned by someone as to why she did not seek help from her 
friends, she replied, "I should be ashamed to ask for this world's good from Him 
to Whom it belongs, then why should I seek anything from those to whom it 
does not belong." 

"Will God forget the poor because of their poverty or remember the rich 
because of their riches? Since He knows my state, there is hardly any need for 
me to pin-point His attention to it. What He Wills, we should also will". 

Miracles were attributed to her as to other Muslim saints. Food was supplied 
to her guests by miraculous means. It was said that when she was dying, she bade 
her friends to depart and leave the way free for the messengers of God. As they 
went out, they heard her making confession of faith to which a voice responded : 
"O Soul be at rest, return to thy Lord, satisfied with Him, giving satisfaction 
to Him". 

Among the prayers recorded of Rabia, is one wliich she offered at night 
upon her roof. "O, my Lord, the stars are shining and the eyes of men are closed 
and the kings have shut their doors and every lover is along with his beloved and 
here am I alone with Thee". 

Again she prayed: "0, my Lord, if I worship Thee from the fear of hell, 
burn me therein, and if worship Thee for hope of paradise, exclude me there- 
from, but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, then withhold not from me Thy 
Eternal Beauty". 




The durbar of the majestic Abbjside Caliph, Al-Mansur, was packed to its 
capacity. The venerable Fatimid Imam Jafar Sadiq had been summoned by the 
Caliph who was afraid of his growing popularity and sought some pretext to 
denigrate and pimish him. 

At last a haggard and slim person entered the durbar and without making 
the customary obeisance advanced towards the Caliph. To the great astonish- 
ment of the entire audience, which expected some harsh words from the Caliph, 
iJie latter stood up to pay respects to the learned Imam and seated him by his side. 

Incidentally the Caliph was pestered by a fly which kept teasing him. He 
enquired from the Imam : 

"What is the purpose of creating flies?" 

"Simply to humble the pride of despots," was the prompt reply. 

The hot-tempered Caliph was all courtesy to the reverend Imam and when 
he was leaving, Al Mansur asked him if he could be of any service to him. Imam 
Jafar Sadiq replied : "The only service I seek from you is that I should not be 
given the trouble to attend your durbar again." 

Imam Jafar Sadiq, son of Imam Muhammad Baqir, was the great grandson 
of Hazrat Ali. His mother was the great grand daughter of Hazrat Abu Bakr. 
He is recognised as the sixth Fatimid Imam (Spiritual Leader). 

He was bom in Medina on 7 Rabiul-Avwal, 53 A.H. (699/700 A.C.) at a 
time when the world of Islam was passing through a critical time. Spiritual as 
well as moral values of this great religion had reached their lowest ebb. The great 
intellectual and spiritual luminaries who had lit the world of Islam had 
disappeared, a number of them were eliminated by the degenerated and 
tyraimical Umayyad rulers. 

Imam Jafar was brought up by his pious and learned grandfather, Imam 
Zainul Abdeen and his talented father. Imam Muhammad Baqir who gave him 
the best possible spiritual as well as intellectual training. 


82 Hundred Great Muslims 

He was born in the reign of the Umayyad Caliph, Abdul Malik, son of 
Marwan and witnessed the reign of 10 Umayyad and two Abbaside Caliphs. 

Imam Jafar Sadiq rose to be one of the greatest intellects of Iskm who 
dedicated his life to the spiritual and intellectual development of the community. 
He played no part in politics and was celebrated for his piety and knowledge 
of tradition, alchemy, astronomy and other sciences. His Madrassa (School) at 
Medina attracted people from all over the Islamic world. Amongst his pupils 
were some of the greatest intellectuals—jurists and scientists-including out- 
standing legists like Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik; traditionists like Sufian 
Suri and Saidul Ansari and also Jabir bin Hayyan, the greatest chemical scientist 
of Islam. 

The Madrassa of the Imam which played a historical role in educating 
some of the greatest intellectual giants of Islam occupied a high place among 
the great educational institutions of early Mam. In Medina, the Imam's house 
and the Prophet'^ mosque were great educational and research centres. These 
housed a very simple-looking university, where students ensconced on mattresses, 
received all sorts of spiritual, moral and material education. They were taught 
theology, metaphysics and astronomy and all other sciences known to the world. 
Names of more than 4,000 students who attended the Imam's Madrassa are 
mentioned in records. According to historians, students from all parts of the 
world of Islam were attracted towards this great seat of learning in Medina. 
After receiving education from the great Imam, they went back to their places 
and diffused the light of learning throughout the known world. 

"These are four: Firstly, none should be allowed to do my work, which I 
can do myself. Secondly, I know that God sees everything I do. This keeps me 
modest and always terror-stricken from doing anything repugnant to the tenets 
of Islam. Thirdly, it is a part of my faith that no one can deprive me of my 
subsistence which God has granted me. Therefore, I am fully satisfied and do 
not worry for my livelihood. Fourthly, I know that I have to die one day, I am, 
therefore, always prepared for it." 

Imam Jafar Sadiq is distinguished for reporting cent per cent authentic 
traditions of the Prophet. It is on account of his truthfulness and sincerity in 
reporting traditions that he has been given the surname of Sadig (Trustworthy) 
by the Muslims. 

Being highly self-respecting and principled he never curried favour with 
the Umayyad and Abbaside Caliphs who always tried to seek his favour and 

He was endowed with tremendous patience and forbearance. He always 
returned good for evil and in this way followed the example of the Prophet of 
Islam. In piety and generosity, he was the true son of his great family and kept 
up its high traditions. No amount of trial or temptation could deflect him from 
the right path. 

Hundred Great Muslims 83 

The great Imam breathed his last m Medina in 756 A.C. and was buried 
in Jannat-ul-Baqih. He was succeeded by his son Musa al-Kazmi who is recogmsed 
as the 7th Fatimid Imam. 

His death cast a gloom over the world of Islam. Answering a question, the 
Abbaside Caliph Mansur said : "The real leader of MusUms, the most learned 
man and theologian has left this world." According to Imam Abu Hanifa, "lie 
was the greatest scholar of Islamic theology and jurisprudence." Imam Malik 
says: "My eyes have not seen a more learned, pious. God-fearing man than 
Imam Jafar Sadiq". Sheikh Kamaluddin Muhammad bin Talha Shifai admits 
that "he was an ocean of learning and was the stream of Quranic teachings". 
Allama Momin observes that "Imam Jafar's attributes are innumberable which 
caimot be described in words." According to Jabir bin Hayyan : "There can 
hardly be a better teacher than him in the world" 

Some of his recorded adages are : 

"The greatest quality of a virtue is that one should make haste to perform 
it, should try to surpass it and should not disclose it." 

"One should try to do good to others in order to save himself from 
domination by Satan." 

"People are recognised by their families in the world, but in the next 
world one's good deeds will only be recognised." 

"One who is contented with his lot and what God has given him will 
always feel satisfied, while one who is greedy of others' wealth will always 
remain a beggar." 


The glorious period of the Caliphate Rashida lasting 30 years will go down 
in the history of mankind as the most successful experiment of democratic rule 
in the world, in which there was hardly any distinction between the ruler and 
the ruled. Notwithstanding his being the Head of the mightiest Empire of his 
time, Umar the Great refused to taste wheat unless it was avaQable to every 
citizen of his vast dominions. This golden epoch of Islamic democracy was, 
however, shortlived and the evil forces which lay dormant under the exemplary 
rule of the Iron Caliph, raised their head during the reign of Yazid. The noble 
descendants of the Prophet had to make supreme sacrifice without precedent in 
history in order to hold aloft the banner of truth and virtue in the world. Brutal 
political persecution of his opponents started by Yazid , was relentlessly continued 
by tyrant Hajjaj bin Yusaf. Even such venerable persons as Hasan Basra and 
Anas bin Malik could not escape the wrath of the Umayyad rulers and their 
Ueutenants. The two and half years' rule of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, v^ho 
endeavoured to revive the traditions of his maternal grandfather Farooq-e-Aziim, 
was only a glimmer in the vast gloom of evil, which at last prevailed over it. 

In such a dark atmosphere was bom Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa who valiantly 
braved the persecution by the ruling class and never budged from the right path. 

Abu Hanifa Al-Numan ibn Tabit, the greatest authority on Muhaimnadan 
canon law, was bom in Kufa in 80 A.H. (699 A.C.), in the reign of Abdul M<dik 
bin Merwan. He was a non-Arab of Persian extraction. His grandfather, Zauti, 
embraced Islam and presented Tabit, his son, to Hazrat Ali, who prayed for 
the glorification of his family which ultimately took shape in the form of Imam 
Abu Hanifa. The Imam saw the reign of ten Umayyad CaUphs including that of 
Umar bin Abdul Aziz who ruled when the Imam was eighteen years of age. He 
also saw two Abbaside Caliphs Saffah and Mansoor. The notorious tynmt 
Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the great persecutor of Muslims died when Imam Abu Hanifa 
was 15 years of age. 

During his childhood, Hajjaj was the Umayyad viceroy of Iraq. The vener- 
able Imams and religious leaders who wielded great influence with the Arabs 
were made the main targets of his persecutions. Primarily occupied with his 
commercial occupations during the Caliphate of Waleed, the Imam paid little 
attention to education. But during the reign of Sulaiman, when education 


Hundred Great Muslims 85 

received state patronage and people showed greater inclination towards learning, 
Abu Hanifa developed a penchant for acquiring religious knowledge. An 
interesting story is told about the begiiming of his studies. One day while he was 
passing through the Bazaar he came across Imam Shebi, a well-known Kufi 
Divine, who casually questioned him about his literary pursuits. Receiving the 
reply in the negative, Imam Shebi felt sorry and advised yoxmg Hanifa to devote 
his time to studies. Imam Abu Hanifa took the advice to his heart and whole- 
heartedly plimged himself into studies and soon amassed knowledge of theology 
and jurisprudence. In those times, literature, Fiqh and Hadith, were the only 
subjects taught. The associations with Persian, Syrian and Egyptian savants 
enlarged the scope of Arabian studies. Philosophy and logic entered the sphere 
of reUgious doctrines which is termed as 'Kalaam'. Abu Hanifa, who was gifted 
with a keen sense of reasoning and exceptional intelligence, acquired great fame 
as interpreter of reUgious doctrines. Hammad, who was one of the greatest 
Imuns of the time, owned the biggest school in Kufa. Abu Hanifa joined his 
school. Hammad was impressed by the intelligence, perspicaciousness and 
extraordinarily retentive memory of the new pupil who soon became his favourite. 
Out of great regard for his learned teacher, Abu Hanifa did not open any school 
during the lifetime of Hammad, in spite of his great reputation as a unique jurist. 
Makkah and Medina, Kufa and Basra were the great centres of learning in those 
times. The venerable Companions of the Prophet and their illustrious associates 
resided in these cities and adorned their literary circles. Kufa, which was founded 
duiring Umar's Caliphate as an Arab colony, had the distinction of being the 
Capital of Ali. It was inhabited by more than one thousand Companions of the 
Prophet, including twenty-four who had participated in the battle of Badr. It 
grew to be the famous centre of Hadith, and Imam Abu Hanifa took full 
advantage of the presence of the celebrated mohaddis (teacher oi Hadith) there. 
According to Abul Mahasin Shifai, Imam Abu Hanifa had learned Hadith from 
as many as 93 teachers. He attended the lectures of Ata bin Abi Rabah and 
Imam Akrama who were reputed teachers of Hadith. They held Abu Hanifa in 
hig;h esteem. 

The Imam went to Medina in 102 A.H., in pursuit of knowledge and 
attended the lessons of seven top theologians. The celebrated Imam Musa 
Kazim and his illustrious son Imam Jafar Sadiq the descendants of the House 
of the Prophet, were the greatest authorities in Islamic learning of their times 
and Imam Abu Hanifa took full advantage of their society in Medina. He was 
hii»hly impressed with erudition of Imam Jafar Sadiq whom he acknowledged 
as the most learned man in the world of Islam. Imam Abu Hanifa also attended 
the classes of Imam Malik who was thirteen years younger to him. It was his 
good fortune that Umar bin Abdul Aziz had organised the study and recording 
of Hadiths on a soimder footing. Before the Caliphate of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, 
the record of Hadiths was confined to the memory of the people. In a letter 
addressed to the learned men of Medina in 101 A.H., he requested them to 
preserve in writing the record of Hadiths. Imam Zahri furnished the first collec- 
tion of Hadiths. The teaching of Hadiths, too, had undergone a revolutionary 
change. From his pulpit the learned teacher discoursed on the subject of which 

86 Hundred Great Muslims 

the pupils assembled round him with pen and paper carefully took down the 
notes. Imam Abu Hanifa had learnt Hadiths from more than four thousand 

It redounds to the credit of Imam Abu Hanifa that he left behind the 
greatest number of pupils in the world of Islam, including Qazi Abu Yusuf, 
Imam Muhammad, Hafiz Abdur Razzaq, Abdullal bin Al Mubarak, Abu Ne«m 
Fazal, and Abu Asim who acquired great fame in their days. Qazi Abu Yusuf 
rose to be the Grand Qazi of Abbaside CaUphate during the time of Haroon- 

Imam Abu Hanifa was deeply impressed by the reformatory ideas of 
Umar bin Abdul Aziz, who had, to a great extent, revived the pristine glory of 

The principal occupation of Imam Abu Hanifa was business. He carried 
on a flourishing trade of textile goods. His success in commercial enterprises 
was largely due to his absolute honesty in business transactions. He was so much 
trusted by all that even non-Muslims deposited their wealth with him. He did mot 
believe in excessive profits, and never tolerated to earn money through illegal 
and questionable means. 

Once he sent i fey/ pieces of cotton goods to one Hafs bin Abdur Rahman 
with a word that some of the pieces were defective of which the customer 
should be apprised. Hafs forgot to do so and disposed of ail the pieces. This 
deeply shocked the Imam who by way of atonement gave away the entire sum 
amounting 30 thousand dirhams in charity. 

Once a woman brought to him a piece of Haz (costly doth) for dispoisal. 
She demanded hundred dirhams as its price. She was wonderstruck with his 
honesty when he paid her five hundred dirhams for the piece. 

The prices of commodities kept in his shop were fixed. Once in his absence, 
some of his pupils unknowingly sold certain articles at relatively higher prices. 
When he learned about it on return, he resented it very much, saying they liad 
cheated the customer. Meanwhile the customer who was an inhabitant of Medina, 
had left Kufa. It is stated that the Imam himself undertook a journey to Medina 
and paid him the balance. 

Contrary to the general tendencies prevalent among the wealthy class of 
people. Imam Abu Hanifa was exceedingly kind-hearted. It is stated on the 
authority of celebrated mystic saint Shafiq Balkhi that once while he was 
accompanying Imam Abu Haiufa they sighted a person who suddenly turned to 
another lane. Thereupon the Imam called him out why he was turning to 1the 
other side. The man stopped; he was in a flurry of spirits. On being accosted, he 
said that he could not face the Imam as he owned him ten thousand dirhams 
which he could not afford to pay back. Being deeply moved, the Imam, 

Hundred Great Musttnu 8 7 

told the debtor that he need not bother to pay him back. Not only that, he 
apologised to the borrower for causing him so much distraction. Such was the 
huinanitarianism of our Imams, which is unparalleled in the annals of the world. 

The Imam was very popular among the masses who loved and respected 
him. This greatly irritated and upset the Ueutenants of the Umayyad Govern- 
ment, who hired hooligans in order to tease and malign him. Once a mercenary 
hoodlum intruded in the social gathering of the Imam and began to criticise and 
abuse him. His pupils wanted to oust him forcibly, but he prevented them from 
doiing so. When he started for home, the hooligan followed him and went on 
abusing him to the very door steps of his house. Halting at the gate, he addressed 
him, "Brother, I am entering my house; you will not be able to get in. Please 
abuse me to your heart's content before I step in." 

The Imam was very much annoyed with a drunkard neighbour, who used 
to call names the whole night in a drunken state. His neighbours were fed up 
wiith his objectionable behaviour. One day, the police caught hold of him and 
put him behind the bars. In the evening, when the Imam got back home, he 
inquisitively asked as to why the drunkard had assumed silence. On learning 
that he was imprisoned for his misbehaviour, he at once called on the Governor 
who was taken aback at the unexpected visit of the Imam. The Imam apprised 
him of the whole matter and secured the release of the drunkard on his surety. 
On being free, the Imam said to the drunkard, "Brother, we do not want to lose 
you at any cost." The drunkard was so much struck with the angeUc behaviour 
of the Imam that he abstained from wine for ever and became one of the famous 
pupils of the Imam. 

The powerful Umayyad and Abbaside rulers tried to win his favour, but 
he always kept away from them. He scrupulously avoided association with 
corrupt and tyraruiical administrators. Mansur, the Abbaside Caliph, once 
offered him a high sum as a gift which he declined, saying that it was repugnant 
for him to share the money of Baitul Mai which was public property and should 
go to the needy. 

Mansur offered him the hi^ post of Grand Qazi of his vast Empire, 
bluntly replied, "Supposing a complaint is lodged against you in my court and 
you want it to be decided in your favour, otherwise I would be thrown into the 
river: then please rest assured that I would prefer to be drowned in the river 
rather than tamper with justice." This outspoken curt reply of the Imam silenced 
the Caliph for the time being. 

Imam Abu Hanifa possessed exceptional qualities of head and heart. He 
could never be purchased or cowed down by the ruling power. Ibn Hubaira, the 
Umayyad Governor of Kufa, once requested him to pay him occasional visits 
for which he would be highly grateful to him. Since he abhorred corrupt rulers, 
he frankly replied, "Why should I meet you? If you favour me, I would be 

88 Hundred Great Muslims 

associating myself with your evO. If you persecute me you would add to m> 
insults. I do not aspire for any position or wealth. Whatever God has given me 
am content with it." 

There had been some dispute between the Abbaside Caliph Mansur iuid 
his wife Hurra Khatun. The Khatun wanted the matter to be referred to Imam 
Abu Hanifa. The Imam was summoned by the Caliph and his wife also sat behind 
the curtain; The Caliph asked the Imam, "How many wives at a time are allovi'ed 
in Islam?" The Imam replied, "Four." Mansur cried out to his wife, "Did you 
listen what the Imam said? The Imam at once said, "But this is subject to one 
condition. A man is empowered to marry more than one provided he is capable 
of doing equal justice to all of his wives." The last part of Imam's reply went 
against the interests of the Caliph. On reaching home in the evening he fouind 
a man waiting for him with a bag of guineas and a letter of thanks from the wife 
of the Caliph. The Imam returned the money with the remarks that it was his 
duty to speak the truth without any fear or favour. 

The Imam lost his father in his childhood, but his mother survived till his 
old age. He respected and served her devotedly. 

Yazid bin Umar bin Hubaira, Governor of Kufa, during the Caliphate of 
Merwan II, persuaded the Imam to accept some respectable job in the Govern- 
ment which he refused. The Governor swore that he would have to do his 
bidding, but the Imam stuck to his words. Thereupon he was put behind the 
bars, and was flogged everyday under orders of the Governor. He was released 
after a few days, and left Kufa for Hejaz where he stayed for 2V4 years, until the 
Ihnayyad Caliphate was replaced by the Abbasides. 

Hakam, son of Hisham, the Umayyad Caliph, once said, "Our Government 
offered two alternatives to Imam Abu Hanifa— either to accept the keys of our 
treasuries or to get his back flogged, but the Imam preferred the latter." 

The Imam piimed rosy hopes on the Abbaside Caliphate. On the accession 
of Safah, the 1st Abbaside Caliph he had returned to his native town Kufa 
from Hejaz. But soon he was disillusioned for the Abbasides, turned out to 
be equally bad, if not worse for him. They stepped up his persecution. On 
transferring his Capital from Hashmiya to Baghdad, Mansur, the second Abbaside 
Caliph offered him the post of Grand Qazi. The Imam flatly declined it saying 
that he was not fit for it. The Caliph indignantly shouted, "You are a liar." 
The Imam retorted, "You have upheld my contention. A liar is unfit for tlie 
post of a Qazi." The Caliph became non-plussed and swore that he would Jiave 
to accept the post of the Grand Qazi. The Imam too swore that he would not. 
The whole Durbar wondered at the boldness of the Imam. Rabi, a courtier 
explained, "Abu Hanifa, you have taken the oath of allegiance to the Amirul 
Momineen." The Imam promptly replied, "But it is easier for the Caliph to 
compensate for his oath." 

Hundred Great Muslims 89 

Thereupon the hnam was thrown into a dark prison in 146 A.H. There he 
was poisoned- Under the effect of poison he prostrated in prayer and died. The 
nev/s of his death soon spread throughout Baghdad. The whole citizenry came 
out to pay their last homage to their greatest Imam. More than fifty thousand 
people participated in his first funeral prayer. His funeral prayer was offered six 
times. According to the historian Khatib, the funeral prayers of the Imam were 
offered for twenty days after his burial. Commenting on his death, Sheba bin 
Hajjaj said, "Night has settled over Kufa." 

His grave for a long time was a place of pilgrimage for the Muslims. Sultan 
Alp Arslan Suljuki built a tomb over it as well as an attached school to it. Ibn 
Batuta, the celebrated explorer of Asia saw this school when he visited Baghdad 
and was highly impressed by its good management as well as its boarding 

Imam Abu Hanifa has the distinction of being the greatest legist of Islam. 
Being the highest authority of Islamic canon law, his disciples and followers 
from a majority in the Islamic world. He has left behind him three works namely 
(1) Fiqh Akbar, (2) Al Alim Wal Mutaam and (3) Musnad. Fiqh Akbar is a brief 
magazine, which is very popular. 

He founded a body of intellectuals, of which he was the President, to 
counsel on the codification of Islamic doctrines and to transform the Islamic 
Shariat in the form of law. According to Khwarizmi, "The number of sections 
of Islamic law framed by him is more than 83 thousands of which 38 thousands 
are related to religious matters and 45 thousands dealt with worldly affairs." 

Though the Imam has not left behind any collection of Hadith, he 
occupies a high place as a Muhaddis. Imam Malik is the author of 'Muwatta', a 
book of Hadith which is well-known in the Islamic world. Imam Ahmed bin 
Hanbal was also a celebrated Muhaddis of his time. 

The exponents of Hadith (Muhaddis) were divided in two groups— Those 
who collected the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) from various sources and 
those who critically examined the authenticity of those sources and interpreted 
them according to their knowledge. The second group was called the Mujtahid 
and Imam Abu Hanifa belonged to this group. The Imam was the greatest 
legist of Islam who gave a sounder basis to Fiqh. Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam 
MiiUk have laid down similar conditions for appraising the authenticity of 
Hadith. It is said that Muwatta, the celebrated work of Imam MaUk originally 
contained more than ten thousand Hadith, but the number of Hadith was 
reduced to seven hundred only on subsequent revision of the book by Imam 
Malik. Once Imam Shafii said, "Hazrat Abu Bakr had reported only seventeen 
Hadith from the Prophet, Hazrat Umar reported about fifty, Hazrat Usman and 
even Hazrat Ali who was so closely related to the Prophet had reported very few 
Hadith. " The Hadith which are against commonsense should not be accepted. 
Tliis was the criterion which Imam Jozi in the 6th century A.H., followed for 

90 Hundred Great Muslims 

distinguishing between authentic and non-authentic Hadith. Ehiring the time 
of Imam Abu Hanifa too much reliance on commonsense for distinguist^iing 
between the authentic and non-authentic Hadith was resented, but the Imam 
followed this principle to a great extent and during the later centuries his 
principles were universally accepted. 

Imam Abu Hanifa has left behind scores of wise sayings some of which are 
as follows :— 

(1) No person has sustained greater loss than that whose learning could 
not restrain him from indulging in vices. 

(2) A person who talks of religion and does not think that he will have 
to account for what he says, does not know the meaning of religion 
and his conscience. 

(3) If the religious people are not the friends of God then God has no 
friends in this world. 

(4) A person who attains knowledge for the benefit of the world, his 
knowledge does not take root in his heart. 

(5) To have learned discourses with a person who has no sense of 
knowledge is to aimoy him unnecessarily. 

The greatest contribution, of Imam Abu Hanifa is to Fiqh or Islamic 
jurisprudence. He is the most outstanding legist of Mam, whose Fiqh Hanafi 
is followed by the majority of Muslims of the world, including those of Turkey, 
Egypt, Turkistan, Afghanistan and Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. He rejected 
most of the traditions as untrue and relied solely on the Quran. By 'analogical 
deductions' he endeavoured to make the simple Quranic verses applicable to 
every variety of circumstances. Writing in "The Spirit of Islam ", Ameer Ali, the 
celebrated historian says: "He was a speculative legist, and his two disciples, 
Abu Yusuf, who became Chief Qazi of Baghdad under Harun, and Muhammad 
Ash-Shaibani, fixed Abu Hanifa's conception on a regular basis." 

The Imam occupies the same place in Fiqh which Aristotle occupies in 
Logic. Actually he formulated the Islamic jurisprudence in a scientific maimer. 
Shah Wall Ullah of Delhi has written a fins article describing the history of 
Fiqh. According to him, the Companions of the Prophet of Islam never enquired 
from him about his action. Ibn Abbas says that the associates of the Prophet did 
not ask the explanation of more than 1 3 doctrines from the Prophet during liis 
lifetime. The Prophet was scrupulously and faithfully followed by his Com- 
panions. After the death of the Prophet the conquests of the Arabs spread over 
the three continents and new problems in religious matters cropped up, which 
had to be solved through the commonsense of the learned Muslims. 

Hundred Great Muslims 91 

The Hanafl Fiqh being too liberal and practical soon gained much 
popularity among the masses. It also received the patronage of Abbaside, Saljuki 
and other Muslim ruling dynasties. The pupils of the Imam, who held important 
posts of Qazi during the Abbaside Caliphate also immensely contributed to its 

Besides the above, there are other inherent factors which made Hanafl 
Fiqh, so popular among Muslim masses as well as among the intelligentsia. The 
secret of its popularity lies in its being more rational, intelligible, liberal and 
universally applicable. 


During his visit to Medina, the celebrated Abbaside Caliph Haroon-ar- 
Rashid, wished to attend the lectures on Afuwatta (collection of Traditions) 
delivered by Imam Malik. He sent for the Imam who sermonised him: "Rashid, 
Tradition is a learning that used to be patronised by your forbears. They liad 
utmost regard for it. If you don't venerate it as Caliph, no one else would. 
People come in search of knowledge but knowledge does not seek people." At 
last the Caliph himself came to attend the lectures of the Imam, which were 
attended by all classes of people. Haroon wanted others to leave the class, but 
the Imam opposed it saying, "I cannot sacrifice the interest of the common man 
for that of an individual". Hence the great Caliph as well as his sons had to sit 
alongside the common people and listen patiently to the Imam's illuminating 
discourse on the Traditions of the Prophet. 

Medina, the seat of Islamic learning in those times, boasted of some of the 
greatest intellectuals of the age. One of them was Imam Malik,a great traditionist, 
who left behind him ineffaceable marks in the sphere of Arabian learning, ttis 
Muwatta occupies an outstanding place among the rare collections of Traditions. 
Being a teacher of exceptional merits. Imam Malik occupies a unique place in tlie 
Islamic history as the originator of Maliki School of Jurisprudence which 
exercised great influence on the contemporary and later generations of Islam, 
particularly those inhabiting Africa and Spain. With his indomitable will, 
courageous and incorruptible soul, which never yielded even to the highest 
authorities of the state, the Imam belonged to a class of early Muslims, whose 
life would always serve as a beacon light for those who strive for the realisation 
of nobler and higher virtues in the world. 

Malik ibn Anas, belonged to a respectable Arab family which held import- 
ant social status before and after the advent of Islam. His ancestral place was 
Yemen, but after the birth of Islam, his ancestors who were converted to Islam 
migrated to and settled in Medina. His grandfather, Abu Aamir was first in his 
family to embrace Islam in 2 A.H. The date of Imam's birth is a disputed point 
among the historians. Ibn Khalikan has given 95 A.H., but as universally believed 
the Imam was bom in 93 A.H., and he was 13 years yoimger to his illustrious 
counterpart Imam Abu Hanifa. He received his education in Medina, which in 
those times was the highest seat of learning in the vast Islamic Empire and 
housed most of the distinguished Companions of the Prophet. He, therefore, had 


Hundred Great Musltms 93 

no need to go out of Medina in quest of knowledge. His grandfather, father and 
uncle were all Traditionists, who coached the young Imam in traditions and 
other branches of knowledge. Other illustrious intellectual luminaries who 
taught the young Imam were Imam Jafar Sadiq, Muhammad bin Shahab Az 
Zahri, Nafeh, Yahya bin Saeed and Rabi Rayi. 

Imam Malik continued to serve the noble cause of education for 62 years. 
He died on 1 1th Rabi-ul-Awwal 179 A.H., at the age of 86. 

Teaching, which was looked upon as the noblest profession, was adopted 
by some of the greatest intellectuals that the world has produced, including 
Aiistotle and Plato, Ghazzali and Ibn Khaldun, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam 
Malik. The high reputation of Imam Malik as a scholar and teacher attracted 
people from the four comers of the vast Islamic Empire. Perhaps no other 
teacher ever produced such talented scholars who ascended the pinnacle of glory 
in different walks of Ufe. Among the persons who benefited from his learning 
were Caliphs like Mansur. Mehdi, Hadi, Haroon and Mamun; legists like Imam 
Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafii, Sufian Suri and Qazi Muhammad Yusuf; scholars like 
Ibn Shahab Zahri and Yahya bin Saeed Ansari; mystics like Ibrahim bin Adham, 
Zunnun Misri and Muhanmiad bin Fazil bin Abbas. According to reliable histori- 
cal sources, the number of his students who acquired great name in life was more 
than 1 ,300. His classes were characterised by their serenity, discipline and high 
sense of respect, exhibited by the students for their learned teacher. He never 
tolerated any indiscipline when he lectured on the traditions of the Prophet. 
Once, the Abbaside Caliph, Mansur who was discussing certain traditions with 
the Imam spoke a bit loudly. The Imam rebuked him saying, "Don't talk 
stridently when the Traditions of the Prophet are under discussion." He refused 
to discourse on the Traditions in the camp of the Caliph. 

The Imam left behind him more than a dozen works including his world 
famous Muwatta, which is considered as second to the Holy Quran. His treatises^ 
deal with reUgious, ethical matters and Islamic jurisprudence, iliuwaf^au univer- 
sally acknowledged as the most important book in the Library of Islam after the 
Holy Quran. According to Shah Waliullah, it is a collection of the most authentic 
traditions of the Prophet selected by Imam Malik after thorough investigation of 
their sources. The Imam compiled his book after a thorough verification and 
sifting of the Traditions and included only those which he considered correct. 
Title reUability of the reports and reporters were his chief consideration and he 
took pains to ensure that no inconect report found place in his book. Formerly, 
Muwatta included ten thousand Traditions, but in the revised edition, the bnam 
reduced the number to 1 ,720 only. This book has been translated into several 
languages and has sixteen different editions. 

As a traditionist he occupies a unique place among the galaxy of talented 
sc:holars like Imam Bukhari and Muslim who are wall-known for collecting the 
Traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam. He is said to have always avoided the 
company of a person who was not highly learned. According to Imam Hanbal, 

94 Hundred Great Muslims 

he was the only person to have such a distinction, never reported a tradition 
from a person unless he had fully satisfied himself. He was held in such high 
esteem by the later scholars that once someone enquired from Imam Haiibal 
about a certain reporter. He replied that the reporter must be reliable because 
Imam Malik had reported from him. Imam Malik experienced great hardship in 
quest of knowledge. Like Imam Bukhari, who had once to Uve on herbs and 
roots for three days, he too, had to sell the beams of his house in order to pay 
his education dues. He used to say that one could not attain the heights of 
intellectual glory, unless faced with poverty. Poverty was the real test of man; it 
awakened in him the hidden energies and enabled him to surmount all 

His contemporaries and later traditionists and reUgious scholars have 
formed very hi^ opinion about his intellectual attainments./*According to Abdur 
Rahman ibn Mahdi, there is no traditionist greater than Imam Malik in the world. 
Imams Ahmad bin Hanbal and ShaHi speak very highly of him as a Traditionist. 
The learned Imam was also a great legist ; for more than 60 years he gave Fatwas 
in Medina. \ 

Imam Malik was known for his integrity and piety. He always lived up to 
his convictions. Neither fear nor favour could ever deflect him from the right 
path. He was among the members of the glorious society of early Islam who 
could not be purchased and whose undaunted ccarage always proved as a 
guiding star for the freedom fighters. 

When he was aged 25, the Caliphate passed into the hands of the Abbasides. 
Caliph Mansur who was his colleague highly respected him for his deep learning. 
The Imam, however, favoured the Fatimid Nafs Zakriya for the exalted office 
of Caliph. When he learned that the people had taken the oath of fealty to 
Mansur, he said that since Mansur had forced people to do so, the oath was not 
binding on them. He quoted a Tradition of the Prophet to the effect that a 
divorce by force is not legal. When Jafar, a cousin of Mansur, was posted as 
Governor of Medina, he induced the inhabitants of the Holy city to renew their 
oath of dlegiance to Mansur. The Governor forbade him not to publicise Ms 
Fatwa in respect of forced divorce. Highly principled and fearless as he was, he 
defied the Governor's orders and courageously persisted in his course. This 
infuriated the Governor, who ordered that the Imam be awarded 70 stripes, as 
punishment for flouting his authority. Accordin^y, seventy stripes were inflicted 
on the naked back of the Imam which began to bleed. Mounted on a camel in liis 
bloodstained clothes, he was paraded through the streets of Mediiia. Tliis 
brutality of the Governor failed to cow down or unnerve the noble Imam. Caliph 
Mansur, when apprised of the matter, punished the Governor and apologised to 
the Imam. 

Once, Caliph Mansur sent him three thousand Dinars as his travelling 
expenses to Baghdad, but he returned the money and refused to leave Medina, 
the resting place of the Prophet. 

Hundred Great Muslims 95 

In 174 A.H. Caliph Haioon-ai-Rashid, arrived in Medina with his two sons 
Ainin and Mamun. He summoned Imam Malik to his durbar for delivering a 
lecture on Muwatta. The Imam refused to comply with his orders. Arriving in 
the durbar, he told the Caliph, "Rashid ! Tradition is a learning cultivated and 
patronised by your ancestors, if you don't pay it due respect, no one else 
would." This argument convinced the Caliph, who preferred to attend the class 
taJken by the Imam along with his two sons. 

The Imam was reputed throughout the world of Islam for his self-control 
and great patience. Once a band of Kharijis armed with swords forced their way 
into a mosque of Kufa, where he was praying. All persons scampered away from 
the mosque in panic but he stayed there imdismayed. It was customary with all 
those who waited on Caliph Mansur in his durbar to kiss his hands but Imam 
Malik never stooped to this humiliation. On the other hand, he paid highest 
respects to the learned people and once, when Imam Abu Hanifa came to see 
hjm, he offered him his own seat. 

Muslims inhabiting Western Arabia, exclusively subscribe to the Maliki 



The Third Imam, Abu Abd Allah Muhammad bin Idrees, better known as 
Imam Shafii.who is the founder of Shafii School of Fk//7 (Islamic jurisprudence), 
belonged to the Kuraish tribe, was a Hashimi and remotely connected with the 
Prophet of Islam. He was bom in 767 A.C. in Ghazza. He lost his father in his 
childhood and was brought up in poverty by his talented mother. 

In Makkah, the young Imam, learnt the Holy Quran by heart. He spent 
considerable time among the bedouins and acquired a thorough grounding in old 
Arab poetry. Later, he studied Tradition and Fiqh from Muslim Abu Khalld 
Al-Zinjii and Sufyan ibn Uyaina. He learnt Muwatta by heart when he was only 

When about 20, he went to Imam Malik ibn Anas at Medina and recited 
the Muwatta before him which was very much appreciated by the Imam. He 
stayed with Imam Malik till the latter's death in 796 A.C. 

His poor financial condition obliged him to accept a government post in 
Yemen, which was a stronghold of Alids who were much suspected by the 
Abbaside Caliphs. He was involved in Alid intrigues and was brought as a prisoner 
along with other AlMs before the Abbaside Caliph, Haroon-ar-Rashid, to RakJka 
in 803 A.C. 

The Caliph, on learning the Imam's arguments in his defence set him free 
with honour. In Baghdad, he became intimate with the celebrated Hanafi 
Scholar Muhammad ibn al Hasan al Shaibani. 

Later, in 804 A.C, he went to Syria and Egypt via Harran. He was given an 
enthusiastic welcome in Egypt by the pupils of Imam Malik. He spent six years 
in teaching jurisprudence in Cairo and arrived in Baghdad in 810 A.C. where he 
set up successfully as a teacher. A large number of learned scholars of fraq 
became his pupils. In 814 he returned to Egypt but, as a result of disturbances, 
was soon compelled to leave for Makkah. 

He returned to Egypt in 815/16 A.C. to settle down finally there. He died 
on January 20, 820 A.C. (29 Rajab 204 A.H.) and was buried in the vault of 
Banu Abd al Hakam at Fustat amidst universal mourning. 


Hundred Great Muslims 97 

His tomb which was built by the Ayubid Ruler al Malik al-Kamil in 
121 1/12 A.C. is a favourite place of pilgrimage. 

Like his predecessors, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik, Imam Shafii too 
refused to become Qazi (Judge) of the Abbaside regime. The years spent by him 
in Iraq and Egypt were the periods of his intensive activity. He spent most of his 
time in writing and lecturing. He was very methodical in his daily life and had 
systematically divided his time for different types of work and he seldom 
deviated from this routine. 

"Al Shafii", states the Encyclopaedia of Mam, "may be described as an 
eclectic who acted as an intermediary between the independent legal investi- 
gation and the traditionalism of his time. Not only did he work through the legal 
material available, but in his Risala, he also investigated the principles and 
methods of jurisprudence. He is regarded as the founder of 'Usual al Fikh'. 
Unlike Hanafis, he sought to lay down regular rules for 'Kiyas', while he had 
nothing to do with 'istihsan'. The principle of 'ishtibah', seems to have been 
first introduced by the later Shafiis. In al-Shafli two creative periods can be 
distinguished, an earlier (Iraqi) and a later (Egyptian)". 

In his writings he made a masterly use of dialogue. He elucidates the 
principles of jurisprudence in his Risala and has tried to adopt a mean between 
the Hanafii and Maliki jurisprudence. The collection of his writings and lectures 
in "Kitabul Umm "reveals his master intellect. 

The main centres of his activity were Baghdad and Cairo. First of all he 
follows the Quran, then the Suimah. The most authentic Traditions of the 
Prophet are given the same consideration by him as Quran. He was very popular 
among the traditionists and the people of Baghdad called him the "Nazir-us- 
Surmat" (exponent of the Traditions of the Prophet). 

Imam Shafii who combined in himself the principles of Islamic juris- 
pirudence as well as the fluent language of the people of Hejaz and Egypt was 
miatchless both m conversational and written language. His writings can favour- 
ably be compared with those of the best writers of Arabic language of his time, 
inicluding Jahiz. 

The teachings of Imam Shafii spread from Baghdad and Cairo to distant 
parts of Iraq, Egypt and Hejaz. The most notable of his pupils were al-Muzani, 
al-Buwaiti, al-Rabib Sulaiman, al-Maradi, al-Zafarani Abu Thawr, al-Humaidi, 
Ahmad ibn Hanbal and al-Karabisi. 

During the third and fourth century A.H., the Shafiis won more and more 
of adherents in Baghdad and Cairo. In the fourth century, Makkah and Medina 
were the chief centres of Shafiite teachings besides Egypt. 

98 Hundred Great Mmlirra 

The Shafiite School became predominant under Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi. 
But Sultan Baibars gave recognition to other Schools of Fiqh also and appointed 
judges of all the four Schools. 

Before the advent of the Ottoman power, the Shaflites held absolute 
pre-eminence in the Central lands of Islam. During the begiiming of the 16th 
century A.C. the Ottomans replaced Shafii with Hanafi Imams. Nevertheless 
Shafiite teachings remained predominant in Egypt, Syria and Hejaz. It is sM 
largely studied in Al-Azhar University of Cairo. The Shafiite Fiqh is stiU largely 
followed by the Muslims in South Arabia, Bahrain, Malay Archipelago, part of 
East Africa and Central Asia. 


The grand Durbar of the greatest of the Abbaside Caliphs, Mamun 
ar-Rashid, at Tarsus, was packed to its capacity. A frail bodied person, with a 
resolute look and a calm countenance, was carried forward by the guards, 
through a long row of distinguished courtiers, officials and religious scholars. 
irhe person was Ahmad ibn Hanbal who had been summoned by the Caliph, an 
exponent of the Mutazellite doctrine of the creation of Quran. 

The CaUph asked him if he accepted the Mutazellite doctrine about the 
creation of Quran. 

"No", replied Ahmad ibn Hanbal firmly, "The Quran is the world of God. 
How can it be treated as a creation?" 

The Caliph tried to argue with Ahmad bin Hanbal supported by several 
religious scholars but the Imam was adamant and refused to change his views, 
which were in conformity with the faith of the Prophet and his Companions. 
He was, therefore, put behind the bars. 

Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali 
!3chool of Muslim jurisprudence, is one of the most vigorous personaUties of 
Mam, which profoundly influenced both the historical development and modern 
revival. The celebrated theologian, jurist and traditionist, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, 
was "through his disciple Ibn Taimiya, the distant progenitor of Wahabism. He 
itnspired also in certain degree the conservative reform movement of the 
ISalafiyya" (Encyclopaedia of Islam}. 

Bom at Baghdad on the 1st of Rabi-ul-Av*rwal, 164 A.H. (December 
780 A.C.) Ahmad ibn Hanbal was an Arab, belonging to Bani Shayban of Rabia, 
who had played an important role in the Muslim conquest of Iraq and Khoiasan. 
His family first resided at Basra. His grandfather Hanbal ibn Hilal, Governor of 
Sarakhs, under the Otnayyads had his headquarters at Merv. Ahmad's father 
Muhammad ibn Hanbal, who was employed in the Imperial Army in Khorasan, 
llater moved to Baghdad, where he died three years later. 

Ahmad who had become an orphan at a v^ry early age, inherited a family 
estate of modest income. He studied jurisprudence, Traditieto and lexicography 


100 Hundred Great Muslims 

in Baghdad. There he attended the lectures of Qazi Abu Yusuf. His principal 
teacher was Sufyan bin Uyayna, the greatest authority of School of Hejaz. 
Later, he was much influenced by Imam Shafii and became his disciple. From 
795 A.C., he devoted himself to the study of Tradition and made frequent visits 
to Iran, Khorasan, Hejaz, Yemen, Syria, Iiaq and even to Maghrib in quest of 
authentic Traditions of the Prophet. He made five pilgrimages to the holy cities. 

According to Imam Shafii, who taught Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) to 
Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the latter was the most learned man he had come across 
in Baghdad. 

The way Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal withstood the trials and tribulations 
of the Abbaside Caliphs for IS years on account of his opposition to the officially 
supported MutazilUte doctrine of the creation of Quran, is a living tribute to 
Imam's high character and indomitable will which has immortalised him as one 
of the greatest men of all times. 

The Abbaside Caliph, Mamoon ar-Rashid, was, in his last days, much 
influenced by the rationalist doctrines of Mutazilhtes, including that of the 
creation of Quran, and gave an official support to it. The distinguished religious 
leaders and divines, one after another, succumbed to the views of the Caliph. It 
fell to the lot of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal to oppose this doctrine vigorously 
and suffer for it, which immensely added to his popularity and iiiunortalised 
him as one of the greatest exponents of the true faith. 

The Abbaside Caliph, Mamoon ar-Rashid died shortly after the imprison- 
ment of Imam Ahmad. He was succeeded by Al-Mutasim, who summoned the 
Imam and asked the same question about the creation of Quran. Still strongly 
refusing to accept this Mutazillite doctrine, he was severely flogged and thrown 
into prison. He was, however, allowed to return home after two years. During 
the reign of the succeeding Abbaside Caliph, Wasiq, he was not permitted to 
preach Ms faith and was compelled to live in retirement. All these hardships 
failed to detract him from the righteous path. 

The sufferings of the Imam ended when Al Mutawakkil became the Caliph 
and returned to the old traditional faith. The Imam was invited and enthusiasti- 
cally welcomed by the Caliph who requested him to give lessons on Traditions to 
the yoimg Abbaside Prince, al-Mutazz. But the Imam declined this offer on 
accoimt of his old age and failing health. He returned to Baghdad without seeing 
the CaUph and died at the age of 75 in Rabi-ul-Awwal of 241 A.H. (July 855 
A.C.). He was byried in the Martyrs' cemetery, near the Harb gate of Baghdad. 
"His fiineral was attended by millions of mourners and his tomb was the scene 
of demonstrations of such ardent devotion that the cemetery had to be guarded 
by the civil authorities and his tomb became the most frequented place of 
pilgrim^e in Bagdad" (Encyclopaedia of Islam). 

Imam Ahmad laid greater emphasis on Traditions. His monumental work is 

Hundred Great Muslims 101 

Musnad, an encyclopaedia containing 28,000 to 29,000 Traditions of the Prophet 
in which the Traditions are not classified according to the subject as in the 
iSahihs of Muslim and Bukhari, but under the name of the first reporter. His 
other notable works are: "Kitab-us-Salaat (Book on Prayer); "Ar-radd alal- 
Zindika" (a treatise in refutation of Mutazillites, which he wrote in prison); 
and 'Kitab-us-Sunnah " (Book in which he expounds his creed). 

Though the fundamental purpose of the Imam's teaching may be seen as 
& reaction against the codification of Fiqh, his disciples collected and systematised 
Ids replies to questions which gave birth to the Hanbali Fiqh, the fourth School 
of Muslim jurisprudence. 

The HanbaU School which was exposed throughout its history to numerous 
sind powerful opponents came into prominence under the teachings of its 
greatest exponent, Imam ibn Taimiya, who denounced the veneration of saints 
sind worshipping of tombs. Later, it was further renovated by the Saudi Arabian 
reformer, Abdul Wahab, who greatly popularised it in Saudi Arabia. 


Few persons in the world have ever been endowed with a proverbial 
memory. One of these was Imam Bukhaii, the greatest Traditionist that Islaim 
has produced. He is said to have retained in his memory one million Traditions 
with full details of all the different sources and reporters of each Tradition 
which came down to him. His Sahih Bukhari (Collection of Traditions) is 
universally recognised as the most authentic collection of Traditions of the Holy 
Prophet of Islam. 

Abu Abdullah Muhamnnad ibn Ismail, later known as bnam Bukhari, was 
bom in Bukhara on Shawwal 13, 194 A. H. (July 21, 810 A.C.) He was the 
grandson of a Persian, named Bradizbat. 

The newly-born child had scarcely opened his eyes in the world when he 
lost his eyesight. His father was immensely grieved by it. His pious mother 
wept and prayed to God to restore the eyesight of her newly-born child. During 
her sleep, she dreamt Prophet Abraham, who said; "Be pleased, your prayer 
has been accepted by God." When she got up, the eyesight of the newly-born 
child was fully restored. 

He lost his father when he was still a child. He was brought up by his 
illustrious and virtuous mother. 

He began his study of the Traditions at the early age of eleven. In his 1 6th 
year he made pilgrimage of the Holy places along with his mother and elder 
brother. There he attended the lectures of the great teachers of Traditions in 
Makkah and Medina. He was still 18 years old, when he wrote a book, "Kazayai 
Sahaba wa Tabain. " 

His elder brother, Rashid ibn IsmaU reports that the young Bukhari used 
to attend the lectures and discourses of learned men of Balkh along with him 
and other pupils. But, unlike other pupUs he never took notes of these discourses. 
They criticised him for not taking notes of the lectures and thus wasting his 
time. Bukhari did not give any reply. One day, being annoyed by their consis- 
tent criticism of his carelessness, Bukhari asked his fellow pupils to bring all 
they had noted down. By that time, his fellow pupils had taken down more 

102 ■ 

Hundred Great Muslims 103 

than 15 thousand Traditions. Young Bukhari, to the amazement of all, narrated 
all the 15 thousand Traditions from his memory with minutest details which 
were not noted down by the pupils. 

He, then started on a study pilgrimage of the world of Islam, which lasted 
16 years. Of this period, he spent five years in Basra, visiting Egypt, Hcjaz, Kufa 
and Baghdad several times and wandered all over Western Asia in quest of 
knowledge and learning. During his travels he reported Traditions from 80,000 
persons and with the help of his exceptional memory he could retain these 
Traditions with all their sources in his mind to be permed down at an opportune 

The fame of young Bukhari had soon reached the distant parts of the 
Islamic world and wherever he went he was received with great veneration. 
People were wonderstruck by his deep learning and extraordinary memory. 

A large number of learned and pious men throughout the world of Islam 
became the disciples of young Bukhari. These included Sheikh Abu Zarah, Abu 
Hatim Tirmizi, Muhammad ibn Nasr, Ibn Hazima and Imam Muslim. 

Imam Darami, who was a spiritual teacher of Imam Bukhari admits that 
liis learned pupil had deeper insight into the Prophet's Traditions. He was the 
wisest among the creation of God during his time. 

Imam Bukhari devoted not only his entire intelligence and exceptional 
memory to the writing of this momentous work, "Sahih Bukhari", he attended 
to the task with utmost dedication and piety. He used to take bath and pray 
whenever he sat down to write the book. A part of this book was written by the 
learned Imam, sitting by the side of Prophet's grave at Medina. 

Imam Bukhari returned to his native place, Bukhara, at last and was given 
a rousing reception by the entire populace of this great cultural city. But he was 
not destined to live here for long. He was asked by the Ruler of Bukhara to 
teach him and his children the Traditions of the Prophet at his Palace. This he 
declined and migrated to Khartanak, a town near Samarkand. Here he breathed 
his last on Ramzan 30, 256 A.H. (August 3 1 , 870 A.C.). 

The entire populace of the town and the vicinity came out to pay their 
last homage to one of the greatest sons of Islam, whose "Sahih Bukhari", ranks 
only second to the Holy Quran. His grave in Khartanak is still a favourite place 
of Muslim pilgrimage. 

His monumental work, .<4//am/-fl/-Sa/«7j, popularly known as Sahih Bukhari 
established his reputation as the greatest Traditionist in Islam. It is recognised as 
the most authentic source material on Surmah. 

It is said that Imam Bukhari had retained in his memory one million 

104 Hundred Great Muslims 

Traditions of the Holy Prophet of Mam with all the details of their sources and 
reporters. Once his religious teacher, Sheikh Ishaq ibn Rahu urged that some- 
one might collect in a book, the most authentic Traditions of the Prophet of 
Islam. Imam Bukhari promised to fulfil his teacher's wish. Out of the million 
Traditions which he had learnt from 80,000 reporters, he selected 7,275 
Traditions and, accordiiig to Ibn Hajar, 9,082, for his monumental v/oik,Sahih 
Bukhari. He took 1 6 years to complete it. 

This monumental work of Imam Bukhari has been acclaimed by thousands 
of traditionists, and erudite theologians as the best work on Prophet's Traditions. 
More than 53 commentaries, some of these in 14 volumes, have been written 
on Sahih Bukhari. 

This book is divided according to the chapters of Fiqh, for which he haid 
planned a complete scheme. In his selection of traditions, he showed the greatest 
critical faculty and in the editing of the text he tried to obtain the most 
scrupulous accuracy. Yet he did not hesitate to explain the material, at places, in 
short notes, which is quite distinct from the text and throws light on thie 
environment obtaining at that time. 

Imam Bukhari is the author of about two dozen other books on religion, 
Islamic philosophy and history. But his monumental work is Sahih Bukhari, 
whose hundreds of commentaries and translations have appeared in different 
languages during the last more than one thousand years. It is respected and 
recognised as the most important and essential book in the world of Islam after 
the Holy Quran. 


The third century of the Hejira has been the most congenial period for the 
collection and development of Prophet's Traditions in the Muslim world. During 
tMs period as many as six well-known collections of Traditions, popularly called 
as 'Sahih ' (authentic collections) saw the light of day. These included the 'Sahih ' 
Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. 

During this period, conditions were extremely favourable for the collec- 
tion of Traditions. A certain unanimity had been attained on all disputed points, 
particularly on questions of law and doctrine and a definite opinion regarding 
the value of most Traditions had been formed by the well-known Muslim 
scholars. It was, thus, possible to proceed and collect all such Traditions which 
v/ere generally accepted as reUable. 

The most outstanding reporters of the Traditions had been Hazrat Aisha, 
Hazrat Abu Horaira, Hazrat Abdullah ibn Abbas, Hazrat Fatima az-Zahra, 
Hazrat Abdulla ibn Umar, Hazrat Abdulla ibn Masood, Hazrat Zaid ibn Sabit, 
Hazrat Uns ibn Malik and Hazrat Saeed ul Maseeb al-Makhzoomi. Several 
collections of Traditions were prepared by different scholars through these 
reporters. In the beginning. Traditions were arranged according to their trans- 
mitters and not according to their contents. The best known of such collections 
is the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The best collection of Traditions of 
this period is the Muwatta of Imam Malik. 

But, later the collections of Traditions were arranged according to their 
contents, more scientifically and conveniently. Such collections arranged accord- 
ing to chapters are called Misawwa/ (arranged). Six such collections of Traditions 
universally recognised by the learned Muslims as Sahih (authentic) appeared 
during the Third century A.H. These are the collections of (1) Imam Bukhari 
(died in 256 A.H.-870 A.C.), (2) Imam Muslim (died in 261 A.H.-875 A.C.), 
(3) Al Dawood (died in 275 A.H.-888 A.C.), (4) Al Tirmizi (died in 279 A.H.- 
892 A.C.), (5) Al Nasai (died in 303 A.H.-915 A.C.), and (6) Ibn Maja (died in 
273 A.H.— 886 A.C.). ITiese books are recognised as authentic Traditions. Of 
these, the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are held in high esteem in the Muslim 
world, ranking only second to the Holy Quran. 


106 Hundred Great Muslims 

The merit of the collections of Imam Bukhari and Muslim lies not in the 
fact that they had been able to soit genuine Traditions out of a mass of circu- 
lating material on the subject, but because their collections were universally 
acclaimed as genuine, particularly by the learned and orthodox Muslims. The 
Sahih Muslim (authentic collection of Traditions by Imam Muslim) is considered 
only second to Sahih Bukhari. 

Al Hajjaj Abul Husain Al Kushairi Al Nishapuri, better known as Imam 
Muslim, was bom at Nishapur in 202 A.H., 817 A.C. or 206 A.H., 821 A.C. and 
died in 261 A.H., 857 A.C, and was buried at Nasarabad, a suburb of Nishapur. 

After completing his education, Muslim set out to collect Traditions for 
his memorable work on the subject. He traveUed extensively to collect Traditions 
in Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq and consulted some of outstanding authorities 
on the subject, including Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ishaq ibn Rahuya. 
His Sahih is said, to have been compiled out of more than three lakh Traditions 
collected by him. He also wrote a number of books on Fiqh traditionists and 
biographies, which are not extant at present. 

His outstanding collection of Traditions, Sahih Muslim, is distinguished 
from other such collections in the matter that it is sub-divided into chapters. It 
is not difficult to trace in the order of Traditions in Muslim's Sahih a close 
connection with corresponding ideas of Fiqh. 

Secondly, Muslim has paid particular attention to Isnads (chain of authentic 
reporters) which "serve as an introduction to either the same or to slightly 
different Matn (text). Muslim has been praised for his accuracy regarding this 
point." In other respects Bukhari's Sahih is superior to Muslim's, a fact which 
has been accepted by his great admirer, Al-Nawawi, who has written a copious 
commentary on Muslim's Sahih, which itself is a work of immense value on 
Muslim Theology and Fiqh. ' 

Imam Bukhari has added copious notes to his chapters, which are not 
found in Muslim's book. But both contain Traditions not only relating to the 
canon law, but also many ethical, historical and dogmatic traditions. 

Muslim has written a learned introduction dealing with the Science of 
Traditions to his outstanding work, Sahih Muslim. The work, consisting of 52 
chapters, deals with common subjects of Traditions-the five pillars of religion, 
marriage, barter, slavery, hereditary law, war, sacrifice, manners and customs of 
the Prophet and the Companions and other theological subjects. The book 
opens with a chapter, giving a complete survey of the early theology of Islam 
and closes with a short but comprehensive chapter on the Holy Quran. 


Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali known as 'Algazel' in the West is one of the most 
eminent thinkers of Islam. He had the rare distinction of being appointed as the 
Principal of Nizamiah University of Baghdad, the greatest university in that 
period at an early age of 34 and later on turned into a sceptic and roamed about 
for 12 years in search of truth and mental peace, ultimately finding solace in 

Al-Ghazali was born in 1058 A.C. in a small town of Khorasan called 
"Toos." His father was a yarn seller, hence he was nicknamed as "Ghazali," 
which is an Arabic word meaning yarn maker. Allama Samyani's contention 
that 'Gliazal' is a village of Toos where GhazaU resided does not stand the test 
of historical research. 

In those days education was too liberal amongst common people. The 
Mghest type of education was within the reach of the humblest members of the 
society and all sorts of facilities for free education were provided for the 
common man. Out of the lowest societies have risen such intellectual giants of 
their age, like Imam Abu Hanifa who was a petty cloth merchant, Shamsul 
Aima who was a sweetmeat seller, Imam Abu Jafar who was a coffin stitcher 
and Allam Kaffal Morazi who was a blacksmith. Unfortunately, Ghazali's father 
was illiterate, and on his death bed, he entrusted his two sons to an intimate 
friend imploring him to give them proper education. The friend carried on the 
education for a certain period, but the funds deposited with him by Ghazali's 
father were soon exhausted and he was obliged to ask them to make their own 
arrangements. In those days there was no dearth of private institutions which 
were addressed by learned men. The expenses of the students including lodging 
and boarding were borne by the eliters of the place, hence, contrary to our 
times, when higher education is out of bounds of the poor, even the humblest 
had equal opportunities for obtaining highest education in those days. Ghazali 
also took full advantage of these golden opportunities and got his elementary 
religious education from a local teacher Ahmad ibn Muhammad Razkafi. There- 
from, he went to Jaijan where he received education from Abu Nasar Ismaili. 
An interesting story is related regarding the circumstances which served as an 
incentive for his educational progress. Once, on his way to his home town, he 
was robbed of his valuable lecture notes. Ghazali implored the leader of the 
robbers to return those papers, whereupon he laughed heartily and taunted that 


108 Hundred Gr&it Muslims 

he had wasted all his energies if his education depended on a few papers only. 
These words had a salutary effect on Ghazali and he memorised all his lecture 
notes within three years. 

Ghazali had to leave his home town for higher education. In those times 
Baghdad and Neshapur were the highest seats of learning in the East, which haid 
the privilege of accommodating the two most celebrated teachers of Islam, 
namely Imamul Harmain who adorned the literary circles of Neshapur and Abu 
Ishaq Shirazi who glittered on the literary firmament of Baghdad. As Neshapur 
was nearer of the two, Ghazali became a pupil of Imamul Harmain. 

Neshapur was a great centre of learning and Madrasa-e-Bakiath of Nesha- 
pur had the privilege of being the first University of the world of Islam. Nizamiah 
of Baghdad is wrongly believed to be the first university of the East as, long 
before its existence, several universities like Bakiath, Sadia and Nasiria foimded 
by the brother of Mahmood Ghaznavi were functioning in Neshapur. 

Ghazali was the most brilliant pupil of Imamul Harmain and soon acquired 
so much knowledge that he used to assist his teacher in his educational pursuits. 
He left Neshapur after the death of his celebrated teacher and by this time when 
he was hardly 28 he had acquired so much knowledge that he had no equal in 
the entire world of Islam. 

The Caliphate of Abbasides was tottering, culminating in the formation 
of several Turkish principalities, including that of Saljuks who had founded the 
most powerful state of their times. The dynasty of Saljuks was distinguished for 
a succession of brilliant monarchs like Tughiil, Alp Arsalan and Malik Shah who 
had kept aloft the dwindling candle of Islamic civilization. Malik Shah owed his 
historical greatness to his far-sighted Minister, Nizamul Mulk Toosi, one of the 
greatest administrators of all ages— one who was a great patron of learning and 
had the distinction of being the founder of the celebrated Nizamiah University 
of Baghdad. More than twenty million rupees were budgeted for education by 
the wise Minister. Hardly any ancient or modem state can boast of spending 
such a large portion on education out of the pubUc exchequer. Ghazali's fame 
by this time had travelled to the distant corners of the Islamic world and he too 
attended the grand durbar of Nizamul Mulk whom he knew as a friend of men 
of learning. He was respectfully received by the eminent Vazier and he proved 
his mettle in scholastic discussions with learned men who had thronged the 
court of Nizamul Mulk, whereupon he was appointed as the Principal of the 
famous Nizamiah University of Baghdad at an early age of 34. 

Ghazali was highly respected in both the great durbars of the Islamic 
World— the Saljuks and the Abbasides, which were the centres of Islamic glorj^ 
and splendour. In compliance with the request of Abbaside Calips Al-Mustazhair 
Billah, who, to some extent, was responsible for the emancipation and reorient- 
ation of Islamic religious thought, GhazaU wrote a book in reply to the dogmatic 
beliefs of "Batinia' cult and named it as "Mustazhari" after the name of the 

Hundred Great Muslims 109 

Caliph. Shaikh Syed bin Al Paris, his favourite pupU, compiled the daily lectures 
of Ghazali in two volumes and it was named as "Majalis-i-Ghazalia. " 

Spiritual Pilgrimage: Ghazali was at last fed up with the artificiality and 
pomp and pageantry which pervaded the social life of Imperial Baghdad. He 
yearned for something else which was not available in the theoretical knowledge 
of enomjous volumes which he came across in the highly literary circles of the 
city. He resolved to make a spiritual pilgrimage which, in itself, presents a 
fascinating story deserving to be better known in its details. He severed his 
connection with the social and Imperial circles, resorted to partial hunger 
strike, preserved a forced silence and even shunned the medical advices. His 
health began to fail him and rejecting all counsels, he left Baghdad wrapped in 
a rough blanket. The populace of the great Metropolis which had witnessed the 
pomp and the costly garments of their learned Imam were wonderstruck to 
observe him in his saintly attire. Ghazali had renounced his worldly pleasures 
and his inner self revolted against the futiUty of human life and the paucity of 
human knowledge. The story of his conversion to mysticism, as told by 
himself is a classic of its kind. He was a sceptic in his earlier life, but a mystical 
experience cured him of this malady and caused him to devote all his powers to 
the search of absolute truth. He did not get any light in the study of philosophy 
and scholastic theology, nor did the Taftm/s' with their doctrine of an infallible 
religious authority, come off any better when put to the test. So he had to turn 
his attention to mysticism as revealed in the writings of 'Harith-al-Muhasbi, " and 
the earlier mystics, and as he read, the truth dawned upon him. "I saw plainly," 
he says, that what is most peculiar to them (The Sufis) cannot be learned from 
books, but can only be reached by immediate experience, ecstacy and inward 
iiaformation," in other words, by leading the mystical life. He saw, too, that his 
own salvation was at stake, but his worldly prospects were brilliant, and it cost 
him a hard struggle to give them up. His health broke down under strain and at 
last he surrendered himself entirely, taking refuge with God, "as a man in sore 
affliction who has no resource left." He was not yet forty when he quitted 
Elaghdad with the resolve never to return again. 

Earlier, he had studied the works of the great mystic saints like Hazrat 
Junaid, Shibli and Bayazid Bustami, but, as this knowledge lies more in practice 
than in precept, he resolved to undergo the different phases of renunciations 
practised in mysticism. It was Ghazali' s personal experience of this truth which 
he incorporated in his briUiant work "Ihya-ul-Uloom," that inspired the great 
religious revival brought about in circles hitherto unfriendly to mysticism. 
FEenceforward, he brought about a defmite change in the mystic outlook 
towards Islam and he insisted that sainthood is derived from prophecy and 
constantly appealed to the supreme authority of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) 
whose law, according to him, must be obeyed both in letter and spirit. 

Leaving Baghdad, Ghazali reached Damascus, the old capital of Umayyads 
and retired to a life of seclusion and prayer. He stayed there for two years and at 
tfimes he returned to mystical topics in Jamai Umayya (the Grand Mosque of 

110 Hundred Great Muslims 

Umayyads) which was virtually the University of Syria. Here he became the 
disciple of Shaikh Faimadi, the greatest mystic saint of his age who was highly 
respected throughout the length and breadth of Islamic world. 

An interesting story is related about the cause of his leaving Damascus. 
One day he visited the "Madarasa-i-Aminia" of Damascus, where a lecturer who 
did not recognise Ghazali was profusely quoting from his books in his lecture. 
Ghazali left the city at once, lest he might not be recognised and bestowed 
honours which might arouse a sense of pride in him, a feeling which is strongly 
suppressed by mystics. 

He arrived in Jerusalem and, therefrom he visited the eternal abode of 
Prophet Abraham and by the side of his grave, he resolved to stick to three 
things. Firstly, he would never attend the durbar of a king; secondly, he would 
never accept a present from a king; and thirdly, he would never take part in 
unnecessary scholastic discussions. He actually lived up to his determination 
and convictions. Therefrom, he set out on the pilgrimages of Makkah and 
Medina and stayed there for a long time. Leaving Hejaz, he toured Alexandria 
and Egypt. Ghazali roamed about for more than ten years visiting sacred places 
scattered over the vast Islamic domains. 

According to Ibn-ul-Asir, Ghazali, during his tour wrote "Ihya-ul-Uloom," 
his masterpiece which revolutionised and profoundly influenced the social and 
religious outlook of Islam in diverse ways. His intense prayers and devotion to 
God had purified his heart and revealed the divine secrets hitherto unknown to 

Despite the incessant messages by the Abbaside Caliph and the durbar of 
Saljuks, requesting him to guide the literary and educational pursuits in theiir 
dominions, Ghazali refused to have any truck with the Ruling class and carried 
on his teaching activities in his home town till his death. He met a dramatic end 
in 505 A.H. (1111-A.C.) at Tehran. As usual, he got up early on Monday, 
offered his prayers and sent for his coffin. He rubbed the coffin with his eyes, 
and said: "Whatever may be the order of my Lord, I am prepared to follow." 
Sa)dng this he .stretched his legs, and when people looked at him, he was dead. 

Ghazali set himself to study afresh the several systems of philosophy and 
theology and embodied his results in his works which were later translated into 
several European languages, especially in Latin. His books on Logic, Physics and 
Metaphysics became known through the translators of Toledo in the twelfth 
century A.C. According to Alfred Guillaume, "The Christian West became^ 
acquainted with Aristotle by way of Avicenna, Al Farabi and Alghazel, 
Gundisalvus's Encyclopaedia of Knowledge relies in the main on the infonnation 
he has drawn from Arabian sources." 

It is rather strange that Europe has paid greater attention to the works 
of Alghazali and preserved his invaluable literary and philosophical treasures. 

Hundred Grea t Muslims HI 

His celebrated work, Makasid ul Falasifa (the purpose of philosophy) in which 
he has nicely arranged the problems of Greek philosophy is not traceable in 
Islamic countries. A copy of it is available in the Imperial library of Spain, 
which has also been translated in the Spanish language. The book deals with 
different branches of philosophy namely logic, physics, ethics and metaphysics. 
Groshi, a German professor, has written a book about Alghazel in the German 
language, published in Berlin in 1858, in which he has quoted several pages out of 
Ghazali' Makasid-ul-Falasifa. A second book, entitled AlMankad min Alzalal, in 
which Ghazali has penned the changes of his religious ideas and the facts about 
prophethood, was published in Arabic alongwith its French translation in 
France and M. Pallia and M. Schmoelder wrote commentary on it. 

Ihya-ul-Uloom is the masterpiece of Ghazali. It is a classic by itself. Hardly 
any book can compete it in sincerity and effectiveness. Its ever>' word, every 
thought, pierces the heart. Ghazali wrote this book at a time when he was intoxi- 
cated with the wine of mysticism and had forgotten his worldly existence, 
hence he expressed his experiences and sentiments without fear or favour. 
Allama Naudi writes in Bustan that Ghazali was a prolific writer and despite 
his exceptionally busy life, he maintained an average of writing 16 pages a day. 
According to Mohaddis Zainul Abadin, "Ihya-ul-Uloom" ]& the nearest approach 
to the Holy Quran. Al-Ghazali did not content himself with intermingling 
philosophy and ethics, but he expounded the ethical science to such an extent 
that in comparison to it the Greek Ethics pales into insignificance and looks 
like a drop in an ocean. In "Ihya-ul-Uloom", he has freely dealt with and exposed 
the so-called philanthropists and social workers whose charitable and social 
actions are generally guided by selfish motives. He says : "A number of people 
build mosques, schools and inns and think they have done virtuous deeds. But 
the funds out of which the building in question was erected was obtained 
tlirough questionable means and, even if the money invested was earned through 
moral sources, the motive behind the construction was popularity and not the 
service of humanity." 

Ghazali diverted his attention towards the moral reformation of the 
nation. He tried to find out causes of social degeneration. He had a wide personal 
experience of the inner life of the ruling class as well as that of the religious 
heads and he has drawn his conclusions in these memorable words : "The morals 
of the subjects have deteriorated because the life of the ruling class has much 
degenerated which is ultimately, the result of the moral weakness of the religious 
leaders. The "Ulema" have sold their conscience in the lust of wealth and power." 

Islam has laid the foundations of politics, culture and ethics on religion. 
This is why the religious leaders in the 1st century A.H. used to rule over the 
diverse sects comprising the Muslim Nation and thus people maintained their 
high sense of morality. 

This high prestige of "Ulemas," to a certain extent, continued even up to 
the time of Ghazali and when Nizamul Mulk Toosi tried to obtain from the 

112 Hundred Great Muslims 

"Ulema" certificates for his services to Islam, Abu Ishaq Shirazi complimented 
only so much, "Nizamul-Mulk is somewhat better than other tyrants." Ghazsili 
tried to infuse the spirit of truth and straightforwardness in people's hearts. 
He freely and boldly propagated that it is the duty of the subjects to correct 
their ruler. Such interference in the affairs of the ruling class is not justified if 
it imperils the very existence of the state. If it endangers one's life only, it is 
virtuous. Such a person if killed for a noble cause will be a martyr. 

The entire ethical philosophy of Ghazali rests on the foundation of mysti- 
cism. He had himself experienced the different aspects of worldly life, namely 
scholastic discussions, pride of high office, popularity among people and pomp 
and wealth. He had realised the effects of such contacts on one's character. He 
has described these experiences in Ihya-ul-Uloom. The writings of Ghazali 
influenced such great writers like Maulana Room, Shaikhul Ashraq, Ibn Rushd 
and Shah Waliullah, who have reflected the rational ideas of Ghazali in their 
works. Even the eminent Persian poets like Attar, Roomi, Saadi, Hafiz and Iraqi 
derived their inspiration from the writings of Ghazali and he was mainliy 
responsible for infusing mysticism in Persian poetry and directing it towards 
right channels. He tried to reconcile the tenets of Islam with the teaching of 
prevailing philosophy and science. His masterpiece "Ihya-ul-Uloom" v/as widely 
read by Muslims, Jews and Chrbtians and influenced Thomas Aquinas and even 
Blaise Pascal. 

Ghazali, undoubtedly, is one of the greatest thinkers of Islam who has 
immensely contributed to cultivating the social, cultural, political, ethical and 
metaphysical outlook of Islam. 


The thirteenth century A.C. is a period of great calamity in the annals 
of Islam. The Muslim world had hardly recovered from the ravages of the long- 
drawn-out Crusades, when it experienced a worst catastrophe. The Muslim 
countries were overrun by the Mongol hordes, destroying the intellectual and 
cultural treasures amassed during centuries of Muslim rule, and massacring 
millions of Muslims. Baghdad, the dream city of the famous Arabian Nights, 
which was the intellectual and cultural Metropolis of Islam, nay of the whole 
world— was sacked by Hulaku Khan, the Mongol, in 1258 A.C. and its entire 
cultural and intellectual heritage was burnt to cinders or thrown into the Tigris. 

In such period of turmoil and holocaust was born Ibn Taimiya, a great 
religious thinker, who substantially and significantly influenced the subsequent 
Muslim thought. An independent thinker and an ardent believer in the freedom 
of conscience, one who was disputed by some but venerated by aU, his life and 
works have since been a source of inspiration to aU. His was a heroic life, which 
punctuated with trials and tribulations, sorrows and sufferings, was dedicated 
to the cause of religion, truth and the supremacy of individual conscience. 

Young Ibn Taimiya, bom in Harran, fled from the fear of Mongol hordes 
and arrived along with his parents in Damascus in 1268 A.C. He was hardly six 
years old at this time. Endowed with exceptional intelligence, penetrating 
intellect and wonderful memory, Ibn Taimiya mastered, at an early age, aU 
the existing sciences, religious and rational jurisprudence, theology, logic and 
pMosophy. This gave him the lead among all his contemporaries. In this, he was 
assisted and educated by his father, an eminent scholar of Hanbali Fiqh. Besides, 
he benefited from the learned discourses of Zain-al-E>in Ahmad, al-Muqaddasi. 

In 1282 A.C. when his father died, Ibn Taimiya succeeded him as the 
Professor of Hanbali Law and occupied this post with rare distinction for about 
17 years. But his independent thinking, later won him the hostility of Shaflte 
scholars and cost him his post. But, by this time, he had acquired immense 
popularity in the world of Islam and was commissioned to preach jViad against 
the Mongols who had overrun Syria and captured Damascus. IBs preachings 
galvanised the populace and obliged the Sultan of Egypt, Sultan al-Nasir, to take 
up arms against the so-called invincible Mongols. In a fierce battle at Marj-as- 
Siifar, in 1302 A.C. in which Ibn Taimiya fought valiantly, the Mongols were 
routed with heavy losses. 


114 Hundred Great Muslims 

Thenceforward, till his death, began a period of severe trials and tribula- 
tions for him. His independent views proved the bane of his life. He provoked 
opposition from many quarters and antagonised many divines. In 1307 A.C. 
he was imprisoned for four years along with his two brothers for attributing 
human characteristics to God. On release he was appointed Professor in a Cairo 
school founded by the Sultan of Egypt. 

He' was, however, allowed to return to Damascus after seven years and 
reinstated in the post of Professor of which he had been relieved. But soon Ids 
serious differences with the Sultan on religious matters again led him to prison 
in 1320 A.C. for a few months. 

A beUever in the supremacy of the individual conscience, his independent 
thinking was not palatable to the orthodox and conventionalist Muslims. His 
virulent denunciation of the practice of worshipping saints and those who 
followed them resulted in the wrath of the Sultan who imprisoned him in 
the citadel of Damascus in 1326 A.C. Here he devoted himself to writing a 
commentary on the Holy Quran and other pamphlets on a number of 
controversial issues. He died in 1327 A.C. in prison. The news of his death cast a 
gloom over Damascus, and some 200,000 people including 15,000 women 
participated in his furneral. The funeral prayer was led by Ibn-al-Wardi. 

The greatness of Ibn Taimiya lay in his selflessness and independent 
thinking. He was one of the greatest mujtahids Islam has produced, one who 
rejected 'taqleed' and even 'Ijma. ' Belonging to the Hanbali School, he faithfully 
followed the Quran and Sunnah and like his religious ancestor, Imam Hanbal, 
he was uncompromising and an inveterate anthropomorphist. 

The Greek sciences and arts were translated during the Abbasside period. 
Their problems were reconciled by Ibn Taimiya with the Islamic doctrines under 
the pressing demands of the new converts to Islam. 

His greatest service to Islam lay in his impressing upon the people the 
necessity of their adopting the simplicity and purity of early Islam and impli- 
citly following the Quran and the Sunnah. The basic principles of Ibn Taimiya's 
thoughts were :— 

(1) Revelation is the only source of knowledge in religious matters. 
Reason and intuition are but dependable sources, 

(2) The consensus of opinion of competent scholars during the first 
three centuries of Islam also contributed to the understanding of 
the fundament^s of Islam besides the Quran and Sunnah, and 

(3) Quran and Suimah are the only authentic guides in all niatters. 

He discarded and emphatically denounced the corrupting foreign influence. 

Hundred Great Muslims 115 

which polluted the purity and simplicity of early Islam. It was from Ibn Taimiya 
that Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab, a great thinker of the 18th Century, and the 
al-Manar Reform School in Egypt, took inspiration in this matter. 

His hostility to the Muslim exponents of Greek philosophy was most 
pronounced. Philosophy, according to him, engendered scepticism and caused 
schisms in Mam. He subjected Ibn-al-Arabi's doctrine of the Unity of Being to 
a most severe criticism. In his opinion, Ibn-al-Arabi's conclusion in this respect 
was not only contrary to the teachings of the Prophet but also not in 
conformity with the doctrine of the Unity of God as contained in the Quran and 

Ibn Taimiya stands as one of the most controversial figures in Islam. An 
independent thinker, who believed in the supremacy of individual conscience 
and one who wanted to see Islam in its pristine glory, he subjected all later 
impurities and foreign influences which had crept into Islam to most scathing 
criticism. For this he was denounced, beaten, lashed, imprisoned and put to all 
soits of mental and physical tortures. But his was a daring spirit which lived up 
to his convictions, notwithstanding the persecution to which he was subjected 
from time to time. 



A caravan bound for Baghdad from Gilan (Iran) encountered a band of 
robbers. There was exchange of fire for a while but the members of the caravan 
were soon overpowered by the superior might of the brigands. Then search and 
looting followed. One by one each member of the caravan was relieved of his 
valuables. A few robbers at last came upon a simple looking poor boy sitting 
quietly at one side. They enquired from him : "Have you got anything with you?" 

"Yes", replied the boy, "I have forty dinars." The robbers searched him 
thoroughly, his bedding and clothes, but found nothing. They thought that the 
boy was bluffing and went forward to search other persons. 

After the search was over the robbers reported the strange boy to their 
Chief. Immediately, he was summoned before the Chief who asked him: "You 
say, you have forty dinars with you." "Yes," replied the boy. 

"Where are they?", demanded the Chief. 

Instantly, the boy tore open a portion of his jacket and took out forty 
dinars to the utter surprise of the robbers. 

"Why did you disclose your precious property? If you had told otherwise, 
none would have suspected you," enquired the Chief. 

"I was instructed by my mother, who had stitched these dinars in my 
jacket, never to speak a lie," replied the boy. 

The Chief of the robbers was stunned by the strange behaviour of the 
boy, who carried out the wish of his mother by speaking the truth. This was a 
novel experience for him, and became a turning point in his life. He thought: 
"This boy is so obedient to his mother, while I am disobedient even to my 
Creator." The Chief was moved to the inner-most depth of his heart and tears 
rolled down his eyes. 

He returned all the looted property to the members of the caravan and 
renounced the Ufe of a robber. 


120 Hundred Great Muslims 

The name of this strange boy was Abdul Qadir. He rose to be the greatest 
saint in the world of Islam and is known by the title of "Bare Pir Sahib" (The 
Great Saint) among the Muslims. He is universally recognised as the "Purifier of 
religion" of the evil influences which had crept into Islam after the "Pious" 
Caliphs and one who in his person reflected a delightful harmony of "Shariat" 
(Tenets of Islam) and 'Tariqat ' (Spiritualism). 

The Muslim world, during the later part of the 11th century A.C., was 
passing through a period of great turmoU and turbulence. It was a period of 
political as well as moral decadence. 

The golden days of Abbaside CaUphate were over and Govenraient had 
passed into the hands of weak and effete Caliphs who had given themselves to a 
life of pleasure and luxury. 

The diabolical Carmathian sect was engaged in their murderous activities 
and chased the high personages of Islam with their daggers. A number of great 
Muslims including Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi had fallen victims to their daggers but 
n6 Muslim ruler was powerful enough to stop their nefarious activities. 

The rationalism of MutazeUites in religious matters, which was earlier 
patronised by powerful Abbaside Caliphs, Mamoon and Mutasim, had dealt 
a grievous blow to Islamic spiritualism. 

In such a gloomy atmosphere was bom Abdul Qadir Jilani who, with 
his extraordinary abiUties, brought harmony between Shariat (tenets of Islam) 
and Tariqat (Spiritualism) which restored to the misguided Muslims of his time 
both the form and spirit of Islam. 

Abdul Qadir was bom on the first of Ramazan, 47 1 A.H., in a pious Syed 
family of Gilan (Iran). His father, Abu Swaleh, an extremely virtuous person, 
was married to the equally saintly daughter of Syed Abdullah Saumai, a well- 
known divine of his time. 

An interesting story is narrated about their marriage. It is said that AIju 
Swaleh was sitting by the side of a river. He had not eaten anything for several 
days. He sighted an apple floating down the stream. He caught hold of it and ate 
it. But immediately afterwards, he repented it and thought that he had no right 
to eat an apple without the permission of the garden-owner to whom it belonged. 
He set out to find out the garden-owner and obtain his pardon. After covering 
about eight miles up the stream, he came across an apple garden belonging to 
Saint Syed Abdullah Saumai, to whom he begged his pardon for the unauthori- 
%d eating of the apple. The Saint Saumai, himself a pious person, was astounded 
by the exhibition of such piety and promised to pardon him if Abu Swaleh 
would marry his blind, dumb and paralytic daughter. Abu Swaleh had to agree 
to it. 

Hundred Great Muslims 121 

But, when he entered the bride's apartment he found a charming healthy 
girl instead of the reported crippled daughter of Syed Saumai. He, therefore, 
abstained from approaching her until assured by his father-in-law that the 
description he had given was only allegorical, explaining that his daughter was 
blind because she had never cast her eyes on any undesirable object; she was 
dumb because she had never uttered any undesirable word and she was paralytic 
because she had never set her foot outside her house. 

Fatima, the pious wife of Syed Swaleh, gave birth to a son in 471 A.H., 
when she was 60 years old. The birth of the child, named Abdul Qadir, at the 
advanced age of his mother was considered a great Divine blessing. It is said that 
the newly -born child did not suck the milk of his mother during the day time 
in the month of Ramazan (Month of Fasting). 

Abdul Qadir lost his father at an early age. He was brought up and given 
elementary education by his venerable maternal grandfather and saintly mother. 
Wltien he was 17 years old, he was sent to Baghdad for higher studies. 

In Baghdad, a great centre of Islamic learning in those days, Abdul Qadir 
became the favourite pupil of Allama Abu Zakariya Tabrezi, Principal of the 
Jamia Nizamiah. He studied there for 8 years and acquired mastery in all 
branches of learning. During this period, young Abdul Qadir had to pass a life 
of trials and tribulations. Though languishing under starvation he loathed 
begging food from anyone. 

Having completed his education, Syed Abdul Qadir set out to acquire 
spiritual training. He spent scores of years, undergoing the rigours of spiritual 
life, and passing his time in meditation and search of truth and God. He, at last, 
became a disciple of Sheikh Abu Saeed Mukhzumi, a renowned saint of his 

The great Saint settled down in Baghdad and devoted the rest of his life 
to the service of Islam and mankind. He was endowed with the fluent tongue 
of a great orator. His lectures, enriched by his worldly education and spiritual 
insight attracted large gatherings, numbering 70 to 80 thousand people at a 
time. These lectures were attended by high dignitaries of the Abbaside Caliphate, 
including the Caliph himself, and also by non-Muslims who embraced Islam in 
large numbers. 

The conflict between the exponents of Shariat (tenets) and Tariqat' 
(spiritualism) assumed alarming proportions after the Rous Caliphs and a 
balance could not be maintained between the two. The religious rationalism of 
Mutazilla struck at the spirit of Islam. The patronage and championship of 
Mutazilla doctrines by the powerful Abbaside Caliphs, Mamoon and Mutasim, 
threatened the religion of the Prophet of Islam. This led to the persecution of 
Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal by the Abbaside Caliph. 

122 Hundred Great Muslims 

The celebrated Imam Ghazali, after his spiritual transformation, tried to 
strike a balance between the tenets and spiritualism of Islam. But, he was more a 
scholar than a spiritual thinker and, therefore, confined himself more to the 
precepts than to the practice of spiritualism. 

It was Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani who struck a middle course between-the 
two extremes— spiritualism of Mansur Hallaj and rationalism of Mutazilla. In 
him Shariat (tenets) and Tariqat (Spiritualism) have their fullest expression. 
His person contained a delightful balance between the two. He is, therefore, 
called "Mohiuddin," meaning purifier of religion. In Fiqh, he followed Imam 
Ahmad bin Hanbal. 

His writings are as effective and remarkable as his speeches. His "Fatuh-al- 
Gheyb, " is a remarkable book on mysticism. It was translated by Shah Abdul 
Haq Dehlavi into Persian and by several scholars into Urdu. His other well- 
known book in "Ghinyat-ul-Talibin " which has also been translated into Urdu. 
It is a comprehensive book dealing with the principles of Shariat and Tariqat. 
His third book "Fath-al-Rabbani" containing summaries of his lectures and 
discourses has been translated into Persian. His verses are replete with Divine 

Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani passed a simple, pious and regulated life. He 
spent his days in preaching the true principles of Islam and nights in prayers 
and meditation. His life was a model of simplicity, selflessness and truthfulness. 
He used to take very simple food, consisting of barley bread and vegetables, 
cooked without any kind of fat. He was kind to the common people and 
translated into practice the saying of the Prophet of Islam : "The best person is 
one who loves and serves mankind most." 

This greatest of all divines and mystic saints of Islarti breathed his last on 
the 1 1th Rabi-us-Sani, 561 A.H., at the age of 91 years. His death cast a gloom 
over the world of Islam but his life and teachings will ever illuminate the hearts 
of Muslims. 


The rays of Islam which had illuminated Arabia had begun to penetrate 
into the distant parts of Iraq, Syria, Persia and even Turkistan. A new sect of 
sufis (mystics) who believed in renunciation of worldly pleasures by cultivating 
Islamic spiritualism through self-mortification, had sprung up and had produced 
some eminent Sufis in Iraq and Persia like Rabia Basri, Hasan Basri, Abdul Wahid 
arid Bayazid Bustami. These sufis carried the message of Islam to the distant 
parts of the world and were, to a great extent, responsible for attracting the 
heathens to the new faith (Islam). 

Hazrat imam Jafar Sadiq, the great grandson of Caliph Hazrat Ali, was a 
versatile genius, who combined in him the worldly as well as spiritual learning. 
He is universally recognised as the fountain head of sufism, from whom spring 
different sects of sufism. He had entrusted the robe of Naqshbandia sect of 
sufism to Bayazid Bustami. 

Abu Yazid Taifur bin Isa bin Adam bin Surushan was born in 128 A.H. 
746 A.C. in the town of Bustam. His great grandfather was a Zorastrian who had 
embraced Islam. 

The young Abu Yazid Taifur had a touch of future greatness in him and 
unlike all other children, he did not take part in games and frivolities. He passed 
most of his time in seclusion and meditation. When he grew up, he renounced 
tlie world and roamed about in quest of inner peace and spiritualism. He 
obtained guidance and inspiration from 113 spiritual teachers of his time which 
irtcluded Imam Jafar Sadiq and Shafiq Balkhi. 

He led an ascetic life and was the first to introduce the doctrine of Fana 
(Nirvana). His followers are called Tifuriya or Bustamiya. 

He studied Hanifite law before subscribing to the tenets of sufism. 
He taught some parts of it to Abu Ali al-Sindi, from whom in return he had 
instructions in the highest precepts of sufism and the doctrine of Fana. 

Bayazid is universally recognised as one of the greatest sufis. "He 
combined strict ascerticism and reverence for religious law with an extra- 
ordinary power of intellectual and imaginative speculation. His attempt to reach 


124 Hundred Great Muslims 

absolute unity by a negative process of abstraction, Fana Fil. Tauhid, is pursued 
relentlessly to a point where, having denunded himself of personality like a 
snake which casts off its skin, he assumes Divine attributes and cries: Glory to 
me." (Encyclopaedia of Islam j. 

His sayings are "Twelve years I was the smith of myself and five years 
the mirror of my heart." 

He breathed his last in 877 A.C., at the age of 131 years and was buried 
at Bustam. A magnificent tomb was erected on his grave in 1301 A.C. by the 
Mongol Sultan, Uljaitu Muhammad Khudabanda, whose spiritual teacher. 
Sheikh Sharfuddin was a descendant of Bayazid Bustami. His tomb is a popular 
place of pilgrimage of Muslims drawn from all parts of the world. 

His disciples and followers, known as Taifiiris formed a school of Sufism 
which, according to Hazrat Hujwairi, the author of "Kashf d-Mahjoob, " was 
opposed to the sect of Junaid Baghdad!, in preparing mystical intoxication 
(Sukr) to mystical sobriety (sahw). 

Hazrat Bayazid, one of the greatest sufis, is held in great reverence by 
Muslims all over the world. According to another well-known sufi, Hazrat 
Junaid Baghdadi, "Bayazid occupies the same status among sufis which Gibrael 
occupies among angels." 


Ghazni, the Queen of the East; presented a gala appearance, when Sultan 
Mahmood, after his memorable victory against the combined Hindu forces at 
Somnath in 1026 A.C. returned to his Capital. He was accompanied by a large 
retinue loaded with treasures of Hindustan, including the sandal wood gate of 
the famous temple at Somnath. The populace of the Ghaznavide Metropolis had 
come out to accord an unprecedented welcome to the great conqueror. 

The Sultan held a grand Durbar in which some of the rare exhibits brought 
from Hindustan were exhibited to the excited populace of the Capital city. 
Tliese included a Hindu Savant (philosopher) who was known for his deep 
knowledge and erudition. There seemed hardly anyone in the Ghaznavide Court 
who could challenge him. At last, a young man of 20 years, stepped forward to 
cliallenge the Hindu philosopher and in the presence of the Sultan, he "utterly 
discomfited him by an exhibition of miraculous powers". The young man was 
Syed Ali Hujweri, better known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, who was destined to 
play an important role in the spiritual life of the sub-continent. 

Syed Abul Hasan ibn Osman ibn Ali al-Jullabi al-Ghaznavi al-Hujweri, 
surnamed as "Data Ganj Bakhsh," was born in 1009 A.C, at Hujwer, a suburb of 
Ghazni. He was a Hasani Syed, whose family had migrated from Arabia during 
thie Omayyad regime and settled down in Iran and later in Afghanistan. 

He was given a thorough education in different branches of learning. His 
teachers included Abul Abbas bin Muhammad Shaqani, a learned pious Muslim. 
He received his spiritual education and training from Abul Fazal Muhamiiiad bin 
Hasan Khatli who belonged to the Junaidia order of the Sufis. 

Syed Abul Hasan, during his early life, undertook an extensive tour of the 
world'of Islam in search of truth and spiritualism. He visited Iraq, Iran, Turkistan, 
Egypt, Syria and Hejaz, offered fateha at the tombs of well-known pious 
Muslims and met several living Sufi saints. 

Data Saheb in his well-known work Kashful Mahjub has given some details 
of his spiritual experience of Kashf. Once, during his travels he came across in a 
village of Khorasan a convent of Sufis. Data Saheb who was wearing a rough 
dark gown with a staff in his hand and a leather bottle hung across his shoulder 


126 Hundred Great Muslims 

did not present a respectable appearance to the Sufis. He was lodged on the 
ground floor while the Sufls made merry in a comfortable upper floor room, 
eating sweet smelling food, giving only crumbs to their guest, and they also 
pelted him with skins of melons which they ate. This was to impress upon Data 
Saheb how lightly they thought of him. This strange behaviour of the so-called 
'Sufis' taught Data Saheb humility and forbearance and the meaning of kashf 
which are the essential attributes of Sufis. 

Data Saheb, who was a disciple of Abul Fazal Muhammad bin Hasan 
Khatli belonged to Junaidia sect of Sufis. He was much benefited from the long 
line of saints of this sect who inspired and thus shaped his spiritual life. 

Once, Data Saheb saw the Holy Prophet of Islam in a dream. He implored 
the Prophet to give him a word of advice. The Prophet said: "imprison your 
tongue and your senses". Acting on this invaluable advice. Data Saheb reached 
the heights of spiritualism. According to him, the imprisonment of tongue means 
complete self-mortification. Imprisoning of senses meant shutting the door to 
all sorts of impurities and the subordination of physical senses to spiritual well 
being. This enabled him to distinguish between pure and impure, virtue and evil 
and climb the heights of spiritual glory. 

Having accomplished the spiritual maturity through extensive travels in 
Islamic countries, meeting a number of Sufi saints and undergoing rigorous 
spiritual discipline, he was directed by his Pir (Spiritual Teacher), H^rat al-Khatl 
to proceed to Lahore. According to Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, as stated in Fuad- 
ul-Fawad, Data Saheb expressed surprise at the order as his spiritual brother 
Shaikh Zanjani was already there, but his Pir asked him to comply with the 
order without questioning. Data Saheb, therefore, reached Lahore probably in 
1034 or 1035 A.C. and the first thing he came across at Lahore was the funeral 
of Shaikh Zanjani. He led the funeral prayer of his brother disciple and at that 
moment it dawned upon him why his Pir (Spiritual Teacher) had directed him to 
proceed to Lahore. 

The exemplary spiritual life led by Data Saheb and his impressive discourses 
brought a large number of non-Muslims into the fold of Islam. These included 
Rai Raju, who was the Administrator of Sultan Maudud ibn Masood Ghaznavi 
at Lahore. He was given the nickname of Shaikh Hindi and his descendents 
continued to be the keeper of the Tomb of Data Saheb at Lahore till 1960. 
In January 1960 it was taken over by the Auqaf Department, Government of 
the Punjab, Lahore. 

Data Saheb did not like the un-Islamic pra<itices which had been creeping 
into the fold of Sufism. He strictly adhered to the Shariat of Islam and piu-ified 
Sufism from unhealthy un-Islamic trends. The conception that a beggar was a 
parasite on society was opposed by Data Saheb who held that paying of alms 
was obligatory on persons and the beggar who received the alms, in 
fact, relieved a brother Muslim of his obligation, and thus should be thanked 
rather than condemned. 

Hundred Grea t Muslims 127 

Data Saheb who was also a poet has written a number of books including 
Kashful Mahjub, Minhajuddin, Kitab Al-Fana-wal-Baqa and Bahr-ul-Kulub. But, 
of these, the most outstanding is Kashful Mahjub (The Revelation of Mystery) 
which is recognised as the first book on Sufism written in Persian/This has been 
translated into several languages, including English and Urdu. Professor Reynold 
A. Nicholson rendered the first English translation of the book which was 
published in 1911. A number of Urdu translation of this book were published, 
including one by Moulvi Ferozuddin, founder of Ferozsons Ltd., in 1893 and 
another by Shaikh Muhammad [qbal. 

A number of eminent Sufi saints, including Nizamuddin Aulia and Syed 
Jehangir Ashraf Samnani speak highly of this book. The book, which is divided 
into 25 Chapters deals with the multifarious spiritual experiences of the learned 
author. In the first chapter, he defines knowledge and classifies it into human 
and Divine. The second chapter deals with poverty, the third with Sufism, the 
fourteenth discusses various orders of the Sufis and their doctrines and at the 
end of the book he justifies Sama (audition). He says, if audition produces, a 
lawful and healthy effect on the mind, it is permitted. 

Writing in the Preface of Kashful Mahjub, Prof. Nicholson says: "The 
object is to set forth a complete system of Sufism, not to put together a great 
number of sayings of different Shaykhs.but to discuss and expound the doctrines 
and practices of Sufis. 

The author's attitude throughout is that of a teacher, instructing a 
pupil .... His exposition of Sufi doctrine and practice is distinguished not only 
by wide learning and first hand knowledge but also by strongly personal character 
impressed on everything he writes". 

The author of Punjab-men-Urdu, Mr. Mahmud Sherani has credited Data 
Saheb with the origination of Urdu language, by bringing about a synthesis 
between Persian and the local dialects. 

Data Saheb, died at Lahore in 465 A.H. or 1072 A.C., as given by most of 
the historians and was buried there. 

Data Saheb, an eminent Sufi saint, scholar, poet and philosopher has 
contributed towards bridging the gulf between orthodox theology and Sufism. 
The celebrated Saint of Ajmer, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, known as Sultan-ul- 
Hind spent forty days of seclusion and meditation at the Shrine of Data Saheb 
and it was there that he got the spiritual illumination. The Saint of Ajmer, 
standing at Data Saheb's grave expressed himself in verses. 

"Thou art Ganj Bakhsh, the bestower of treasures in both the worlds ; 
"Thou art the manifestation of the glory of God ; 
"Thou art an accomplished guide for those who are perfect ; and 
"Thou showeth the way to those who stray." 


The Indo-Pakistan sub-continent ruled for about a thousand years by the 
Muslims has witnessed many vicissitudes. Great empires have risen and fallen, 
pompous emperors and mighty conquerors have appeared on the Indian soil 
and have gone. Their mortal remains enshrined in magnificent tombs scattered 
all over the sub-continent have become relics of the past. But the tomb of 
Khwaja Mueenuddin Chishti, the saint of Ajmer and the uncrowned spiritual 
monarch of the sub-continent who still reigns over the hearts of millions of 
people, is the popular place of pilgrimage of the Muslims drawn from all parts of 
the world. 

Khwaja Sahib, popularly known as "Gharib Nawaz" (Benefactor of the 
Poor), had earned this title due to his service to humanity and love for the poor 
and downtrodden. A man of indomitable will and dauntless courage, he dedicated 
his life to the love of God and His creatures. He achieved his mission despite 
insuperable obstacles and insurmountable difficulties. 

Khwaja Mueenuddin Chishti was born in Siestan (Southern Iran) on Rajab 
14, 530 A.H. i.e. 1 142 A.C. He was a Husaini Syed from his father's side and a 
Hasani Syed from his mother's side. His father, Syed Ghiasuddin Ahmad was a 
very learned devout person. He carried on a modest business and owned an 
orchard. His father who had migrated to Khorasan, died at Neshapur in 545 A.H. 
leaving behind him an orchard and a flour mill. Khwaja Mueenuddin was then 
hardly 15 years old. 

The Muslim world at this time was passing through a critical period of its 
history. The Abbaside Caliphate of Baghdad was tottering. The Caliph, sunk in a 
life of pomp and pleasure exercised little hold over the once vast empire, whose 
far-flung parts were getting independent of the Central control. B^dad, 
however, the Metropolis of the Caliphate, was still the cultural, spiritual and 
educational centre of Islam. 

The young Khwaja soon came under the influence of Sufi Ibrahiiin 
Qandozi. He sold his orchard and the mill, distributed the money among thie 
poor and embarked up on a spiritual pilgpmage which in itself makes a 
fascinating story, deserving to be better known in detail. 


Hundred Great Muslims 129 

He set out on his noble mission to establish the kingdom of God on earth. 
His life provides a beacon light to all those struggling for a noble cause. In this 
difficult task, he was assisted in the end by a few disciples but throughout he 
was without any worldly means whatsoever. 

In the Shawwal of 560 A.H., the Khwaja became a disciple of Hazrai 
Usman Harooni, follower of Khwaja Ishaq Ghani Chishti, founder of the Chishtia 
Order. Khwaja Sahib served his teacher for 20 years, spending most of his time 
in prayers and meditation. This was the period of his preparation for the great 
mission lying ahead of him. 

Thereafter, taking leave of Khwaja Ishaq Ghani, he proceeded to the Holy 
cities of Makkah and Medina for pilgrimage. On accomplishing this task, he went 
to Sanjar and met Sheikh Najmuddin Kubra and stayed with him for IVi years. 
Thence he proceeded to Gilan, where he paid his respects to the celebrated Saint 
Ha/.rat Abdul Qadir Jilani, founder of the Qadiria Order, and along with him 
came to Baghdad. Here he met Sheikh Ziauddin and Shahabuddin Suhrawardy 
(founder of the Siihrawardia Order), the two well-known spiritual luminaries 
of Baghdad. 

Passing through Hamdan and Tabrez and meeting men like Khwaja Yusuf 
Hamdani, Abu Saeed Tabrezi and Sheikh Mahmood Isfahani. he arrived in 
Isfahan, where he came across Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, who later 
became his chief lieutenant and after his death, accomplished Iris mission in 

From Isfahan, Khwaja Sahib proceeded to Astrabad. Here he met Sheikh 
Nasiruddin, a learned Saint of the area. Leaving Astrabad, he arrived in Herat, 
where he tackled and reformed the tyrant Governor, Yadgar Muhammad, vvho 
oppressed his people. 

From Sabzwar he arrived in Balkh where he met the celebrated Muslim 
scholar Hakim Ziauddin, who eventually became his disciple. From there, 
Khwaja Sahib went to Ghazni and waited for the call. Farlier, he had seen the 
Holy Prophet in his dream who blessed him and ordained him to go to India. 

Khwaja Sahib arrived in Lahore, in about 586 A.H., where he performed 
Chilla (meditation and prayers) at the Shrine of Hazrat Sheikh .Abiil Hasan Ali 
Hujwiri, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh. Leaving Lahoie, he went to 
Multan, in those days the seat of Islamic learning in India and stayed there for 
five years to learn Sanskrit and Prakrit. From there, he proceeded to Delhi, 
arriving there in 1193 A.C. and from there he went to Ajmer, where he settled 
down for the rest of his life and which later formed the nerve centre of his 
activities. He died at Ajmer in 1236 A.C. 

Ajmer in those days was the Capital of the most powerful Hindu Slate of 
the sub-continent ruled by Frith vi Raj Rathore. He was ordained to strike against 

130 Hundred Great Muslims 

the strongest citadel of autocracy in India. At first no notice was taken of the 
great Muslim Saint, but, soon his piety and love of mankind began to attract 
large number of people who vied with each other in embracing Islam. This vkras 
an alarm signal for the Hindu Raja. 

Khwaja Sahib paid a deaf ear to the temptations and threats of the auto- 
cratic Hindu ruler designed to deflect him from the righteous path. He was not 
made of ordinary human metal. At last the celebrated Hindu magician, Jogi Jai 
Pal was sent to combat him. But his magical acrobats were of no avail before the 
spiritual power of Khwaja Sahib, and these only recoiled upon his own head. 
Overawed, he embraced Islam and became a well-known disciple of the Saint. 

Alarmed at the success of Khwaja Sahib and his growing popularity among 
the masses, the autocratic Ruler of Ajmer ordered him to leave his territory. His 
reply was : "Give us time and we will see", and when questioned by his anxious 
companions he said : "We are going to hand over this arrogant ruler as a prisoner 
to a neighbouring King." It is said that Shahabuddin Ghauri, who, a year before, 
had sustained a crushing defeat at the hands of Prithvi Raj Rathore, the ruler of 
Ajmer, saw Khwaja Sahib in a dream who ordered him to invade India and 
assured him of victory. 

Accordingly, Shahabuddin Ghauri made preparations, invaded India, 
defeated Prithvi Raj and captured him alive. 

Khwaja Sahib carried on his proselytising activities from Ajmer for about 
half a century. During his lifetime, the Slave Dynasty had established its rule in 
Northern India which also included Ajmer and the celebrated Slave Kings, Sultan 
Qutbuddin and Sultan Iltimush who were devotees of Khwaja Sahib held him in 
great esteem. 

The great Muslim Saint breathed his last on the 6th of Rajab, 633 A.H. 
(March 1236 A.D.) at the ripe age of 97. He was buried at Ajmer and mourned 
by the Muslims and Hindus alike. His sacred tomb, since that time, forms the 
popular place of pilgrimage of kings and commoners alike. 

Khwaja Sahib was acclaimed as the spiritual head of the sub-continent, 
loved and adored by all. The glory of Islam in India, was to a large extent, due 
to the spiritual teachings of Khwaja Mueenuddin and his disciples. 

Khwaja Sahib was known for his piety, simplicity and humanitarianism. 
Once a non-Muslim came with the intention of killing him. Khwaja Sahib got 
fore-knowledge of it through his mystic power. As soon as the intending assassin 
stepped in, he asked him to take out his dagger and kill him. Utterly non-plussed, 
the man threw off the dagger and implored Khwaja Sahib to punish him for his 
evil intentions. Khwaja Sahib told him that it was customary with sufis to return 
evil with good. Thereupon, Khwaja Sahib prayed for him and He lived and died 
as a good pious Muslim. 

Hundred Great Muslims 131 

Khwaja Sahib had greatest regard for his neighbours. Whenever a 
neighbour died, he attended his funeral prayers and prayed for his soul. 

The Muslim rulers of India had great love and regard for this illustrious 
Muslim Saint. When Salim (Jahangir) was bom, Akbar, the famous Mughal 
Emperor, went on foot from Agra to Ajmer to offer his thanks-givings to the 
Saint of Ajmer. Mughal Emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb visited 
Ajmer several times and lavished their bounty on the residents of this sacred 
city. Jahangir used to walk in Ajmer barefooted. Jahan Ara, the talented 
daughter of Shah Jahan, considered herself a spiritual disciple of the Saint and 
never slept on a cot while in the city. She wrote a book : 'Moonis-ul-Arwah ' 
describing the lineage of Chishtia Saints in which she states that she used to 
apply the dust lying near the grave of the Saint to her eyes. 

Khwaja Sahib is the author of several books including 'Anisul Arwah, 
(giving details of his 28 meetings with his spiritual teacher Sheikh Usman 
Harooni) and 'Dalil-ul-Arfin '. 

j\mong his recorded sayings are : 

A true Muslim befriends three things, namely— 

"Abstinence, disease and death". 

"One who helps the needy is a friend of God". 

"The highest spiritualism is to remember one's death". 


The royal bed of Ibrahim bin Adham, Ruler of Balkh, was carpetted with 
roses each night. 

One night, the maid servant, entrusted with the work, was tempted to lie 
down on it for a while. Unfortunately she soon fell asleep and was shaken out 
of her slumber, on experiencing the whips intlicted by the Ruler. 

The maid servant stood up staggering. 

"What made you sleep on the. royal bed"? cried King Ibrahim. 

She was speechless for a moment and then burst into sardonic laughter. 

The King became furious and enquired the cause of her unusual laughter. 

"Sir", replied the maid servant, "1 had hardly slept for a while on the royal 
bed, when 1 received three or four wliips on my tender body. I wonder what 
punishment you will get from God for sleeping on this bed every night". 

Ibrahim bin Adham was much struck by the blunt and satirical reply of his 
maid servant. He was mentally upset and disquieted: and brooded over the 
provocative, spontaneous remark of his maid who lashed him at his weakest spot. 
Under the impact of this eye-opener he gave up many of his royal comforts and 
pleasures. Henceforward, he devoted much of his time to the welfare of his 
people and prayers to God. 

One night, when he was praying, he felt someone walking on the roof of 
his palace. He went upstairs and found a person searching something there. 

"What are you searching here?" enquired King Ibrahim. 

"My camel", was the instant reply. 

Ibrahim laughed ! "Are you mad ? 

"You are searching your camel on the roof of the royal palace". 

Hundred Great Muslims 133 

"For your part, you are searching God in the Royal Palace", retorted the 

The incident produced a deep effect on the mind of King Ibrahim. He 
renounced his throne, became a hermit, and set out in quest of spiritual peace 
and Divine truth. All that he carried with him was a tumbler, a blanket and a 
pillow. He had hardly gone a few miles when he observed a man drinking water 
with his scooped hands. Instantly, he threw off the tumbler, thinking it to be 

When he went further, he found a man sleeping, using his arms as a pillow. 
He cast away the pillow, carried by him, considering it to be equally useless. A 
little further, he saw, another man sleeping without covering his body with a 
blanket. Ibrahim, thereupon, gave away his blanket as well. 

Now he had no worldly belongings left with him. He roamed about in 
different countries in quest of Divine truth. He now yearned for a spiritual 
teacher who could lead him to the path of Divine Reality. 

At last he called on the famous Sufi Saint, Ha/ rat Bayazid Bustami, and 
requested him to accept him as his disciple. 

Hazrat Bayazid told him that he would have to undergo a period of 
prayers and severe test. Ibrahim readily agreed. 

He was asked by the Sufi Saint, to bring logs of firewood from the forest. 
One day, the Saint instructed his maid servant to inform Ibrahim that the 
firewood he brought was not dry and caused a lot of smoke while cooking food. 

This embittered Ibrahim and he cried, "Had you been in my State, I would 
have flogged you to death for this impertinent complaint". 

When Bayazid came to know of Ibrahim's reaction to the complaint, he 
observed that he had not forgotten his regal life and required further test. 

A few months later, the Sufi Saint asked his maid servant to give coarser 
food to Ibrahim. 

Ibrahim took this food without grumbling but his dislike for it was visible 
from his facial expressions. 

The maid servant reported the incident to the Saint, who remarked that 
Ibrahim required further training. 

After a few months, the Saint observed that a person unknowingly threw a 
basket of dust on Ibrahim, but he did not protest to it. Bayazid Bustami was 
much pleased with the transformation of Ibrahim and conferred on him his robe 
of Khilafat. 

134 Hundred Great Muslims 

After his conversion to Suflsm, Ibrahim migrated to Syria and until his 
death worked and lived by his labour. 

The anecdotes -and sayings of Ibrahim recorded by his biographers show 
that he was an ascetic, but believed in earning his living through hard labour and 
not living on charity. 

Like ancient Sufis, he took every care that his food was not impure in thie 
religious sense of the word. He condemned begging as a means of livelihood and, 
on the other hand, supported himself by gardening reaping, and grinding wheat, 
etc. He did not carry the doctrine of Tawakkul to the point of refusing to 
earn his livelihood. He said! "There are two kinds of begging. A man may beg at 
people's doors, or he may say, 'I frequent the mosque and pray and fast and 
worship God and accept whatever is given to me'. This is the worse of the two 
types. Such a person is an importunate beggar". 

Some of his sayings are : 

(1) "Poverty is a treasure which God keeps in Heaven and bestows on 
those whom He loves". 

(2) "This is the sign of one who loves God that his chief care is goodness 
and devotion and his words are mostly in praise and glorification of 

In a reply to Abu Yazid al E>judhami, who declared that Paradise is the 
utmost that devotees can hope to attain from God hereafter, Ibrahim said: 
"I deem that the greatest matter, as they consider it, is that God should not 
withdraw from them His gracious countenance". 

He found greatest peace and joy in self-mortification and renunciation of 
the world. 

Ibrahim bin Adham died in 894 A.C. while he was taking part in a naval 
expedition against the Greeks. According to Yakut, he was buried at Sukin, a 
fortress in Rum. 


Sultan Alauddin Khilji, one of the greatest Muslim rulers of India, was a 
great admirer of Sufi Saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia. On several occasions, he 
sought the Saint's blessings for his difficult miUtary campaigns in Southern India 
and every time his armies came out with flying colours. 

On the conquest of Warrangal, the Sultan sent a purse of 500 gold sovereigns 
to Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, which the I'.iter forthwith gave to a Khorasani 
'dervish', who happened to be with him at the moment. 

The Sultan detailed his two sons, Khizr Khan and Shadi Khan to serve the 
Saint and be always at his beck and call. 

The Sultan was very anxious to see the Saint personally and once sought 
his permission to present himself to him. But Hazrat Nizamuddin, who shunned 
the society of monarchs, declined to oblige him and sent him a message: "I have 
two doors in my house. If the Sultan enters the house through the front door, 
I shall leave it by the back door". 

Syed Muhammad ibn Syed Ahmad, later known as Nizamuddin AuUa 
Mahboob Elahi (the beloved of God), Sultan-ul-Mashaikh (King of Saints) was 
born in Badayun (U.P.) in 634 A.H. Migrating from Bukhara, his ancestors 
arrived at Lahore and later settled down at Badayun. His father died, when he 
was only five years old. He was brought up by his illustrious and saintly mother. 
He received his early education from Maulana Alauddin. Later he went to Delhi 
jJong with his mother and received a thorough education from Maulana 
Shamsuddin and Maulana Kamaluddin Zahid. 

Hazrat Nizamuddin AuUa arrived in the presence of his spiritual teacher, 
Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakar on 15 Rajab,655 A.H. and remained with 
Wm till 3 Rabiul-Awwal 656 A.H. He, along with his other companions, passed 
iin extremely rigorous life at the 'Khanqah ' (monastery) of Hazrat Ganj Shakar 
at Ajodhan (Pakpattan). The inmates of the Khanqah helped to prepare their 
daily meal. Maulana Badruddin Ishaq brought firewood. Anoihtx dervish. Shaikh 
Jamaluddin Hanswi brought a wild fruit, 'Vela', from the forest which was 
boiled into water and taken as a drink by the inmates of the monastery. One day, 
no salt was available. Nizamuddin bought one piece of salt from a grocer's shop 


136 Hundred Great Muslims 

on credit. When the inmates of the monastery together with their spiritual 
Teacher, Fariduddin Ganj Shakar sat down for their meal, the latter felt reluctant 
to take the food. "1 smell extravagance from this food", he said. On enquiry, he 
was told that the salt was obtained on credit from the grocer's shop. On tliis 
information, he observed that it was better for a dervish to die rather than 
obtain anything on credit. From that day, Nizamuddin resolved never to take 
anything on credit. 

On completing his strenuous training from his spiritual teacher, Fariduddin 
Ganj Shakar he settled down at Ghiaspura near Delhi. In the beginning, he 
passed a very hard Ufe. Sometimes days passed without Nizamuddin and his 
family having anything to appease their hunger. On such occasions, his pious 
mother declared that they were the guests of God. Nizamuddin felt an immense 
inner pleasure at such moments. 

Once, the King of Delhi, Jalaluddin Khilji, requested Nizamuddin to 
accept a few neighbouring villages for meeting the expenses of his Khanqah, but 
he refused to accept any such gift. 

The teachings of Nizamuddin Aulia had a sobering effect on the pleasure- 
loving society of the Imperial city of Delhi. Persons attached to the royal court 
who revelled in pleasure, abstained from it. A number of such dignitaries, 
including some members of the royal family were attracted towards the Saint of 
Ghiaspura and became his disciples. Their life underwent a strange transforma- 
tion. Two of these were the sons of Sultan Alauddin Khilji-Prince Khizr 
Khan and Shadi Khan. But the greatest of Nizamuddin's disciples was Ameer 
Khusroe, a versatile genius-poet, musician, writer and mystic— greatest master of 
fine arts that the thousand years of Muslim rule in India has produced. 

Khusroe, a highly respected member of the royal court of Delhi, was a 
great admirer of his spiritual teacher, Nizamuddin Aulia. In fact he was always 
prepared to sacrifice his all for his sake. Once a supplicant came to Nizamuddin 
and begged for alms. The Saint had nothing with him. He gave his wooden shoes 
to the supplicant, who went away from there satisfied. 

The supplicant had hardly gone out of Delhi, when Ameer Khusroe, who 
was returning to the Capital along with the King, met him, and said to Wm: I 
feel the sweet smell of my spiritual teacher from your body. Have you any 
token from him?". The supplicant took out the wooden shoes of Nizamuddin 
from his cloak. Ameer Khursroe kissed those shoes and cried out : "Do you want 
to sell these?" Ameer Khusroe had five lakh Tunkas (silver coins) with him 
which the Sultan had awarded him in appreciation of his poem. Khusroe gave 
the entire money in lieu of his teacher's shoes. Appearing before Hazrat 
Nizamuddin, with his shoes upon his head, Khusroe observed: "The dervish 
agreed to accept five lakh tunkas as the price of the shoes. Had he asked for my 
entire property and even my life as the price of it. J would have willingly given 
these to him." 

Hinidicd (ircal Miisliins IJ7 

Nizam iiddin slninned ihe society of Kings. Sultan Ciliiasuddin Khilji was 
very anxious to meet him and requested him through Ameer Khusroe to grant 
him an interview but the latter declined to oblige him. He also refused to see 
Sultan Alauddin Khilji. 

Sultan Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah Khilji. who ascended the throne of Delhi, 
after assassinating Khizr Khan and Shadi Khan, the favourite sons of Sultan 
Alauddin Khilji and the disciples of Nizamuddin Aulia, objected to his nobles 
visiting the Khanqah of the Saint. lie had become inimical towards the Saint and 
even ordered him to attend his Durbar. The Saint refused to obey the King's 
order, adding: "I can see what is going to happen". The same night the King was 
assassinated by one of his nobles named Khusroe Khan (not Ameer Khusroe). 

Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia was known for his piety and benevolence. He 
passed his nights in prayers and when he came out of his room in the morning, 
his eyes were often swollen. He was accustomed to breaking his fast with a 
handful of coarse food. 

He delivered his lectures after the morning prayers which the audience 
listened to with rapt attention. The audience felt as if they were listening the 
words of God which went straight into their hearts. 

He was extremely kind to the poor and the needy, and always held himself 
in readiness to alleviate the suffering of those in distress. None had ever left his 
door disappointed and dissatisfied. Once he observed: "Anyone who relates his 
sorrows to me makes me doubly sorrowful. It rends my heart. I deplore and pity 
those callous persons who see the miseries and sad plight of their brethren and 
yet do not help them". 

He never thought ill of any person and was forgiving and benevolent even 
to his enemies. Jhajjoo, a resident of Ghiaspura, was instigated by certain 
mischief mongers to tease Hazrat Nizamuddin who never coaxed or reprimanded 
the miscreant for his misdeeds. His magnanimity and indulgence tended to win 
over Jhajjoo. When the latter died, Hazrat Nizamuddin led his funeral prayers. 

The great Saint died full of years. Forty days before his death, he dreamed 
the Prophet showing anxiety to see him. He died on 18 Rabiul Awwal, 725 A.H. 
and was buried at Ghiaspura, now known as Nizamuddin (Delhi). His tomb was 
built by Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq of Delhi. 

His lectures and anecdotes have been recorded in four books, namely 
{\) FawaiduJ Fawacl. (2) Fazlul Fawad. (3) Rahatul-Muhibbeen and (A)Siratul- 

The first book was compiled by Khwaja Hasan Sanjari. it carries the 
lectures and aphorisms of his spiritual guide from 707 A.H. to 719 A.H. 

The last one deals with the life and achievements of mystic saints. 

138 Hundred Great Muslims 

The following few authentic anecdotes about the great Saint may be 
mentioned for the interest of the readers:— 

(1) One droughty summer when the people of Delhi, languished under 
sizzling heat, some of Khwaja Sahib's ardent disciples waited on him with the 
request to pray to God for rainfall. He sardonically asked them if they actually 
needed it. And then he addressed a letter to an elderly Hindu grocer directing 
him to invoke God for early showers and bade his disciples to deliver it to him. 
Getting the 'letter' the grocer reverently kissed it and then lifting his scales, he 
pronounced God's name in all humility, and as he supplicated that ever since he 
started wielding it he never under-weighed any commodity sold to his customers 
there suddenly appeared a cloud no bigger than a man's hand. In a few moments 
the sky was overcast and the downpour came, inundating the town. As long as 
the grocer held aloft the scales, the downpour continued. He asked his spiritual 
mentor's disciples if it was enough, or they wanted more. On their saying that it 
was more than enough he gradually laid it down. Miraculously, simultaneously 
the rain ceased. Thanking the grocer, the disciples left with their hearts brimming 
with devotional feelings for the great Khwaja. 

On another occasion, some of his followers implored him to rid the town 
of mighty hordes of flies that had invaded it and plagued the people's life. 
Khwaja Sahib issued an order to the flies to leave the town forthwith. As soon as 
the order was pasted on the gates of the town, large swarms of flies started 
quitting the town till all of them disappeared. 

Once, one of his devotees complained to him that his shoe in good condi- 
tion had incidentally been replaced by someone's worn out one at the Khwaja's 
mosque. The illustrious Saint advised his devotee to be of good cheer and to 
offer next day his morning prayers at Qutabuddin Aibek's mosque where the 
shoe would be restored to him. The devotee did so. After the morning prayers, 
as he came to collect the worn out replaced shoe, he was utterly aghast to find 
that it had been replaced with his own new one. 

In the course of a 'qawwaW being held on the bank of the Jamuna, in 
honour of Khwaja Sahib who sat wearing his cap aslant, a 'qawwa/' began singing 
Amir Khusroe's lyric containing the couplet : 

j^i ^i I ^^\j c:^\j (Jy: 

Every people have a straight path of rectitude, a specific faith to follow 
and a direction to turn their face in praying. 

I have fixed my 'Qibla' at one who is wearing his cap aslant. 

The ^QavjvjaV made the couplet burden of his song. It terribly enthralled 
the audience and drove them into fits of spiritual ecstasy so much so that one 
man in a deep ecstatic state rolling close to the river plunged himself into it and 
was swallowed by the waves. 



Of all the great thinkers who have enriched the diverse branches of know- 
ledge during the era of early Islam, Muhammad bin Musa Khwarizmi occupies 
an outstanding place. Being one of the greatest scientists of all times and the 
greatest of his age, Khwarizmi was a versatile genius, who made lasting 
contributions to the field of Mathematics, Astronomy, Music, Geography and 
History. "Khwarizmi was the principal figure in the early history of Arabic 
Mathematics", writes Phillip K. Hitti in his well-known work. The Histun' of the 
Arabs. "One of the greatest minds of Islam, he influenced mathematical thought 
to a greater extent than any other mediaeval writer." 

Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi (780 — 847 A.C.) was born in Khwarizm 
(Modern Khiva) situated on the lower course of Amu Darya. His forefathers had 
migrated from their native place and settled in Qutrubulli, a district West of 
Baghdad. Little is known about his early life. According- to H. Suter, he died 
between 835 to 844 A.C, while C. A. Nallino is more definite when he puts his 
death in 846-47 A.C. Khwarizmi soon acquired a prominent place in the Danil 
Hiikama founded by Mamoon, the celebrated Abbaside Caliph. He was entrusted 
with the astronomical researches conducted under the patronage of the talented 

As a mathematician, Khwarizmi has left ineffaceable marks on the pages of 
the mathematical history of the world. Undoubtedly he was one of the greatest 
and most original mathematicians that the world has produced. Apart from 
compiling the oldest astronomical tables, he had the rare distinction of composing 
the oldest works on arithmetic as well as on algebra. Writing about his celebrated 
work on algebra entitled 'Hisab al Jabr wal Muqabala \ the author of the Hhtory 
of Arabs says: "Translated in the 12th century in Latin by Gerard of Cremona, 
the work of Al-Khwarizmi was used until the 16th century as the principal 
mathematical text-book in European Universities and served to introduce into 
Europe the science of algebra, and with it the name of Al-Khwarizmi's works 
were also responsible for the introduction into the West of the Arabic numerals 
called "Algorism" after him." The mathematical works of Khwarizmi influenced 
such well-known mathematicians as Umar Khayyam, Leonardo Fibonacci of 
Pisa and Master Jacob of Florence. 


142 Hundred Great Muslims 

His mathematical works were the principal source of knowledge on the 
subject to the world for a pretty long time. George Sarton pays him glowing 
tributes when he considers him, as "one of the greatest scientists of his race and 
the greatest of his time". He systematised the Greek and Hindu mathematical 
knowledge. The oldest arithmetic composed by him was known as Kitab ul- 
Jama-wat-Tafiiq, which has disappeared in Arabic, but its Latin translation, 
"Frattati d' Arithmetica," edited by Bon Compagni in 1157 A.C. at Rome is 
extant. Al-Khwarizmi was the first exponent of the use of numerals including 
Zero, in preference to letters. It was through him that Europe learnt the use of 
zero or cipher, whose employment facilitated the application of arithmetic in 
everyday life. His work on the Indian method of calculations was translated into 
Latin by Adelard of Bath in the 12th century and was named as De Numero 
jndico which has survived, though the Arabic original was lost. According to 
J. Ruska, this Latin translation corresponds to his work on Hindi numeral, 
Kitab ul-Jama-wat Tafriq biHisab alHind. The Fihrist of Al Nadim, perhaps due 
to the mistake of the copyist has attributed to Sarad bin Ali, the three well- 
known mathematical works of Khwarizmi, namely (1) Hisab al Hindi, 
(2) Al Jama-wat Tafriq, and (3) Al Jabr wal Muqabla. 

Al Khwarizmi is the author of Hisab al Jabr wal Muqabla, an outstanding 
work on the subject which contains analytical solutions of Linear and Quadratic 
equations. He has the distinction of being one of the founders of algebra, who 
developed this branch of science to an exceptionally high degree. His great book 
contains calculations of integration and equations presented through over 800 
examples. He also introduced negative signs which were unknown to the Arabs 
and illustrated his point with six different examples. He also gives geometric 
solutions with figures of Quadratic equations, e.g. x^ 10''=39, an equation which 
was repeated by later mathematicians. Robert Chester was first to translate his 
book in Latin in 1 145 A.C. which introduced algebra to Europe. Later on, this 
book was translated by Gerard of Cremona, too. This Algebra written by Al- 
Khwarizmi is lucid and well arranged. After dealing with equations of the second 
degree, he has dealt with algebric, multiplications and divisions. Writing in the 
Legacy of Islam, Carra De Vaux says: "In 18th century Leonardo Fibonacci of 
Ksa, an algebraist of considerable importance says he owed a great deal to Arabs. 
He travelled in Egypt, Syria, Greece and Sicily and learned the Arabic method 
there, recognised it to be superior to the method of Pythagoras, and composed a 
Liber Abaci, in 15 Chapters, the rest of which deals with algebraic calculations. 
Leonardo enumerates the six cases of quadratic equations Just as al-Khwarizmi 
gives them." The translation of Khwarizmi's algebra by Robert Chester marks an 
epoch for the introduction and advancement of this branch of science in Europe. 
"The importance of Robert's Latin translation of Khwarizmi's algebra," says a 
modern orientalist, "can hardly be exaggerated, because it marked the beginning 
of European algebra." 

Khwarizmi has made an invaluable contribution to trigonometry also. His 
trigonometrical tables which deal with functions of sine and tangent were 
translated into Latin in 1 126 A.C. by Adelard of Bath. 

Hundred Great Muslims 143 

Khwarizmi was an astronomer of outstanding ability. Mamoon got a 
degree of meridian measured by him in the plain of Sanjar, North of the 
Euphrates, his astronomers employing a method superior to that of the Greeks. 
This was one of the most delicate geodatic operations successfully undertaken 
by a number of astronomers headed by Musa al-Khwarizmi. The idea behind 
these astronomical operations was the determination of the size and sphericity 
of earth. The measurement was carried out at Sanjar as well as at Palmyra, which 
"yielded 56 3/4 Arabic miles as the length of a degree of meridian-a remarkably 
accurate result exceeding the real length of the degree at the place by about 
2,877 ft.", says C. A. Nallino."This would make the diameter of earth 6,500 miles 
and its circumference 20,400 miles." Muhammad bin Musa Al Khwarizmi, a 
versatile genius of the Islamic history, had translated Sidhanta, or Indian Tables 
and had written commentary on it. He had written a valuable treatise on 
astronomy and had compiled his own tables (Zij) which was after two centuries 
revised by the Spanish astronomer Majriti (d/1007) and was translated into 
Latin by Adelard of Bath in 1 126 A.C. This formed the basis of later astronomi- 
cal pursuits in the East and the West, which replaced all earlier tables of Greek 
and Indian astronomers. This table was also adopted in China. It included values 
of trigonometrical sine and tangent functions, which was in conformity with the 
tendency of the earlier writers when trigonometry was not considered a separate 

He wrote two books on astrolable namely 'Kitab al Amal bil Asturlab', 
and (2) Kitab Amal al Asturlab '. The former deak with the manner of using the 
astrolabe and the latter dealt with the art of making astrolabe. Kifti has 
mentioned the first book. He also wrote "Al Rukhama", a book on Sundials 
which is non-extant. 

Khwarizmi also dealt with the practical side of astrology. According 
to the celebrated astrologer Abu Mashar, he "investigated how far the con- 
junction at the time of Hazrat Muhammad's (PBUH) birth indicated his future as 
a Prophet." 

His mathematical treatise in which he has discussed his theory of music 
was translated by Adelard of Bath in the 12th Century and named as Liber 
Ysagogarum Alchorism. This contains a section on music. His views on music 
were conveyed to Europe through this Latin translation, which, according 
to Phillip K. Hitti, was one of the first to introduce Arab music to the Latin 

Khwarizmi was also a Geographer of repute. His Kitab Surat al Ard (The 
work on the shape of the earth) laid the foundation of geographical science in 
Arabic. The manuscript of this book is preserved in Strassburg (Germany). Abul 
Fida, the celebrated Geographer, calls it Kitab Rasm al Rub al Mamur. (The 
book of drawing of the inhabited parts of the globe). This book was illustrated 
with maps, whose Latin translation was edited by C. A. Nallino, who declared 
"that this is a work, like of which no European nation could have produced at 

144 Hundred Great Muslims 

the dawn of its scientific activity." Later on H. Von Mazik translated and edited 
tiiis book as well as annotated the part dealing with Africa. This book corrected 
and completed earlier geographical facts and notions stated by Ptolemy. 

Khwarizmi wrote a book on history known as Kitab al-Tarikh, which 
served as a source for Masudi and Tabari. The history written by Tabari contains 
a passage about the return of Caliph Mamoon to Baghdad which was probably 
taken from this book. 


Chemistry is one of the sciences to which Muslims have made the greatest 
contribution. They developed it to such a high degree of perfection that they 
were considered authority in this specific branch of science. Till the end of the 
17th century A.C. Jabir and Zakriya Razi have the distinction of being the 
greatest chemists that mediaeval times have produced. Writing in his illuminating 
History of the Arabs, Phillip K. Hitti acknowledges the greatness of the Arabs 
in this branch of science. He says. "After materia medica, astronomy and 
mathematics, the Arabs made their greatest scientific contribution to chemistry. 
In the study of chemistry and other physical sciences, the Arabs introduced the 
objective experiment, a decided improvement upon the hazy speculation of the 
Greeks. Accurate in observation of phenomena and diligent in the accumulation 
of facts, the Arabs nevertheless found it difficult to project proper hypotheses." 
Another well-known historian, Robert Briffault frankly admits the debt which 
modern chemistry owed to the Muslim scientists: "Chemistry, the rudiments 
of which arose in the process employed by Egyptian metallurgists and jewellers- 
combining metals into various alloys and "tinting" them to resemble gold 
processes long preserved as a secret monopoly of the priestly colleges, and clad 
in the usual mystic formulas, developed in the hands of the Arabs into a 
widespread, organised passion for research which led them to the invention of 
distillation, sublimation infiltration, to the discovery of alcohol, of nitric and 
sulphuric acids (the only acid known to the ancients was vinegar), of the alkalis, 
of the salts of mercury, of antimony and bismuth, and laid the basis, of all 
subsequent chemistry and physical research." 

"Jabir would still remain a very impressive personality." Writes George 
Sarton, "at once because of his own achievements and because of the glamour 
traditionally attached to him. The most famous alchemist of Islam, Jabir ibn 
Hayyan, seems to have good experimental knowledge of a number of chemical 

Jabir ibn Hayyan-al-Azdi, called as Sufi (Mystic) known as Geber in the 
West flourished in Kufa about 776 A.C. and is reputed as the father of modern 
chemistry. Along with Zakariya Razi, he stands as the greatest name in the 
annals of mediaeval chemical science. His father was a druggist in Kufa who died 
a "martyr" to the Shiite propaganda. Jabir received his education from the 
Umayyad Prince Khalid ibn Yazid ibn Muawiya and from the celebrated Imam 


146 Hundred Great Muslims 

Jafar al-Sadiq. In the beginning he practised as a physician and was closely 
attached to the house of Bermakides, whose members occupied the high posts of 
viziers during the reign of Haroon ar-Rashid. Jabir, too, had to share the mis- 
fortune of Bermakides at the time of their downfall in A.C. 803 and died in exile 
at Kufa. His famous laboratory was found in ruins about two centuries later. 

Jabir is credited to have composed more than 100 works of which 22 
chemical works are still extant. He introduced experimental research in chemical 
science which immensely added to its rapid development. The latest research of 
a few Western scholars has confused the issue and has revealed that the chemical 
works ascribed to Jabir were composed during the 10th century A.C. by a 
Secret Society similar to the so-called 'Ikhwan-as-Safa' {^leihitn of Purity) as 
the Greek references quoted by Jabir had not been translated by the end of the 
8th century. But the overwhelming historical evidences found in the Arabic 
language falsify this contention of the few Western scholars who must have 
based their conclusion on inadequate data. 

The fame of Jabir rests on his alchemical writings preserved in Arabic. 
Five of his works namely Kitab al Rahmah (Book of Mercy), Kitab al Tajmi 
(Book of Concentration), Al Zilaq al Sharqi (Book of Eastern Mercury), Book 
of the Kingdom and the little Book of Balances, have been published. "We find 
in them remarkably sound views on method of chemical research," writes 
George Sarton "A theory on the geologic formation of metals; the so-called 
sulphur, mercury theory of metals (the six metals differ essentially because of 
different proportions of sulphur and arsenic and antimony for their sulphides). 
Jabir deals also with various applications of refinement of metals, preparation of 
steel, dyeing of cloth and leather, varnishes to waterproof cloth and protect 
iron, use of manganese dioxide in glass making, use of iron pyrites for writing 
in gold, distillation of vinegar to concentrate acetic acid. He observed the 
imponderability of magnetic force." He worked on the assumption that metals 
like lead, tin and iron, could be transformed into gold by mixing certain chemical 
substances. It is said that he manufactured a large quantity of gold with the help 
of that mysterious substance and two centuries later when a road was laid in 
Kufa, a large piece of gold was unearthed from his laboratory. He laid greater 
emphasis on the importance of experimentation in his researches, hence he made 
great headway in the chemical science. The Western writers credit him with the 
discovery of several chemical compounds, which are not to be found in his 
twenty-two extant Arabic works. According to Max Meyerhof, "His influence 
may be traced throughout the whole historic course of European alchemy and 
chemistry." As already stated in the foregoing pages, he is the author of more 
than 100 chemical works. "Nevertheless, the works to which his was 
attached," says Phillip K. Hitti, "were after the 14th century, the most influential 
chemical treatises in both Europe and Asia." He explained scientifically ihe two 
principal functions of chemistry; 'calcination and reduction, and registered a 
marked improvement in the methods of evaporation, subUmation, distillation, 
melting and crystallization.' Jabir modified and corrected the Aristotelian theory 
of constituents of the metal, wMch remained unchanged till the beginning of 

Hundred Great Muslims 147 

the modern chemistry in the 18th century A.C. He has explained in his works 
the preparation of many chemical substances including "cinnabar" (Sulphide of 
Mercury) and arsenious oxide. It has been established through historical 
researches that he was conversant with the preparation of nearly pure vitriols, 
alums, alkalis and the production of the so-called liver and milk of sulphur by 
heating sulphur with alkali. He prepared mercury oxide and was thoroughly 
conversant with the preparation of crude sulphuric and nitric acids. He knew the 
method of the solution of gold and silver with this acid. Al-Razi has classified 
alchemical substances as vegetables, animals or minerals, whereas Jabir and other 
Arabian chemists have divided mineral substances into bodies (gold, silver, etc.), 
souls (sulphur, arsenic, etc.) and spirits (mercury and sal-ammoniac). Jabir is 
also the author of a book on astrolabe and has written several treatises on 
spherical trigonometry. 

His chemical treatises have been translated into several European languages 
including Latin and had a deep influence over the entire course of the 
development of modern chemistry. Several technical scientific terms coined by 
Jabir found their way in various European languages through Latin and were 
adopted in modern chemistry. Among these technical words and terms are 
realigar (red sulphide of arsenic) tutia (Zinc Oxide), alkali, antimony (Arabic- 
Ithimid), alembic for the upper and aludel for the lower part of distillation 
vessel. Sal ammoniac, a new chemical substance which has been explained in the 
works of Jabir was unknown to the Greeks. The ammonium referred to in the 
writings of Greek scientists was in fact a sort of rock salt. 

A real estimate of Jabir's achievements is only possible when his enormous 
chemical works including the Book of Seventy are published. Richard Russel 
(1678), an English translator, ascribes a book entitled Sun of Perfection to 
Jabir. He considers Jabir as the "most famous Arabian prince and philosopher." 
A number of his chemical works have been published by Bertholot, which, 
according to him, are anthropomorphic and animistic. His works translated into 
English are Book of Kingdom, Book of Balance and the Book of Eastern 
Mercury. Latin was the first European language in which the works of Jabir were 
translated. In 1 144 A.C, Englishmen Robert of Chester made the first trans- 
lation of Jabir's book on the Composition of Alchemy. His Book of Seven/y was 
translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona (d/1187 A.C.) the celebrated 
translator of Arabic Scientific Works. 

Jabir has been recognised as the Master by the later chemical scientists, 
including Al Tughrai and Abu Al-Qasim Al-lraqi who flourished during the 1 2th 
and 13th centuries A.C, respectively. These Muslim chemists made little 
improvement on the methods of Jabir. They confined themselves to quest of the 
legendary "elixir" (Al-Jksirj which they could never find out. During the 12th 
century hardly any monumental creative scientific work was added to the long 
list of Arab scientific works. The writers during this period confined themselves 
to the reproduction, summarization and writing commentaries on the works of 
Razi (Rhazes) ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Jabir (Geber). The works of great Muslim 

148 Hundred Great Muslims 

scientists, including Alhazen, Geber, Avicenna and Rhazes have been expounded 
by the celebrated English scientist Roger Bacon and his rival Albert of Bollstaedt 
(Albertus Magnus). The influence of Alhazen's Thesaurus opticae' may be 
traced to the optics written by Roger Bacon. Similarly, Albert incorporated 
the alchemical teachings and formulas of Jabir in his De MineraUbus. "The 
influence of Geber is very pronounced," writes an European writer in the 
Encyclopaedia Speculum Naturale by Vicent de Beauvais. "The alchemical 
tracts ascribed to Arnold of Villanova and to Raymond Lull are full of 
quotations from Geber. Arabic alchemy, associated as it was with astrology, 
predominated throughout the 13th and 14th centuries." 


The ninth century A.C. forms the golden period of the development of 
Islamic learning, when the Arabs were the real standard bearers of civilization. 
They not only saved Greek learning from total extinction but also made lasting 
contributions to almost all branches of knowledge and made conaderable 
advancement in diverse spheres of human activity. The distinguished scientists 
during the first half of the IXth century were A! Kindi, A! Khwarizmi and 
Al Farghani. 

Al Kindi, an encyclopaedist and a versatile genius was regarded by Cardan, 
a philosopher of Renaissance as 'one of the 12 subtlest minds.' According to 
Abu Maashar, the author of Mozakkarat, Al Kindi was considered among the 
four greatest translators that the Muslim world had produced. 

Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Ishaq al Kindi, who belonged to the South Arabian 
tribe of Kinda was born in Basrah in the beginning of the 9th century A.C. He 
is known as Al Kindus in the West. His father, Ishaq ibn Saleh, was posted as the 
Governor of Kufa during the reigns of three Abbaside Caliphs Mehdi, Hadi and 
Haroon ar-Rashid. Young Kindi, who was of pure Arab descent, was entitled 
as the 'Philosopher of Arabs.' He received his education in Basrah and Baghdad 
where he served in various capacities under three Abbaside Caliphs Mamoon, 
Mutasim and Mutawakkil. He was a favourite of Caliph Mamoon ar-Rashid and 
was given every kind of state patronage. He was, however, persecuted under the 
orthodox reaction led by Al Mutawakkil (847-861 A.C.). He had acquired 
great knowledge in medicine, philosophy, mathematics, occult sciences, 
astronomy, music and logic. He had mastered Persian, Greek and Indian learning 
and was well versed in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic languages. First of all, he was 
appointed as translator and editor of Greek works during the reign of Mamoon. 
He also served as a tutor of a son of Mutasim and was later on attached as an 
astrologer to the Abbaside Court. He was persecuted by Mutawakkil and his 
library was confiscated. He died in 873 A.C. 

Al Kindi, an encyclopaedic scientist, made invaluable contributions to 
mathematics, astrology, astronomy, physics, optics, music, medicine, pharmacy, 
philosophy and logic. Authorship of no less than 265 works is ascribed to him, 
of v/hich only a few have survived in original language. But, a good deal are still 
extant in Latin translations made by Gerard of Cremona. According to historical 


150 Hundred Great Muslims 

records, out of his 265 works, 22 dealt with philosophy, 19 with astronomy, 
16 with astrology, 7 with music, 11 with mathematics, 22 with numerals, 22 
with medicine, 21 with politics, 33 with physics, 9 with logic and the rest with 
other branches of knowledge. He wrote four books on the use of Hindu numerals. 
He made and revised a number of translations of Greek works into Arabic. He 
wrote a number of invaluable treatises dealing with precious stones. He 
considered alchemy as an imposture and has dealt with this subject in one of his 

He is the most dominating figure in Mediaevel science and one of the 
greatest Muslim scholars in physics. Over and above he was an astrologer, 
philosopher, mathematician, alchemist, optician and musical theorist; Of his 
hundreds of works, fifteen are on meteorology, several on specific weight, on 
tides, on optics and on reflection of light. Two of his most important scientific 
works are : 

(1) De Aspectibus, a treatise on geometrical and physiological optics 
which influenced Roger Bacon, Wirelo and other Western scientists. 

(2) De Medicinarum Compositamm Gradibus is an exceptional treatise 
in which an attempt has been made to establish posology on a 
mathematical basis. "His principal work on geometrical and 
physiological optics," writes Phillip K. Hitti, "based on the optics of 
Euclid in Theons, recension, was widely used both in East and West 
until superseded by the greater work of Ibn al-Haitham. In tliis 
invaluable optical work, Al Kindi has dealt with the passage of light 
in straight lines; direct process of vision; the process of vision by 
looking glass and the influence of distances and angle of vision or 
sight along with optical delusions. He says that light takes no time to 
travel and vision takes place through a bundle of rays, which, sent 
out from the eye expanding in the form of a cone, embrace the 
object. While the other four senses receive impression from things, 
the sense of sight grasps its object in an active and instantaneous 

One of his treatises translated into Latin deals with the causes of the 
blue colour of the sky: According to him, this 'colour is not really special to 
heavens but arises from the mixture of the darkness of the sky with the light of 
the atoms of dust, vapour, etc. In the air illuminated by the light of the Sun.' 
He had composed a remarkable work on ebb and flow which has been translated 
into Latin. He incorporated his theories in this book after personally testing 
them through experiments. He wrote several small treatises on iron and steel 
to be used for weapons. He applied mathematics not only to physics but also to 
medicine. He thought that gold and silver could only be obtained from mines 
and not through any other process. He endeavoured to ascertain the laws that 
govern the fall of bodies, hence he may be considered as the forerunner of the 
Theory of Gravity, propounded by Newton. 

Hundred Great Muslims J 51 

He was a reputed astrologer and during his lifetime he could forestal the 
duration of about 450 years for Abbaside Caliphate which was then threatened 
by Carmathians. He was considered among the nine Judicas of astrology. 

The reign of the Abbaside Caliph Mamoon constitutes the most glorious 
epoch in Islamic history, and has rightly been called the Augustan age of Islam. 
Al-Kindi founded the House of Wisdom, in which philosophy acquired its real 
progress. He translated and wrote commentaries on a number of philosophical 
works of Aristotle. His theory of the Universe is similar to the theory of Aristotle. 
Being a natural philosopher he has extensively discussed the doctrine of soul and 
intelligence. The divine intelligence is the cause of the existence of the world. 
According to him, "the world as a whole is the work of an externally active 
cause, the Divine intelligence, whose activity is transmitted in many ways from 
above to the world. Between God and the world or bodies is the world of soul, 
which created the world of heavenly spheres. In so far as the human soul is 
combined with the body, it is dependent on the influence of heavenly bodies, 
but in its spiritual origin and being it is free." Both immortality and freedom 
could only be acquired in the world of intelligence. If anyone attains these two, 
his intellectual power is developed to such an extent that he may acquire true 
knowledge about God and the Universe. Thus in De Intellectu the Latin 
translation of the philosophical work of Al Kindi which was edited by Nagy, the 
Western world found for the first time the doctrine of Intelligence. 

Al Kindi is one of the greatest musical theorists who has written more than 
half a dozen treatises on music. "In one of which," says George Sarton, "we 
find the first definite use of notation among the Arabs. He is the earliest writer 
on music whose work has come down to us." His works contain notation for the 
determination of the pitch. Out of his seven treatises on music, three have been 
preserved up to the present time, namely, "The Essentials of Knowledge in 
Music; On the Melodiesi and "The Necessary Book on the Composition of 
Melodies. " In one of his treatises, Al Kindi describes ihythm (iqa) as constituent 
part of Arabian music. "Measured song or mensural music," writes PhiUip 
K. Hitti, 'must, therefore, have been known to the Muslims centuries before it 
was introduced in Europe." Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al Sarakhsi (d 899 A.C.) 
and Mansoor ibn Talha ibn Tahir who were disciples of Al Kindi wrote a number 
of books on musical theories. The former has to his credit at least half a dozen 
books on the subject. 

The writings of. Al Kindi deeply influenced the Eastern and Western 
thinkers in diverse spheres of knowledge. A number of his works were first 
translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona, whose study obliged Cardan to 
consider him as one of the 1 2 greatest minds born in the world since the creation 
of the universe till the middle of the 16th century A.C. His writings on optics 
greatly influenced Roger Bacon and other Western scientists who considered him 
along with Alhazen and Ptolemy as one of the three greatest authorities on the 


Zakariya Al-Razi, better known as Rhazes in the West, is universally 
recognized as the most outstanding scientist of the mediaeval times, who 
influenced the course of thought in diverse branches of knowledge. "Rhazes," 
says Max Mayerhof, "was undoubtedly the greatest physician of the Islamic 
world and one of the greatest physicians of all times." He wrote several remark- 
able manuals of medicine which are characterised by striking originality and 
brilliance. A number of his works were translated into several European languages 
and according to Encyclopaedia of Islam, "Down to the Seventeenth Century 

A.C., the authority of Razi was undisputed In the field of medical 

practice he surpasses the knowledge of the ancients." Writing in his well-known 
book Arabian Medicine, Edward G. Browne recognizes Razi as "the greatest and 
most original of all the Muslim Riysicians and one of the most prolific as an 
author. He was the most eminent thinker of the ninth century A.C., which is 
known as the golden period of Islamic learning." "The Persian Al-Razi," admits 
George Sarton, "was not simply the greatest Clinicians of Islam and of the 

whole of Middle Age; he was also a Chemist and Hiysist He may be 

considered one of the forerunners of the latrochemists of the Renaissance 

Galenic in theory, he combined with his immense learning true Hippocratic 
wisdom." Together with Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Razi forms the two most brilliant 
luminaries on the firmament of Islamic Medicine. While Razi excelled in the 
clinical side of medicine, Ibn Sina surpassed in the theoretical side. "Influence 
of Rhazes and Avicenna upon Western Thought was equally great," writes 
Cyril Elgood in the Medical History of Persia and the Eastern Caliphate. 

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya Al-Razi (865-925 A.C.) was a Persian 
Muslim who was bom at Rayy near modern Tehran. He studied mathematics, 
philosophy, astronomy and alchemy at Baghdad under a disciple of Humayun 
ibn Ishaq who was well versed in Greek, Persian and Indian medicines. He had 
had a chance of visiting the famous Muqtadari hospital, whose intimate practical 
experience prepared the ground for his medical expression. He practised as an 
alchemist in his youth and very soon he earned a high reputation which attracted 
patients and pupils from distant parts of Western Asia. He entered the service 
of the Ruler and was appointed the Administrator of the newly built hospital 
at Rayy. Soon after he shifted to Baghdad in the same capacity and worked for 
a considerable period as the Administrator of the well-known Muqtadari hospital 
of Baghdad. His high reputation as a Physician took him from one court to 


Hundred Great Muslims 153 

another. His unsettled life was due to his constant demand even in distant 
cities and was also the result of the fickle-mindedness of the Rulers and the 
uncertainties of political situations. He returned several times to Rayy where he 
died in 925 A.C. 

Razi practised medicine for not more than 35 years. During this period he 
travelled widely and was entrusted with duties both clinical and administrative. 

Razi was a prolific writer who left behind him immortal works on medical 
science, chemistry, physics, music, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and 
ethics. "His erudition was all-embracing," says Max Mayerhof, "and his scientific 
output remarkable, amounting to more than 200 books, half of which are 
medical." In spite of his enormous practice as the greatest practising physician 
of his time, he could find time to write such monumental and gigantic medical 
works as Al Hawi, Kitab Al Mansuri and Al Judari Wal Hasbah. His excessive 
devotion to studies impaired his eye-sight. In his young age he practised as an 
alchemist and later on he devoted himself exclusively to the development of 
medical science both in theory and practice. He wrote a monumental work 
Kitab Al-Mansuri (called Liber Almansoris in Latin) dedicated to his patron 
Mansoor ibn Ishaq al Salmani, the Governor of Rayy, which ran into 10 volumes 
and dealt with Greek medicines. Its first Latin translation was published in 
Milan in the last quarter of the 1 5 century. It was later on published into several 
European languages, including German and French. His writings on medicine 
included many short treatises on lighter topics like, 'On the fact that even skilful 
physicians cannot heal all diseases.: 'Why frightened patients easily forsake even 
the skilled physician;' 'Why people prefer quacks and charlatans to skilled 
physicians; ' 'Why ignorant physicians, laymen, and women have more success 
than learned medical men. ' He also contributed to gynaecology, obstetrics, 
ophthalmology. His other valuable works deal with some of the common diseases 
in the East including stone in bladder and kidneys. His treatise 'Barr-ul-Saat, ' 
or 'cure within an hour,' was widely read and was translated into Persian and 
French languages. He wrote a pamphlet entitled 'Of Habit which becomes 
Natural', and thus was the forerunner of Sherrington's 'conditioned Reflex 
Theory.' His monograph on 'Diseases in Children, earned him the title of the 
Father of Paediatrics. A number of his treatises on medicine were translated into 
Latin and printed together under the title of 'Opera Parva Abubetri. ' 

His outstanding work, 'Al Judari Wal Hasbah, ' a book dealing with small- 
pox and measles, is the earliest and one of the most authentic books on the 
subject even up to the present times. It was translated into Latin and other 
European languages and was pubUshed for more than forty times between 
1498-1866 A.C. It was translated into Latin and printed in Venice in 1489; 
in Basle in 1549; in London in 1747 and in Gottingen in 1781 A.C. This invalu- 
able work provides the first description of smallpox as a chnical entity, hence 
according to Neuburger, "In every land and with justice it is regarded as an 
ornament to the medical tradition of the Arabs." It contains detailed information 
regarding treatment of pustules after full development of smallpox. This 

154 Hundred Great Muslims 

remarkable work is reputed for its originality and until the 18th century was 
prescribed as a text-book in most of the universities, both in the East and the 
West. "This treatise," writes Phillip K. Hitti in\)\% History of the Arabs, "served 
to establish Al-Razi's reputation as one of the keenest original thinkers and the 
greatest clinicians not only of islam but of the middle ages." The symptoms and 
treatment of smallpox as detailed by the celebrated physician provide ample 
testimony of his medical abilities. He says; "The outbreak of smallpox is 
preceded by continuous fever, aching in the back, itching in the nose and shiver- 
ing during sleep. The main symptoms of its presence are backache with fever, 
stinging pain in the whole body, congestion of the face, sometimes shrinkage, 
violent redness of the cheeks and eyes, a sense of pressure in the body, creeping 
of the flesh, pain in the throat and breast accompanied by difficulty of 
respiration and coughing, dryness of the mouth, thick salivation, hoarseness of 
the voice, headache and pressure in the head, excitement, anxiety, nausea and 
unrest. Excitement, nausea and unrest are more pronounced in measles than 
in smallpox, whilst the aching in the back is more severe in smallpox than in 
measles." The modern medical science could hardly add to these symptoms. 

The greatest achievement of Al-Razi in the realm of medical science is 
his monumental work, Al-Hawi (Latin-Continents) the most comprehensive 
Encyclopaedia of Medicine ever written by a medical man which runs into 20 
volumes. According to historical records, Al-Razi could not finish this work 
during his lifetime and actual form was given to it by his disciples after his 
death. This book was translated into Latin by the Sicilian Jewish physician, 
Faraj ibn Salim in 1279 A.C. under the orders of Charles I. King of Sicily, and 
was named as Continens. It was repeatedly printed from 1486 onwards. Al-Hawi 
is the largest medical encyclopaedia in Arabic, which Razi took 15 years to 
complete. He compiled it in the light of personal experience and knowledge. For 
every disease he furnished Greek, Syrian, Arabic, Persian and Indian sources 
and at the end he gave his own opinion. "Printed when printing was still in 
infancy," writes a Western Orientalist, "these medical works of Al-Razi exercised 
for centuries a remarkable influence over the minds of the Latin West." "Its 
(Hawi's) influence on European medicine was very considerable." says Max 
Mayerhof. "The work was gigantic and not many copies were made. Only fifty 
years later, Haly Abbas could find only two copies of this book and. according 
to him, "As to his (Razis') book which is known as 'Al-Hawi. ' 1 found that he 
mentions in it everything the knowledge of which is necessary to the medical 
man, concerning hygiene and medical and dietetical treatment of diseases and 
symptoms. He did not neglect the smallest thing required by the student of this 
art concerning treatment of diseases and illness." 

Al-Razi, being a versatile genius left behind him invaluable works on 
medicine, natural science, mathematics, astronomy, ethics, philosophy, theology 
and music. His contribution to natural sciences is lasting, it includes alchemy, 
optics, matter, time, space, motion, nutrition, putrefaction, growth and 
msteoroiogy. He wrote Kitabal-Asrar in chemistry (Book on the art of Alchemy) 
dealing with preparation of chemical substances and its appliances. His great 

Hundred Great Muslims 155 

work on the art of Alchemy was recently found in the library of an Indian 
Prince. This book was translated into Latin as 'Liber Experimentorum' by 
Constantine. Razi proved himself to be a greater expert than all his predecessors 
including Jabir in the exact classification of substances. His description of 
chemical experiments as well as their apparatus are distinguished by their clarity 
which is not visible in the writings of his predecessors. Jabir and other Arabian 
chemists have divided mineral substances into bodies (gold, silver, etc.); souls 
(sulphur, arsenic, etc.) and spirits (mercury and sal-ammoniac), while Razi has 
classified his mineral substances as vegetables, animals and minerals. The class of 
minerals he divided into spirits, bodies, stones, vitriols, bora.xes and salts. 'In 
chemistry Razi rejecting all occultist and symbolic explanations of natural 
phenomena, confined himself exclusively to the classification ot substances and 
processes as well as to the exact description of his experiments. Pseudo Majriti 
in his 'Kitab Rutbat Al-Hakim, ' endeavoured to reconcile the Alchemy of Ra/.i 
with that of Jabir.' 

Razi investigated the determination of specific gravity by means of hydro- 
static balance, called by him Mizan-al-Tabii. Most of his works on physics, 
mathematics, astronomy and optics have perished, in physics his writings deal 
with matter, time, space and motion. In his opinion the matter in this primitive 
state before the creation of the world was composed of scattered atoms, which 
possessed extent. Mixed in various proportions with the articles of void, these 
atoms produced these elements which are five in number, namely earth, air, 
water, fire and celestial element. Fire is created by striking iron on the stone. 

During his ealy life he was much interested in practical as well as theoretical 
music. He was an artist of repute and was a skilled vocal and instrumental 
musician. He was an expert in playing on the lute. He wrote Fi Jamal ilMusuqi, 
an encyclopaedia of music, but in later years he lost interest in music. Most of 
his metaphysical, philosophical and ethical works have perished and only a few 
fragments are available. Al-Biruni who wrote a complete /?/sa/fl (treatise) on the 
life and works of Al-Razi frequently quoted him in his writings. Al-Razi 
professes the existence of five eternal principles in metaphysics namely 
(1) Creator, (2) Soul, (3) Matter, (4) Time and (5) Space. The eternity of the 
world is, according to Razi, the necessary corollary to the concept of God, the 

unique and immutable principle When the human souls have obtained 

liberation (from body) the world will dissolve and matter deprived of forms will 
return to primitive state.' He is against excessive asceticism in spite of his 
pessimistic metaphysics and like Socretes he believes in taking active part in hfe 
and in working for the welfare of the people. Following the maxim of Aristotle 
he does not blame the human passion but its excessive indulgence. His theory of 
pleasure and pain dominates his ethical teaching. 'Pleasure is not something 
positive but the simple result of a return to normal conditions, the disturbances 
of which causes pain'. 

He believed in the evolution of scientific and philosophical knowledge and 
in this respect he was much ahead of ancient philosophers. 

156 Hundred Great Muslims 

The high reputation of Al-Razi as a teacher of medicine attracted students 
from distant parts of the Islamic world. So great was the attendance of students 
in his lectures that he was inaudible to those sitting far away. So the near one 
passed on his words to the outer circle of students. He was the greatest practising 
physician of his time and had the distinction of being the head (Director or 
Mutawalli) of two of the biggest hospitals of his time situated at Rayy and 
Baghdad. According to Ibn Abi Usabiyah, he selected a new site for the great 
hospital of Baghdad by hanging pieces of raw meat in various localities, 
prefering the place where it showed least symptoms of putrefaction. He was an 
eminent surgeon of his time and was the inventor of Seton. He also introduced 
the 'use of animal gut as a ligature for surgical operations and was the first to 
recognize the reaction of the pupil to light'. 

The influence of Al-Razi and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) on Western as well as 
Eastern medicine was overwhelming. Razi's book on Alchemy, 'Kitab Al-Asrar 
(the Book of Secrets) translated and edited by Gerard of Cremona was the 
principal source of medical knowledge in the West till 14th century. It has 
been profusely quoted by Roger Bacon, one of the principal figures, of Western 
Renaissance, "in Vieima in 1520 and in Frankfurt on the Oder in 1588," writes 
Max Mayerhof, "the medical curriculum was still largely based on Avicenna's 
Canon and on the ninth book 'Ad Almansorem ' of Rhazes. The two universities 
of Europe, Montepellier and Bologna specialised in the teaching of Arab learning. 
"From these two centres," writes Cyril Elgood, in A Medical History of Persia 
and the Eastern Caliphate, "the teaching and influence of the Arabs spread to 
every medical school of Europe. From the 12th to the 17th century Rhazes 
and Avicenna were held superior even to Hippocrates and Galen .... The 
popularity of the Arabs was thus established and among them Rhazes and 
Avicenna were considered prominent. So great was their popularity and so long 
did it endure that we find Montagna, Gentile da Fabriano and other artists 
decorating the edge of the Madonna's robe with Arabic letterings and two Arab 
doctors, Cosmas and Damian, raised to the altars of the Church." 


Nooh ibn Mansur, the Samanid king of Bukhara (976-97 A.C.) was lying 
in a precarious condition on his sick bed, and the court physicians had given 
up all hopes of his recovery. In consequence, a boy of 17 years was summoned 
and ushered into the Chamber of the sick King, passing through a congregation 
of astonished dignitaries composed of distinguished courtiers and talented 
physicians. This boy was Ibn Sina who was finally entrusted with the treatment 
of the King. The marvellous boy cured the dying Ruler, to the great astonish- 
ment of all and was accorded due honour and prestige at the Court. He was 
given the privilege of using the Ruler's remarkable Library, which, in fact, could 
be the highest award for his great work. 

Ibn Sina, the greatest inteUectual giant of the Middle Ages and one of the 
greatest of all times, was a versatile genius who influenced the course of thought 
in diverse ways. Being an outstanding encyclopaedist, he made lasting 
contributions to medical sciences, philosophy, logic, occult sciences, mathematics, 
astronomy, music and poetry. He was an eminent rational philosopher, whose 
invaluable discoveries in varied branches of knowledge forestalled many later 
discoveries and won for him an immortal place among the galaxy of eminent 
scientists and thinkers of the world. "He is important as Universal Encyclo- 
paedist," adds the Encyclopaedia of Islam, who fixed the system of learning for 
centuries following". 

Abu Ali Husain ibn Abdullah ibn Hasan ibn Ali ibn Sina, known as 
Shaikh-ur-Rais (Prince of all Teachers), was bom in 980 A.C. at Afshinah near 
Bukhara (Turkistan). His father Abdullah who hailed from Balkh was appointed 
as a Samanite Governor and was later posted at Bukhara, where the young Abu 
Ali received his early education. From the very beginning he showed such an 
extraordinary intelligence and made so remarkable progress in his education that 
at the early age of 10, he was well versed in Quran and different branches of 

Being brought up in an Ismaili family, he was deeply influenced by 
Ismaili proselytism and developed a taste for philosophy which enabled him to 
study Greek, Islamic and other material on the subject. Meanwhile Abu Abdullah, 
an Natili, a leading philosopher of his time, visited Bukhara and stayed at his 
house. Ibn Sina studied logic, geometry and astronomy from him. The intelligent 


158 Hundred Great Muslims 

boy soon surpassed his teacher and studied by himself medicine, physics and 
metaphysics. He gained a deep insight into these categories of knowledge. 
He acquired deep knowledge of medical science and established such a high 
reputation as a practising physician, that reputed physicians consulted him in 
difficult cases. Metaphysics he learnt from the works of al-Farabi. The metaphy- 
sical and logical speculations of al-Farabi, determined the direction of his thought. 
He mastered all these subjects before he was 17 years of age. 

Endowed with extraordinary powers of assimilating, absorbing and retaining 
knowledge, he soon mastered all the varied intellectual material found in the 
Imperial Library, which later enabled him to undertake his monumental works. 
"I went there," writes Avicenna,' "and found a large number of rooms filled 
with books packed up in trunks. 1 then read the catalogue of the primitive 
authors and found therein all 1 required. 1 saw many books the titles of which 
were unknown to most people, and others which 1 never met with before or 
since." He started writing at the age of 21. His style is clear and comprehensive. 
After the death of his father, he had to leave Bukhara due to political distur- 
bances ar\d reached the city of Gorgan which was noted for its high culture. 
His fame had travelled faster than him and he was accorded a hearty welcome 
by the King of Khwarizm, a great patron of art and learning. It was at this 
famous seat of learning that he met his great contemporary Abu Raihan 
al-Biruni. He had hardly set his foot there, when Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni, 
demanded from the King of Khwarizm to send these intellectual luminaries to 
Ghazni. Reluctantly the King of Khwarizm, had to comply with the request of 
the great conqueror, Mahmood Ghaznavi and despatched Al-Biruni, Abu Nasr 
Arraq and Abul Khait Khammar to Ghazni. But Ibn Sina and Abu Sahl Masihi 
refused to go to Ghazni and set out for Gorgan. At Gorgan he practised as a 
physician and engaged himself in the teaching and writing of books. It was here 
that he met his sincere friend and pupil Abu Ubaid Jawaz Jami. Lack of 
patronage and appreciation of his deep erudition, forced him to leave Gorgan 
and reach Rayy. Here he was welcomed by the Dalamite Ruler Majdul Dawlah. His 
stay at Rayy was brief and shortly afterwards he went to Hamadan. At Hamadan 
he stayed for a longer period and he was closely associated with its ruler Shams- 
ud Dawlah, whom he had cured of a painful colic. It was here that Ibn Sina 
completed his monumental work on medicine called, 'Al Qanun Fit Tib. ' Majdul 
Dawlah, the Dalamite Ruler, had appointed him his Minister for a brief period. 
The army threatened a mutiny as it suspected Ibn Sina to be in correspondence 
with the Ruler of Isfahan. At last he hurried to Isfahan, where he was heartily 
welcomed by its Ruler, Aland Dawla. Ibn Sina got some respite in Isfahan and 
carried on the task of completing most of his immortal works here. Repeated 
travels and exacting political and intellectual preoccupations, had undermined 
his health. He was suffering from colic and he made some special efforts towards 
his own treatment and probably overdid it which produced intestinal compli- 
cations. He became bed-ridden at Hamadan, and having realised that his end 
was approaching, he took bath, offered repentence and began reciting Quran 
till his end came. Thus died the greatest thinker of the Mediaeval times at the 
age of 57 in 1037 A.C. being victim of a disease in which he v. as a specialist. His 
grave in Hamadan is yearly visited by a large number of pilgrii s and admirers. 

Hundred (ircal Muslims 159 

His was a chequered career and his life was a struggle not without a lesson 
for the common man. He lived in a period when the Muslim world was passing 
through great revolutionary times and his restless soul could not provide him the 
peace and tranquillity which is ordinarily essential for undertaking such gigantic 
intellectual works as he did. It is a great tribute to his genius that in such disturbed 
conditions and with a distracted state of mind, he could compile a number 
of monumental works on diverse subjects. He was the greatest encyclopaedist of 
the middle ages, a versatile genius who has left behind him ineffaceable marks in 
diverse branches of knowledge. His works embraced a wide range of subjects, 
including logic, medicine, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, astronomy, 
theology, ethics, politics, mysticism, tafseer, literature and music. He is said to 
have written 50 pages a day at an average and is the author of no less than 238 
books and treatises. His literary works commenced at Bukhara at an age of 21 
and continued at Gorgan, Rayy, Hamadan and Isfahan in spite of his political 
preoccupation and disturbed eiivironments. The last 13 years of his life at 
Hamadan and Isfahan was a period of his greatest intellectual activities in which 
he completed most of his gigantic works. His chief works on philosophy 'Ash- 
Shifa and An-Najat were written here. He also concluded his works on ethics 
and AlMagest and added 10 chapters to the later. He wrote treatises on geometry, 
arithmetic and music. He made new additions to arithmetic and disproved a 
number of theories advanced by EucHd. He wrote two books on zoology and 
botany during a trip to Shahpur Khwast along with his patron, Alaud Dawlah. 
During the same journey he wrote his 'Kitab an-Najat'. At Isfahan he wrote his 
'Danish Narmi AlaV, Kitab al-Insaf and works on literature and lexicography. He 
is considered as the father of the science of geology, on account of his invaluable 
book on mountain in which he discussed the matters relating to the earth's crust 

and gave the scientific cause for earthquakes. 


His chief contribution is to the realm of medicine and philosophy. He 
wrote at least eight large medical treatises, which occupy the most outstanding 
place in the history of mediaeval medical science. One of these deals with treat- 
ment of colic in which he was a specialist. Another contains a chapter on the 
possibility of the production of exceptional psychical phenomena. The medical 
traditions of Galen, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Zakariya Razi and Al-Majusi reached 
their climax in the Canon of Ibn Sina. His gigantic work 'Al Qannun Fil Tib' 
known as Canon in Latin is the culmination and masterpiece of Arab systemati- 
sation. Written in five volumes it is a medical encyclopaedia, dealing with 760 
drugs besides general medicines, simple drugs and diseases affecting all parts of 
the body from head to foot. This book particularly deals with pathology and 
pharmacopoeia and was translated in the 12th century by Gerard of Cremona. An 
appendix dealing with clinical observations was lost. He treats acute and chronic 
diseases and prescribes methods of treatment and preventive measures. He has 
distinguished mediastinitis from pleurisy and has discovered the contagious 
nature of diseases which spread through water and soil. "Translated in Latin by 
Gerard of Cremona in 12th Century", writes Phillip K. Hitti, "This Canon with 
its encyclopaedist contents, its systematic arrangements and philosophic plan, 
soon worked its way into position of prominence in the medical literature of the 

160 Hundred Great Muslims 

age, displacing the works of Galen, Al-Razi and Al-Majusi and becoming the Text 
for medical education in the schools of Europe. From the 12th to 17th century 
this work served as the chief guide to the medical science in the West and it is 
still in occasional use in the Moslem East". In the words of Dr. Osier it has 
remained, "a medical Bible for a longer period than any other work." The 
popularity of this great book may be gauged by the fact that during the last 30 
years of the 15th century it was published 16 times and was published 20 times 
in the 16th century in various European languages. The publication of its parts 
as well as commentaries in various languages of the East and the West are 
innumerable. According to a celebrated European writer, "Probably no medical 
work ever written has so much been studied. Hence Avicenna's influence on 
European medicine has been overwhelming." "This book was started when 
Avicenna was in Gorgan," writes the author of the Medical History of Persia, 
"and finished at Rayy. When it became known to the medical world, it at once 
superseded all previous works on medicine". Sir Jadu Nath Sircar, the well- 
known Indian Historian pays eloquent tributes to Ibn Sina when he says: 
"Avicenna has the greatest intellectual giants of the middle ages." Avicenna was 
responsible for elevating Islamic medicine to its zenith, and his portrait as well 
as that of al-Razi still adorn the Grand Hall of the Faculty of Medicine in the 
University of Paris. 

Avicenna is considered by many as the greatest philosopher of Islam, 
whose rationalist philosophy tried to explain religious dogmas in the light of 
reason and invited severe criticism of Imam Ghazali. Like his predecessors he 
tried to harmonise the abstract forms of philosophy with the Islamic religious 
faith. His outstanding philosophical works are 'Kitab as-Shifa' Al-Najar (The 
Salvation) and the Isharaat (Instructions). His 'Kitab as-Shifa. ' which contains 
valuable knowledge on logic, physics and metaphysics, had a deep influence over 
Western as well as Eastern philosophy. Persian writers class this book along with 
Almagest, of Ptolemy and treat it as a work devoted to a branch of astronomy, 
but the sections dealing with medical properties of stones and other chemical 
matters were included in the book, because all these subjects were included in 
philosophy in those days. His philosophical works reflected a conflict between 
materialism and idealism. He expounded the doctrines of Farabi and followed 
him in logic and epistemology. "Avicenna made for himself and posterity a 
problem which taxed his ingenuity to the utmost", writes a celebrated orientalist. 
"He laid down the principle that from the one and indivisible only one being can 
originate. Therefore, it is not possible to assert that form and matter spring 
directly from God, for that would involve the assumption that there are two 
different modes in the Divine essence. Matter, indeed is not to be thought of as 
coming from God, because it is the very principle of multiplicity and diversity." 
He has more clearly brought out the dualism of mind and matter, God and the 
world than Farabi. The doctrine of the immortality of soul is more definitely 
laid down by him. His philosophy in fact brings out his scientific and progressive 
outlook. His rationalistic and materialistic outlook which was quite natural, 
being shaped by the phDosophical trends of his times, was severely criticised by 
Ghazali. His compromise with Muslim theology did not find favour with the 

Hundred Great Muslims 161 

orthodox circles and his philosophical works were put to fire in Baghdad. He 
explains the moving, changing and developing matter. Similar is his approach to 
the process of knowledge. His philosophy is the necessary link between the 
philosophy of Farabi and Ghazali on one hand and that on Ibn Rushd (Averroes) 
on the other. His book 'Shifa, ' according to Ibn Ali Usabiya was completed by 
him in 20 days in Hamadan. But Nizami states that the books was written in 
Isfahan with great deliberation. In logic, he has followed Farabi and has expanded 
as well as supplanted the deductions of Aristotle, His logical treatise 'Nafia ' was 
translated in French and was published in 1658 in Paris. 

Being a materialist, Avicenna is one of the greatest scientists of the 
middle ages. He has given his own classification of sciences, which is based on 
materialism. He differed from Aristotle regarding classification of sciences. He 
acknowledges the reality of the outer world and found an inter-relation between 
time and movement. Time can be conceived only in relation to movement. 
According to him, where there is no movement there is no time. He refuted the 
Theory of Aristotle that the sources of motion is the invisible force who is God 
while Avicenna asserts that natural laws operate in the world with which 
Providence does not interfere. Hence the, outlook of Avicenna is more modern 
and scientific than that of Aristotle. According to the celebrated orientaUst 
R. Briffault, "an air thermometer is said to have been employed by Ibn Sina". 

Ibn Sina ranks only next to Farabi as the greatest musical theorist of Islam. 
His 'Kitab as-Shifa, ' a philosophical encyclopaedia of repute also contains much 
original work on music. He also wrote an introduction to the art of music, whilst 
a few definitions regarding music are found in his 'Division of Science'. The 
work of Ibn Sina considerably influenced the West on the subject and Roger 
Bacon recognises his contribution to therapeutic value of music. According to a 
Western critic of music, "Both Farabi and Ibn Sina are claimed to have added to 
what the Greeks taught." 

Avicenna, who was a versatile genius, made contributions to the field of 
astronomy also. He was entrusted by Aland Dawlah, with the work of improving 
the existing calendar and the arrangement for the estabhshment of an 
observatory. "In proving the falsity of astrology", says a Western writer, "he 
opposed the fallacious contention of the Greek, Arabian and Hindu astronomers 
who maintained that the obliquity of the ecUptic diminishes gradually towards 
the Celestial Equator." 

He is considered as the father of the science of geology and in his well- 
known treatise published in Latin, as 'De Conglutiatione lapidum', he deals with 
the formation of mountains and the earth crust. He gives the scientific cause of 
earthquakes. His literary works, Hal, the son of Yakzan and Al Tair, directed the 
course of literary development in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Arabian 
countries. His best poetical contribution is the Ode describing 'the descent of 
the soul into the body from the higher spheres', which is still learnt by heart by 
the Arabic students. 

162 Hundred Great Muslims 

Avicenna's influence over the Eastern as well as Western thought has been 
overwhelming. He not only assimilated the Greek and Eastern sciences, but 
improved upon them. His exhaustive biography was written by his favourite 
disciple Jurjani which was translated in Latin and several other languages. "His 
works", according to Encyclopaedia of Islam, "were much read, annotated and 
translated into Western languages." Acknowledging Avicenna as one of the 
greatest men that this world has seen, Cyril Elgood writes in his monumental 
work, 'Medical History of Persia: "Here is a man who starting with none of the 
advantages of life (except perhaps an appreciative father) becomes, while still a 
youth, the Adviser and confident of his ruler, who, changes his city though he 
may, yet always becomes the leading within a few months and whose writings 
influenced all Europe, although he died before he was sixty and never travelled 
outside the semi-desert of Central Asia. He was hailed by his countrymen as the 
Second Teacher, the chief master ; he has been seen by Dante in Paradise along 
with the greatest intellects of the non-Christian world ; and William Harvey will 
say 600 years after his death to his friend Aubrey ; 'Go to the fountainhead and 
read Aristotle, Cicero and Avicenna." 


Mahmood Ghaznavi, the great Muslim conqueror of the 1 1th century A.C. 
occupies an outstanding place amongst the patrons of learning. He drew to his 
court two of the greatest luminaries of the Islamic world, namely Firdausi and 
Biruni. Firdausi became the author of the world famous Shahnama, while Biruni, 
was a versatile genius of the age who ranks amongst the greatest thinkers of 
Islam and in whose lifetime the greatest intellectual giant of the middle ages, 
Ibn Sina, is said to have taken to flight due to fear of competition with Al-Biruni. 
According to the celebrated Indian historian, Sir J. N. Sircar, "Few know 
physics and metaphysics. Amongst those few, the greatest in Asia was Al-Biruni, 
at once a philosopher and a scientist and pre-eminent in both of these two 
seemingly incompatible fields." A contemporary of the renowned Aviceima, 
Biruni occupies a distinguished place among the intellectual wizards produced by 
the world of Islam. "Abu Rayhan Muhammad Al-Biruni called the Master," says 
Max-Mayerhof, "a physician, astronomer, mathematician, physicist, geographer 
and historian, is perhaps the most prominent figure in the galaxy of universally 
learned scholars who constitute the golden age of Islamic science." 

Abu Raihan Muhammad ibn Ahmed, better known as Al-Biruni was bom 
near the town of Khwarizm or Khiva, situated on lake Aral in Central Asia, in 
September 973 A.C. Little is known of his early life and education- He had 
acquired in his youth a good reputation as a scholar. When his native state was 
conquered by Mahmood, he joined the court of the celebrated Conqueror and 
had a chance to visit India along with him. Mahmood's conquests had opened 
North-Eastern India to Islam and Biruni taking advantage of these golden 
opportunities, travelled for twenty years throughout the length and breadth of 
the sub-continent, learning Hindu philosophy, science and religion from the 
learned Pandits and imparting Arabic and Greek sciences to them in return. 
He took pains to learn the difficult Sanskrit language in advanced age in order to 
have an access to the vast storehouse of Indian knowledge. He spent more than 
forty years visiting different parts in quest of knowledge. He died in 1048 A.C. 
at a matured age of 75 years. 

Al-Biruni was a prolific writer, whose versatility enabled him to attempt 
with outstanding success such diverging subjects as philosophy and mathematics, 
geography and astronomy, physics and metaphysics. His earliest biographer 
writes : "He never had a pen out of his hand, nor his eye ever off a book and his 


1 64 Hundred Great Muslims 

thoughts were always directed to his studies". His keen sense of observation and 
accuracy of experiments«pervade through his illuminating works, which have 
baffled even the modern scientists. He had incorporated the results of his studies 
in India in his outstanding work, "Tahqiq al-Hind" (Facts about India) which 
contains a comprehensive and accurate account of the history, geography, 
philosophy, science and social conditions of India in the 11th century. This 
book provides the missing link regarding the life and customs of the sub- 
continent between the periods ranging from the visit of the Chinese Buddhist 
pilgrims in the 7th century and the writing of Ain-i-Akbari in 1590, A.C., 
Dr. Sachau (1888) translated the book into English. An English critic of the 
19th century pays glowing tributes to Al-Biruni when he says, "Abu Raihan is 
the only Arabic writer who investigated the antiquities of the East in a true spirit 
of historical criticism." This book contains an account of Hindu numerals which 
is the best on the subject recorded in mediaeval times. 

He was the first Muslim who introduced Indian chess to Islamic countries ; 
and explained the problems of advanced trigonometry in this book. At the end 
of the book "Tahqiq-al-Hind", Al-Biruni says, "I have translated into Arabic two 
Indian works (Sanskrit books), one entitled "Sankhya" which discusses the 
origin and quality of the things that exist, and the other "Patanial' (Yoga. Sutra) 
which treats of the deUverance of the soul from the trammels of the body". 
This book on India gives an accurate and authentic history of the invasion of 
Mahmood and the origin of Somnath. Despite the entire resources of the state 
being at his disposal, Abul Fazal's Ain-i-Akbari written about six centuries later 
is poor in comparison to Al-Biruni's book. Abul Fazal borrowed the idea and the 
arrangement of his work from his great predecessor. On his return from India, he 
wrote "Qanun al-Masudi in 421 A.H. (1030 A.C.), an astronomical encyclo- 
paedia, which he dedicated to his patron. Sultan Masood. The following anecdote 
recorded by his biographer testifies to his strength of character and his utter 
disregard for wealth. "Sultan Masood on receiving, "Qanun al-Masudi "presented 
to the author an elephant load of silver, which Al-Biruni returned to the royal 
treasury". His outstanding achievement in the realm of physics is the accurate 
determination of the weight of 18 stones. He also discovered that light travels 
faster than sound. His most brilliant work is Asrar al-Baqiya, a chronology of 
ancient nations, containing the minute and accurate details of geographical and 
historical information. The subject of calendar and era of ancient races has been 
specially dealt within this book, which also discusses the current theory of the 
rotation of earth on its axis. Longitudes and latitudes have been accurately 
determined by the famous author in this book. Besides the above, he has 
immensely added to the geological knowledge by providing a correct explanation 
of the formation of natural springs. He suggested that formerly the Indus valley 
was a basin filled with alluvial soil. Baihaqi, the Court historian of the Sultan of 
Ghazna said, "Abu Raihan was beyond comparison, superior to every man of his 
time in the art of composition and in scholarly accomplishments. He had a most 
rigid regard for truth." 

One gets a glimpse of the wide range of his scientific knowledge, when he 

Hundred Great Muslims 165 

comes across such books as Kitab-al-Sdidana (Materia Medica) dealing with 
medicine, the Kitab-al-Jawahar discussing different types of gems and their 
specific gravity and Al-Tafhim, a treatise which was translated into English by 
Wright in 1934. 

Thus Al-Biruni figures in history as a subtle-minded mathematician whose 
accuracy in astronomical calculations had earned for him the nickname of 
"Magician" He was much respected by his great patron Mahmood. According to 
George Sarton, "His critical spirit, toleration, love of truth and intellectual 
courage, were almost without parallel in mediaeval times." Of such intellectual 
curiosity tirelessly pursued through a long life, there is hardly any other example 
recorded in the annals of Islam. 


The Arabs who were pioneers in diverse branches of mediaeval sciences 
have made invaluable contribution to the field of optics. Of all the sciences that 
have received the imprint of Arab genius, optics stands on the top. The highest 
authority in optics during the mediaeval times whose brilliance outshone that of 
the Greek thinkers, was Ibn Al-Haitham, better known as Alhazen in the West. 
"The glory of Muslim science," writes Max Meyerhof," is in the field of optics. 
Here the mathematical ability of Alhazen and Kamal-a-Din outshone that of 
Euclid and Ptolemy. Real and lasting advance stands to their credit in this 
department of science". 

Abu Ah Al Hasan ibn Al-Haitham, was one of the most outstanding 
mathematicians, physiologists and opticians of Islam. He was born at Basrah in 
965 A.C. and received his education in Basrah and Baghdad which were great 
centres of learning in those days. Later, he moved to Egypt and entered into the 
service of the celebrated Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim (996—1020 A.C.) and was 
entrusted with the task of discovering the method of controlling the annual 
floods caused by the Nile. But, having been unsuccessful in this mission, he 
remained underground and also assumed madness till al-Hakim's death. He also 
visited, Spain. During this period he got ample time for his intellectual pursuits 
and composed a number of works on medicine, which was his original profession. 
He died in Cairo in 1039 A.C. 

Alhazen, a versatile genius, made lasting contributions to optics, 
mathematics, physics, medicine and philosophy. The author of 'Uyunul Ariba fi 
Tabaqaat il Atibba', a well-known biographical work quoted the names of 
200 scientific works written by Alhazen on diverse subjects, including optics, 
mathematics, medicine, physics and philosophy. Alhazen is best known to 
Europe through his optical works, which were translated into Latin. 

His main work on optics, which was lost in Arabic, still survives in Latin. 
In it, Alhazen has corrected the conception of Ptolemy and Euclid that the eye 
sends out visual rays to the object of vision. "He was the first to correct the 
Greek misconception as to the nature of the vision", observes John Wil' am 
Draper in his History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, "showing hat 
the rays of light come from external objects to the eye, and do not issue forth 
from the eye, impinge on external things, as, up to his time, had been supp' .sed. 


Hundred Great Muslims 167 

His explanation does not depend upon mere hypothesis or supposition, but is 
plainly based upon anatomical investigations as well as geometrical discussion". 

His works on optics influenced the greatest Western scientists and paved 
the way for later discoveries and developments in the field of optics. He has 
examined the refraction of light rays through transparent objects, including air 
and water. In experimenting with spherical segments (glass vessels filled with 
water) he has forestalled the theoretical discovery of magnifying lenses, which 
was made three centuries later in Italy. He also prepared the ground for Snell 
and Descartes to establish the law of sines, six centuries later. 

Among other things he discussed was the 'propagation of light and colours, 
optic illusions and reflection, with experiments for testing the angles of incidence 
and reflection'. His 'Alhazen Problems' in optics are still known throughout the 
West. 'In a spherical concave or convex, a cylindried or conical mirror to find the 
point from which an object of given position will be reflected to an eye of given 
position. It leads to an equation of the fourth degree which Alhazen solved by 
the use of a hyperbola. 

He made a number of monumental discoveries in the field of optics, 
including one which locates retina, as the seat of vision. This discovery falsified 
the earlier contention of the Greek scientists that eye sends out visual rays to 
the object of the vision. 

According to him, the impression made by light on 'retina is conveyed to 
the brain throiigh optic nerves. He also explained how only one object is visible 
when seen from both the eyes, because the 'visual images are formed on symmet- 
rical portions of the two retinas'. The optical illusions, according to him, are 
due to rays of light suffering from reflection or refraction. "He is perfectly 
aware", writes a Western orientalist, "that the atmosphere decreases in density 
with the increase of height, and from that consideration he shows that a ray of 
light, entering it obliquely, follows a curvilinear path which is concave toward 
the earth, and that, since the mind refers the position of an object to the direction 
in which the ray of light from it enters the eye, the result must be an illusion as 
respects the starry bodies; they appear to us, to use the Arabic term, nearer to 
the zenith than they actually are, and not in their true place." He has found 
out a wonderful optical illusion in the twilight when he sees stars. Sun and 
Moon before they have risen and after they have set. He has explained that 
greater the density of atmosphere, the greater the curvature of a ray of light. 
"To this refraction he truly refers the shortening, in their vertical diameter, cf 
the horizontal Sun and Moon ; to its variations he imputes the twinkling of the 
fixed stars". He quite accurately determined the height of the atmosphere as 
nearly 58H miles. Describing his lasting contribution to optics, John William 
Draper states ; "All this is very grand. Shall we compare it with the contemporary 
monk miracles or the monkish philosophy of Europe? It would make a profound 
impression if communicated for the first time to a scientific society in our own 
age". Commentaries on Alhazen's optics were written by oriental writers and his 

168 Hundred Great Muslims 

views were to some extent shared by Al-Biruni and Avicenna. His book on optics 
'Kitab Al Manazir' was translated into Latin by F. Risner and published in Basle 
in 1572 A.C. His other work on twilight was translated into Latin and published 
in the same year. His optics has immensely influenced the Western scientists, 
including the celebrated Roger Bacon and Vitelo. 

Al Hazen has written several treatises on physical optics, including one on 
light. He thinks that light is a sort of fire which is reflected at the spheric limit 
of the atmosphere. In another treatise entitled, 'On Twilight Phenomena', he has 
calculated this atmosphere to be about 10 miles in height. Some of his treatises 
on physical optics deal with the halo, the rainbow, and with spherical and 
parabolic mirrors. He has fully explained the factors which cause a rainbow. He 
has also written treatises dealing with shadow and eclipses. All of these invalu- 
able treatises are of a highly mathematical character. "Most of his works were 
products of the last ten years of his life", writes Max Meyerhof, "as was his 
fundamental study on the burning glass, in which he created a dioptric far 
superior to that of the Greeks. The work exhibits a profound and accurate 
conception of the nature of focussing, magnifying, and inversion of the image, 
and of the formation of rings and colours by experiments." The Muslim scientists 
were always particular in supporting their hypothesis with experiments. So was 
the case with Alhazen. During lunar eclipses, Alhazen observed the semi-lunar 
image of the Sun on a wall which was opposite to a small hole made in the 
window shutters. This was the first record of the 'camera obscura'. Alhazen has 
also written commentaries on the optical works of Ptolemy and EucUd and on 
the physics and problemata of Aristotle. 

His 'Mizanul Hikma ' deals with the density of the atmosphere in which he 
has estabUshed a connection between the height of the atmosphere and its 
increasing density. He demonstrated that the weight of body increases in 
proportion to the increasing density of the atmosphere. He explains the force 
with which bodies will rise out of heavier media, in which these are immersed 
and also 'discussed the submergence of floating bodies as ships upon the sea'. 

He has discussed the problem regarding the centre of gravity and has 
successfully applied it to the investigation of balances and steelyards, explaining 
the relations between the centre of gravity and the centre of suspension. He 
recognised gravity as a force, a theory which was later on developed by Newton. 
He knows correctly the relation between the velocities, spaces and time of falling 
bodies, and has very distinct idea of capillary action. "The determination of the 
densities of bodies", observes a Western writer, "as given by ^'hazen, approach 
very closely to our own ; in the case of mercury they are *a more exact than 
some of those of the last century." 

His treatise on 'Configuration of the Universe was translated into Latin. A 
Hebrew translation of it was made by the Jew Jacob bin Mahir, which was again 
translated into Latin by Abraham de Balmes in the latter half of the 15th 
century. This book was again translated in Spanish by Abraham de Toledo in 
the latter half of the 13th century A.C. 

Hundred Great Muslims 169 

The optical works of Alhazen had a deep influence on the mediaeval 
scientists both in the East and the West. His writings on the subject paved the 
way for later researches on optics in the West. His works on optics and treatises 
on physics were translated into several European languages. A book on the 
balance of Wisdom, said to be written by Alhazen, translated by M. Khanikoff, 
the Russian Consul General at Tabriz, contained some useful mechanical theories 
and conceptions which have been propounded with exceptional clarity. About 
his views on human evolution, John William Draper observes: "Though more 
than seven centuries part him from our times, the physiologists of this age may 
accept him as their compeer, since he received and defended the doctrine now 
forcing its way, of the progressive development of animal forms. He upheld the 
affirmation of those who said that man, in his progress, passes through a definite 
succession of states; not however, "that he was all once a bull, and was then 
changed to an ass, and afterwards into a'horse, and after that into an ape, and 
finally became a man." "This," he says, "is only a misrepresentation by people 
of what is really meant." His progressive ideas on the evolution of man led to 
the development of this theory by modern scientists, including Darwin. 

The abbreviated translations of a large number of Alhazen's treatises have 
been published in German, by E. Weidemann, together with critical notes. The 
celebrated American historian George Sarton has given a large list of his works 
in his 'Introduction to the Study of Science '. According to PhilUp K. Hitti, 
"Roger Bacon, Leonardo da Vinci and John Kepler, show traces of his influence. 
His 'Kitab Al Manazir' (The Book on Optics) influenced all the mediaeval writers 
on the subject, who borrowed their ideas from him. "Roger Bacon" (13th 
century), admits Max Meyerhof, "and all mediaeval writers on optics— notably 
the Pol Witelo or Vitello, base their optical works largely on Alhazen's 'Opticae 
Thesaurus. His work also influenced Leonardo da Vinci and John Kepler. The 
latter modestly entitled his fundamental work on dioptrics 'Ad Vitellionem 
Paralipomena (Frankfurt 1604)". 


Observation and experiment are the two sources for acquiring scientific 
knowledge. Aristotle, the father of Greek sciences, made imperishable contri- 
butions to physics, astronomy, biology, meteorology and other sciences. The 
Greek method of obtaining scientific knowledge, it may be noted, was mainly 
speculative, hence science as such could make little headway in Greece. 

The Arabs who were more realistic and practical in their approach adopted 
the experimental method for harnessing scientific knowledge. Observation and 
experiment formed the vehicle of their scientific pursuits, hence they gave a 
new orientation to science of which the world was totally unaware. Their 
achievements in the field of experimental science added a golden chapter to the 
annals of scientific knowledge of the world and opened a new vista for the 
growth of modern sciences. Al-Ghazali was the follower of Aristotle in logic, 
but among Muslims Ishraqi and Ibn-Taimiya were first to undertake the systematic 
refutation of Greek logic. Abu Bakr Razi criticised Aristotle's first figure and 
followed the inductive spirit which was reformulated by John Stuart Mill. 
Ibn-Hazm in his well-known work 'Scope of Logic ', lays stress on sense perception 
as a source of knowledge and Ibn-Taimiya in his 'Reformation of Logic', proves 
beyond doubt that induction is the surer form of argument, which ultimately 
gave birth to the method of observation and experiment. It is absolutely wrong 
to assume that the experimental method was formulated in Europe. Roger 
Bacon, who, in the West is known as the originator of the experimental method, 
had himself got training from the pupils of Spanish Moors, and had learnt every- 
thing from Muslim sources. The influence of Ibn Haitham on Roger Bacon is 
clearly visible in his works. Europe was too slow to recognise the Islamic ori^n 
of her much advertised scientific (Experimental) method. Writing in the 'Making 
of Humanity ' Briffault admits : 'It was under their successors at the Oxford 
School that Roger Bacon learned Arabic and Arabic science. Neither Roger nor 
his later namesake has any title to be credited with having introduced the 
experimental method. Roger Bacon was no more than one of the apostles of 
Muslim science which he transmitted to Christian Europe. As a matter of fact 
he never wearied of declaring that the knowledge of Arabic and Arabic science 
was for his contemporaries the only way to true knowledge. Discussions as to 
who was the originator of the experimental method are part of the colossal 
misrepresentation of the origins of European civilization. The experimental 
method of Arabs was by Bacon's time widespread and eagerly cultivated 


Hundred Great Muslims 1 71 

throughout Europe. . . .Science is the most momentous contribution of Arab 
civilization to the modern world, but its fruits were slow in ripening. Not until 
long after Moorish culture had sunk back into darkness, did the giant which it 
had given birth to raise his might. It was not science only which brought Europe 
back to life. Other and manifold influences from the civilization of Islam 
communicated its first glow to European life. . . .For although there is not a 
single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic 
culture is traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of 
that power which constitutes the permanent distinctive force of the modern 
world, and the supreme source of its victory— natural science and the scientific 
spirit. . . .The debt of our science to that of the Arabs does not consist in 
startling disooveries or revolutionary theories ; science owes a great deal more to 
Arab culture, it owes its existence. The ancient world was, as we saw, pre- 
scientiflc. The astronomy and mathematics of Greeks were a foreign importation 
never thoroughly acclimatized in Greek culture. The Greeks systematised, 
generalised and theorised, but the patient ways of investigation, the accumulation 
of positive knowledge, the minute methods of science, detailed and prolonged 
observation and experimental enquiry were altogether alien to the Greek 
temperament. Only in Hellenistic Alexandria was any approach to scientific 
work conducted in the ancient classical world. What we call science arose in 
Europe as a result of a new scientific inquiry, ofnew methods of investigation, of 
the method of experiment, observation, measurement of the development of 
mathematics in a form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and these methods 
were introduced into the European world by the Arabs". In his outstanding 
work, 'The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam', Dr. Muhammad 
Iqbal, the poet of Islam writes : 'The first important point to note about the 
spirit of Muslim culture then is that for purposes of knowledge, it fixes its gaze 
on the concrete, the finite. It is further clear that the birth of the method of 
observation and experiment in Islam was due not to a compromise with Greek 
thought but to a prolonged intellectual warfare with it. In fact the influence of 
Greeks who, as Briffault says, were interested chiefly in theory, not in fact, 
tended rather to obscure the Muslim vision of the Quran, and for at least two 
centuries kept the practical Arab temperament from asserting itself and coming 
to its own." Thus the experimental method introduced by the Arabs was responsi- 
ble for the rapid advancement of science during the mediaeval times. This 
experimental method was universally applied by the Arabs to their scientific 
investigations, also by Ibn al-Baitar, the greatest Muslim natural scientist. 

Abu Muhammad Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn al-Baitar Diya al-Din al-Malaqi 
was the last of the great Muslim scientists who had undertaken an extensive tour 
of the Mediterranean littoral in quest of rare botanical herbs grown there. Born 
in Malaga (Spain) towards the end of the 12th century A.C. he rose to be the 
celebrated Spanish Muslim botanist and pharmacist, who, according to George 
Sarton, was 'the greatest (botanist) of Islam and the Middle ages'. Ibn al-Baitar 
means son of a horse doctor or farrier. His father was a farrier. He received his 
early education from Abul Abbas al Nabati, who was a renowned herbalist of 
his time and collected plants around Seville (Spain) along with his teacher. He 

/ 12 Hundred drear Muslims 

greatly owed his interest and knowledge of botany to his illustrious teacher. He 
set out from Spain about 1219 A.C. travelling in North Africa and passing 
through Bugia, Constantine, Tunis, he sailed to the southern coast of Asia 
Minor reaching Adalia in 1224 A.C. Later he entered the service of the Ayubid 
King, Malik al-Kamil as his Chief Herbalist at Cairo and was called 'Rais ala 
Sairi-i-Ashshabin'. In 1237, when the rule of Malik al-Kamil was extended to 
Damascus also, Ibn Baitar moved to that city along with his patron. At last he 
settled down in Damascus and remained in service of Malik al-Saleh (1240—49) 
who succeeded Malik al-Kamil. Occasionally he made extensive tours of Arabia, 
Syria, Palestine and Iraq in search of herbs grown there. He had made a thorough 
study of the plants growing in countries bordering the Mediterranean sea. He 
died in Damascus in 1248 A.C. 

He roamed about in search of plants and collected herbs on the 
Mediterranean littoral, from Spain to Syria. His main work, a collection of 
simples known as 'Kitab al Jami ft Adwiya al Mufrada ', is the most outstanding 
botanical work in Arabic. According to a well-known Western critic, "This book, 
in fact, is the most important for the whole period extending from Dioscorides 
down to the 1 6th century". It is an encyclopaedic work on the subject. 
Describing more than 1 ,400 medical drugs and comparing them with the records 
of more than 150 ancient and Arabian authors, this book deals with about 200 
novel plants which were not known up to that time. It is an invaluable book 
containing simple remedies regarding animals, vegetables and minerals. Being 
a methodical compilation based on personal observations, it deals with simples, 
drugs and various species of food. Besides its own original contributions, the 
book contains the whole of Dioscorides and Galens knowledge on the subject. 
Al-Razi and Ibn Sina have also been frequently quoted by him. The synonyms 
of plant names have received his special consideration, and he has given the 
names of the plants not only in Arabic and Greek but also occasionally in Latin, 
Persian, Berber and Arabic dialect of Spain. His 'Jami' is acclaimed by Meyer 
(Gesch der Botanik) as "a monument of industry". According to Max Meyerhof, 
"It is a work of extraordinary erudition and observation and is the greatest of 
the Arabic books on botany" . Latin version of his Simplicia was published in 
1758 at Cremona. 

His second monumental work "Kitab al Mughani fil Adwiya al-Mufrada " 
is a materia medica dealing with medicine. It is almost the reversion of the first 
book. Though dealing with the same simples and vegetables it is arranged in 
therapeutical order instead of alphabetical one. This book contains 20 chapters 
including those dealing with simples for diseases of head, ear, eye, cosmetics, 
simples against fevers, antidotes and most common drugs. His 'Mughani' is a 
materia medica and not a natural history. In this book, the authorities quoted 
also differ from the first one and the celebrated surgeon Abdul Qasim has been 
too frequently quoted in it. The sources of quite a few items of this book may 
be traced to al Idrisi and al Ghafiqi. Both of his well-known works which were 
completed during the first quarter of the 1 3th century were dedicated to his 
patron Malik al-Saleh Ayubi. Ibn al Usaibia who was a disciple of Ibn Baitar 
accompanied him during his botanical execursions around Damascus. 

Hundred Great Muslims 1 73 

The influence of Ibn al-Baitar may be traced to the eastern as well as 
Western writers on the subject. His two monumental works which were considered 
authority on the subject influenced the contemporary and later botanists. 
Andrea Alpago (latter half of 15th century) made use of it to enrich his glossary 
of Ibn Sina's Qanun. His article on Lemons was translated from Al-Baitar' s 
'JamV. The first Western orientalist who was considerably influenced by 
al-Baitar's writings was Guillaume Postal (1510—1581 A.C.). The first complete 
translation oiJami in any Western language, appeared in 1758 A.C. 

Ibn al-Baitar is undoubtedly the greatest botanist of Islam and of the 
Middle ages whose writings prepared the ground for the development of botanical 
science during the modern times. 


Muslim Spain has produced some of the brightest intellectual luminaries 
of the Middle ages. One of them was Ibn Rushd, better known as Averroes in 
the West who is universally acknowledged as the greatest philosopher of Islam 
and one of the greatest of all times. Being a versatile genius, he influenced the 
course of thought both in the East and the West in more than one domain of 
knowledge. According to George Sarton, "He was great because of the tremendous 
stir he made in the minds of men for centuries. A history of Averroism would 
include all the essential elements of a history of thought from the end of the 12 
century to the end of the sixteenth-a period of four centuries which would 
perhaps deserve as much as any other to be called the Middle ages, for it was the 
real transition between ancient and modern methods." 

Abul Waleed Muhammad ibn Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, known 
as Averroes in the West was born in Cordova, the Metropolis of Muslim Spain 
in 11 26 A.C. He came of an illustrious Muslim family of Cordova which held 
the high office of the Grand Qazi for the last two generations, Ibn Rushd himself 
occupying the same post in the third generation. His grandfather Abul Waleed 
Muhammad ibn Rushd (1058-1126) was an eminent Maliki Theologian, who 
was the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Cordova. His father also occupied the 
high office of Qazi. The young Ibn Rushd received his education in his native 
city which was the highest seat of learning in the West. He was taught Tradition 
by Abul Qasim, Abu Marwan ibn Masarrat Abu Jafar ibn Aziz and Abu Abdullah 
Marzi. He learnt 'Fiqh' from Hafiz Abu Muhammad ibn Rizq. Abu Jafar, a 
reputed scholar, taught him medicine. Ibn Rushd, soon acquired great scholar- 
ship in literature, law, philosophy and medicine. He was a contemporary of some 
of the outstanding thinkers of Muslim Spain, including Ibn Zuhr, Ibn Baja and 
Ibn Tufail. Ibn Rushd was a juris-consult of the first rank and was appointed 
Qazi of SevUle in 1169-70 A.C. In 1182-83 he was invited by the Almohade 
Caliph Abu Yaqub (1 163-84) to Morocco and replaced Ibn Tufail as the Court 
Physician. In the beginning, he was patronised and respected by the succeeding 
Almohade Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184—99 A.C), but, when the pent-up 
Berber fanaticism burst forth, he fell victim to religious fanatics who were 
jealous of his genius. The Caliph had to banish him to Lucena, a Jewish colony 
near Cordova. His entire library consisting of invaluable books except the 
scientific ones was reduced to ashes in 1194-95. In 1198, when the religious 
fanaticism subsided, Ibn Rushd was recalled to Morocco by the Almohade Ruler 


Hundred Great Muslims 1 75 

Yaqub ai-Mansur. but he did not live long to enjoy the favour of his patron and 
died on December 10. 1 198 A.C. at the age of 75. 

ibn Rushd was known for his humility and hospitality. Being pensive by 
nature, he abhorred position and wealth. As a judge, he was very kind-hearted 
and never awarded corporal punishment to anyone. He passed most of his 
time in stud> and, according to Ibn al-Abar, during his long life there had been 
only two nights when he could not study— one was the night of his marriage 
and the other was the night of his death. He did not make any distinction in 
his treatment towards friends and foes. He was a great lover of his native land. 
Like Plato who in his 'Republic' has highly praised Greece, Ibn Rushd has 
claimed his native land, Spain, to be the rival of Greece. According to Ptolemy, 
Greece possessed the best climate in the world but Ibn Rushd claims the same 
distinction for Cordova, the Capital of Muslim Spain. 

Averroes, who was considered Avicenna of the West, applied himself to 
philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, logic and Islamic jurisprudence. 
His works have been given to the world by Renan. "He was one of the 
profoundest commentators," says Munk, "of Aristotle's works." According to 
Ibn al-Abar, his writings are spread over more than 20 thousand pages, the most 
important works being on philosophy, medicine and 'Fiqh' (Islamic jurispru- 
dence). He was an eminent legist of his time and worked as a Qazi for a consider- 
able period. His 'Hidayat al Mujtahid wa Nihayat al Muqtasid' which deals with 
Maliki Fiqh, is, according to Abu Jafar Zahbi, the best book ever written on this 
subject. Renan has given a detailed list of his writings in his 'Averroes' (Edition 
III, pages 58-79). The list totals 67 works of Ibn Rushd, including 28 on 
philosophy, 5 on theology, 8 on law, 4 on astronomy, 2 on grammar and 20 on 
medicine. He was an astronomer of repute, who wrote 'Kitab fiHarkat al Falak, ' 
a treatise dealing with the motion of the sphere. He also summarised the 
'Almagest' of Ptolemy which was translated into Hebrew by Jacob Anatoli in 
1231 A.C. He is credited with the discovery of sunspots. 

Muslim Rulers had had the reputation of being the greatest patrons of 
learning in the world. Writing in his well-known book the "Making of Humanity, " 
Robert Briffault admits : "The incorruptible treasures and delights of intellectual 
culture were accounted by the princes of Baghdad, Shiraz and Cordova, the 
truest and proudest pomps of their courts. But it was not a mere appendage of 
their princely vanity that the wonderful growth of Islamic science and learning 
was fostered by their patronage. They pursued culture with the personal ardour 
of an over mastering craving. Never before and never since, on such a scale, has 
the spectacle been witnessed of the ruling classes throughout the length and 
breadth of a vast empire given over entirely to a frenized passion for acquire- 
ment of knowledge. Learning used to have become with them the chief business 
of life. Khalifa and Amirs hurried from their Diwans to closet themselves in their 

libraries and observatories Caravans laden with manuscripts and botanical 

specimens plied from Bukhara to Tigris, from Egypt to Andulusia; embassies 
were sent to Constantinople and to India for the purpose of obtaining books and 

/ 76 Hundred Great Muslims 

teachers; a collection of Greek authors or a distinguished mathematician was 
eagerly demanded as the ransom of an Empire." The Umayyad Caliph of Spain, 
Al-Hakam had founded a magnificent library containing about half a million 
books. He had accumulated a rare collection of books on eastern philosophy and 
was instrumental in creating a taste for philosophy in Spain which in later years 
P'oduced some of the greatest Muslim philosophers in the West, including Ibn 
Rushd. About two centuries later another Muslim ruler of the West, Abdul 
Momin who was himself a great scholar had drawn to his Court a galaxy of 
talented thinkers, including Ibn Tufail and Ibn Rushd. The learned Averroes 
owed his knowledge in philosophy to Abu Jafar Haroon, a well-known rationalist 
and according to Abi Asibiyah, to Ibn Baja who is recognised as the Aristotle 
of Andulusia. But the philosophy of Ibn Baja reached its climax in Averroes who 
surpassed his teacher and rose to be the greatest commentator and exponent of 
Aristotalian philosophy in the world. Together with Ibn Masarra and Ibnul 
Arabi, Ibn Rushd forms the trio of the greatest Arabian thinkers of Spain. 
The first two were essentially mystic, while the third (Averroes) was a 

His chief philosophical work is 'Tahafut al-Tahafut' (Tht Incoherence of 
the Incoherence) which was written in refutation of Al Ghazali's work, 'Tahafut 
al Falasifa (The Destraction of Philosophy). This work of Averroes evoked 
severe criticism and stirred bitter reaction throughout the Muslim world. A 
strong refutation of Ibn Rushd's arguments in Tahafut al-Tahafut was made by 
a Turk, Mustafa ibn Yousuf al Bursawi, commonly known as Khwaja Zada 
(d/ 1487-88) who wrote a third destraction.' This 'indicated once more the 
weakness of human understanding and the strength of faith. But, contrary to 
Muslim reactions, the philosophical writings of Averroes produced a great 
impact on Christian Europe and stiU he continues to be the most popular Muslim 
philosopher in the West. Alfred GiUaume in his article on philosophy and 
theology in the 'Legacy of Islam,' writes that Ibn Rushd "belongs to Europe and 

European thought rather than to the East Averroism continued to be 

a living factor in European thought until the birth of modern experimental 
science. Latin is said to have preserved more than one of Ibn Rushd's works 
which Arabic had lost." His Tahafut al-Tahafut is essentially a reply of 
Al Ghazali's attack on rationalism. His fame as a philosopher specially in the 
West both in Christian and Jewish circles is based on his three commentaries of 
Aristotle's works known as the 'Jami' (Summary), the Tfl/A:/HS ' (Resume) and a 
long 'Tafsir or Sharah ' (Commentary). These commentaries were translated into 
Hebrew by Samuel ibn Tibbon in the first half of the 13th century, by Jacob 
Anatoli in 1232 A.C. and by Michael Scott and Hermann, the German into 
Latin. These translations were later revised in the 15th and 16th centuries. 
Among his other philosophical treatises are 'Kitab Fasl al Maqal' and the 'Kitab 
al Kashf al Manahif, which were edited by M. J. Muller and published in Munich 
in 1859 A.C. 

Regarding predestination, Ibn Rushd maintained that man was 'neither 
the absolute master of his destiny nor bound by fixed immutable decrees, but, 

Hundred Great Muslims 1 77 

that, the truth lay in the middle, i.e., '/!/ Amr Bain al Amarin. ' 'Human actions 
depend partly on his free-will and partly on outside causes. These causes spring 
from general laws of nature, God alone knows their sequence.' According to 
him, man should make utmost efforts to attain perfection which implies 
complete identification with the active universal intellect. This human perfection 
can only be attained through study, speculation and negation of desires specially 
those relating to the senses. 

Ibn Rushd considered the Caliphate Rashida (Pious Caliphs) as the model 
Republic in which the dreams of Plato were realised. He claimed women to be 
equal of men in all respects and possessing equal capacities to shine in war and 
peace. He has cited women warriors among Greeks, Arabs and Africans. 

Ibn Rushd was the most learned commentator of Aristotelian works and 
was more Aristotehan than Ibn Sina. He corrected some of the misconceptions 
of Ibn Sina about the rational philosophy of Aristotle. A number of his invaluable 
works perished when the Christian conquerors set fire to the intellectual 
treasures of the Moors (Spanish Muslims) amassed after centuries of intellectual 
activities. More than 80 thousand rare manuscripts were reduced to ashes in 
Granada alone. Muslim thinkers like Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd formulated their 
ideas with logical precision and in the latter, 'Arabic philosophy reached its 
apogee.' It is all the more creditable for the learned Averroes that he compiled 
his varied and invaluable works in such a distracted state of mind and disturbed 

In the beginning, philosophy was considered to be an irreligious subject 
in Muslim Spain where the society was formulated on true Arabic lines. Ishaq 
ibn Umran, a physician of Baghdad was first to introduce philosophy in Spain, 
which flourished thereafter, specially during the reigns of Al Hakam and Yousuf 
ibn Momin. The ideas of Ibn Rushd, were incompatible with the religious 
sentiments of orthodox Muslims and he was accused of being an atheist. But, 
according to Phillip K. Hitti, "He was a rationalist and claimed the right to 
submit everything save the revealed dogmas of faith to the judgement of reason, 
but he was not a free thinker or unbeliever. His views of creation of God were 
evolutionary: not a matter of days but eternity." George Sarton also holds 
similar views. "Ibn Rushd was not by any means less honest and sincere, nor was 
he necessarily less pious, than the other schoolmen; but he was more intelligent, 
and his deeper vision enabled him to reconcile statements which seemed irrecon- 
cilable to others." Ibn Rushd, being a rationalist wanted to explain reUgion in 
the light of reason. His contemporary Abdul Kabir, a highly religious person, 
describes him as a person anxious to establish a harmony between religion and 
philosophy. In his well-known book, 'Averroes and Averroism,' Renan writes: 
"There is nothing to prevent our supposing that Ibn Rushd was a sincere believer 
in Islamism, especially when we consider how little irrational the supernatural 
element in the essential dogmas of this reUgion is, and how closely this religion 
approaches the purest Deism." 

1 78 Hundred Great Muslims 

Ibn Rushd, a versatile genius, is the author of about 20 medical treatises 
including his encyclopaedic work, 'Kitab al Kulliyat fil Tibb ' (General Rules of 
Medicine), better known as 'Colliget' in Latin. This book was written before 
1162 A.C. comprises of seven volumes, treating respectively of anatomy, 
physiology, general pathology, diagnosis, materia medica, hygiene and general 
therapeutics. He considered that none suffers twice from smallpox. He also fully 
understood the function of retina. But his 'Colliget' stands no comparison to 
'Continents' of Rhazes and 'Canon' of Avicenna. Actually his fame as a 
physician was eclipsed by his falne as a philosopher. His Kulliyat (Colliget) was 
first translated into Latin by the Jew Bonacosa in the latter half of 13th century 
A.C. It was again translated into Latin by Syphorien Champier about 1537 A.C. 
It was twice translated into Hebrpw. "In Spain, the philosophical bias predomi- 
nated among medical men," remarks. Max Meyerhof. "The prototypes of this 
combination are the two Muslims, Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) and Ibn Rushd 

Muslim Spain has produced some talented musicians both theorists and 
practical musicians. Ibn Bajjac(d. 1138) known as Avempace, who as musical 
theorist, occupies the same place in the West which Farabi occupies in the East. 
Ibn Rushd has also made invaluable contribution to musical theory by writing a 
commentary on Aristotle's 'De Anima, ' 'dealing perspicuously with the theory 
of soimd.' This was translated into Latin by Michael Scot (d. 1232). 

A number of his biographies have appeared in different languages but the 
most elaborate account of his life and works is found in 'A verroes etj 'averroisme ' 
written by Ernest Renan published in Paris in 1852 A.D. "This admirable work," 
says Georgs Sarton, "has justly become a classic; it is a penetrating study which 
every student of mediaeval philosophy ought to read, but it must be used with 
caution." About the autocratic rule, Ibn Rushd has said, "The tyrant is he who 
governs for himself and not for his people." 

It has been customary with the Western writers to minimise the intellectual 
attaiimients of Muslim thinkers, but now the less partial researches have Ufted 
this veil and their achievements stand in all their glory. Alfred Guillaume says, 
"We may be sure that those who accuse the Muslim scholars of lack of originality 
and of intellectual decadence have never read Averroes or looked into Algazel 
but have adopted second hand judgements. The presence of doctrines of Islamic 
origin in the very citadel of Western Christianity, the 'Summa' of Aquinas, is 
a sufficient refutation of the charge of lack of Originality and sterility." 

The works of Ibn Rushd (Averroes) which were very popular in the West 
were translated into several European languages including Latin, Hebrew, 
German and English. It was through his commentaries that the West learned 
about Aristotle and other Greek thinkers. The Latin 'Editio Princeps ' of Aristotle 
with Averroes' commentaries was pubUshed for 50 times in Venice alone. 
Andrea Alpago of Belluno in Italy (d. 1520) translated into Latin, Avicenna's 
'Canon ' and the minor works of Averroes. The Italian Emperor Frederik, the 

Hundred Great Muslims 1 79 

Great, who, on account of being a great patron of Muslim culture, was accused 
by the Bishops to have embraced Islam, was instrumental in getting translated 
a number of Arabic books, including those of Averroes. 

Thus, the works of Averroes which were not so popular in Islamic 
countries wielded considerable influence in the Western thought, both Christian 
and Jewish. "He deeply influenced Jewish philosophy through many translations 
and disciples," writes George Saiton, in his monumental work. An Introduction 
to the Study of Science. "Jewish Averroism reached its zenith under Levi ben 
Gershon in the first half of the fourteenth century, and it continued to prosper 
until the end of the fifteenth century. The Christian schoolmen were influenced 
as the Jewish, and in various ways." According to Phillip K. Hitti, "Last of the 
great Arabic writing philosophers, Ibn Rushd belonged more to Christian Europe 
than to Muslim Asia or Africa. To the West he became the commentator as 
Aristotle was 'The Teacher.' From the end of the 12th to the end of the 16th 
century Averroism remained the dominant school of thought, and that in spite 
of the orthodox reaction it created first among the Muslims in Spain, then 

among the Tahnudists and finally among the Christian clergy After being 

purged of objectionable matter by ecclesiastical authorities, his writings became 
prescribed studies in the University of Paris and other institutions of higher 
learning. With all its excellence and other misconceptions collected under its 
name, the intellectual movement initiated by Ibn Rushd continued to be a Uving 
factor in European thought until the birth of modem experimental science". 
Writing in the Chapter 'Crusades' of Legacy of Islam, Ernest Barker admits : 
"The philosophy of Cordova and its great teacher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) 
penetrated to the University of Paris". 


The glorious Caliphate of the Abbasides provided the most congenial 
atmosphere for the advancement of learning and is rightly known as the golden 
period of Islamic civilization. It was during this Regime that the celebrated 
Caliph Mamoon ar-Rashid founded his Danil Hukama (House of Wisdom) which 
served as the laboratory for translation and research work that paved the way 
for future advancement of knowledge. It was this period which gave birth to 
legists like Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafii and Imam Abu Yusuf; 
philosophers like Ishaq al-Kindi, Imam Ghazali and Abu Nasr Farabi; scientists 
and mathematicians like Musa Khwarizmi, Jabir ibn Hayyan and Zakriya Razi; 
Sufis like Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani, Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi and Hazrat Shibli; 
musicians like Ishaq Mausili and Zalzal and administrators like Yahya Bermaki 
and Hasan ibn Sahl. Intellectual development during the epoch attained a 
standard without any precedent in the history of Islam. The Cahphs and their 
Amirs vied with one another in literary pursuits and patronage of learning. 
One of the great intellectual luminaries of this age was Al-Mawardi, who is 
distinguished as the first political thinker of Islam and ranks amongst the greatest 
political thinkers of mediaeval times, including Nizamul Mulk Toosi, Ibn Khaldun 
and Machiavelli. From the post of a Qazi, he rose to be the Roving Ambassador 
of the Caliph and solved many knotty political tangles of his State. "Al-Khatib 
of Baghdad", writes an orientahst, "on the authority of Abu AU Hasan ibn 
Da'ud, relates that the people of Basrah always took pride in their three learned 
countrymen and their works viz., KhaUd ibn Ahmad (d. 175 A.H.) and his work, 
'Kitab-ul-Amin', Sibawayh (d. 180 A.H.) and his 'Kitab-un-Nahw'; Al-Jahiz 
(d. 225 A.H.) and his Al-Bayan-wat-Tabiyan. To this may be added the name of 
a fourth scholar Al-Mawardi, the learned jurisconsult and political economist of 
Basrah, whose monumental work "Al-Ahkam-us-Sultaniyah \ is a master-piece of 
politico-religious literature of Islam. 

Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Habib, Abul Hasan Al-Mawardi was born at Basrah 
in 364 A.H./ 105 8 A.C. into an Arab family which manufactured and carried 
on trade in rose water, hence the sobriquet 'Al-Mawardi'. He received his early 
education at Basrah, studying jurisprudence from the well-known Shafiite jurist, 
Abul Qasim Abul Wahid As-Saimari. Later he proceeded to Baghdad for higher 
studies and learnt jurisprudence, grammar and literature from Abdullah al-Bafi 
and Sheikh Abdul Hamid al-Isfraini. Soon he was well versed in Islamic studies 
including //itzcfiY^ and Fiqh as well as in poUtics, ethics and Uterature. 


Hundred Great Muslims 181 

He served as Qazi (Judge) at various places and was appointed the "Qazi 
al-Quzat" (Supreme Judge) of Ustuwa, a district of Nishapur. In 429 A.H. he 
was elevated to the highest judicial post of "Aqb-al-Quzat" (Grand Qazi) of 
Baghdad, a post he held with distinction until his death. 

He was an eminent practical politician and a prolific writer on diverse 
subjects like religion, ethics, literature and politics. The Abbaside Caliph 
al-Qadir Billah (381-422 A.H.) held him in high esteem and Qa'im bin Amrillah 
(391-460 A.H.), the 26th Abbaside Caliph of Baghdad posted him as his Roving 
Ambassador and sent him on several diplomatic missions to the neighbouring 
and satellite States. His wise statesmanship was, to a great extent, responsible 
for maintaining the prestige of the dwindling Caliphate of Baghdad among her 
too powerful and almost independent Seljuk and Buwayhid Amirs. He was 
heavily loaded with valuable presents by the Seljuk, Buwayhid and other Amirs 
whom he proffered wise counsels which were in conformity with the dignity 
of the Caliphate of Baghdad. According to Jalal-ud-Dawlah, he surpassed other 
men of his class in wealth. A few persons charged him with professing Mutazili 
creed but later writers have refuted it. He died in 1058 A.C. after a successful 

Al-Mawardi, being an exponent of the Shafi'ite school, was a prominent 
traditionist. Unfortunately none of his works on the subject have survived. No 
doubt a number oiHadiths from him have been quoted in 'Ahkam-us-Sultaniya', 
'Alam-un-Nubuwa-t', and 'Adab-ud-Dunya-wad Din'. His hold on Hadith can 
be gauged from his 'A'lam-un-Nubuwat'. His explanation of the difference 
between miracle and magic in the light of the sayings of the Prophet is according 
to Tash Kopruizadah the 'best recorded until that time.' 

As a Jurisconsult, Al-Mawardi occupies an eminent place amongst Muslim 
scholars on the subject. He had specialised in the subject and was universally 
recognised as one of the greatest jurists of his time. He propounded the Shafi'ite 
Fiqh (Jurisprudence) in his masterly work 'Al Ham' which served as an 
invaluable reference book on Shafi'ite Jurisprudence for the later jurists, including 
Al-lsnavi who speaks very highly of it. This book of 8,000 pages was condensed 
by Al-Mawardi into an epitome comprising of 40 pages and was named 'Al Iqna. ' 

Al-Mawardi enjoys high reputation among the old commentators of the 
Holy Quran. His commentary entitled 'Nukat-wa'l-Uyum' h!& a place of its own 
amongst the classical commentaries of Al-Qushairi, Al-Razi, Al-Isfahani and 
Al-Kirmani. The charge that his certain commentaries bear germs of Mutazilite 
views does not stand to reason and such outstanding divines as Ibn-Taimiya 
has classed it among the good books on the subject. His commentary of the 
Holy Quran had been very popular and it was abridged by a writer. A Spanish 
Muslim scholar named Abul Hasan Ali came all the way from Saragossa in 
Spain to read this book from the author himself. 

Al-Mawardi also wrote a book on the Quranic similitudes, which, in the 

182 Hundred Great Muslims 

opinion of As-Suyuti was the first book on this subject. •Emphasising the 
importance of this book Al-Mawardi writes, "one of the main Quranic sciences is 
the science of parables or similitudes. People have neglected it as they have 
confined their attention to similitudes only and have lost sight of the similars 
mentioned in the similles. A similitude without a similar is a horse without a 
bridle, or a camel without a rein". 

Al-Mawardi, thougih not a regular student of political science, was a high 
class political economist and his speculative political writings are of much 
value. His monumental work, 'Al Ahkam-us-Sultaniyah' occupies an important 
place amongst the poUtical treatises written during the mediaeval times. He 
wrote four books on political science namely: (1) 'Al Ahkam-us-Sultaniyah' 
(Laws concerning Statecraft), (2) 'Adab-al-Wazir' (Ethics of the Minister), 
(3) '5/>asar-M/-^a«fc' (Kings' Politics), and (4) 'Tahsil-un-Nasr-wat-Ta'Jit-uz-Zafar' 
(Facilitating conquest and hastening victory). Of these, the first two books have 
been published. His 'Al-Ahkam-us-Sultaniyah', which has been translated into 
several languages including French and Urdu is an invaluable work on Islamic 
pubUc laws. In the contents of this book, he has followed the Kitab-ul-Umm of 
As-Shafi'i. the 'Adab-al-Wazir' (Ethics of the Minister) which deals with the 
functions of the Prime Minister and lays down sound advice on public adminis- 
tration. A vast literature deaUng the duties and privileges of the Prime Minister 
has been produced in Islamic countries, but Al-Mawardi's 'Adah al-Wazir'is the 
most comprehensive and important work on the subject which embraces almost 
all phases on this intricate matter. 

The political as well as religious writings of Al-Mawardi wielded consider- 
able influence over the later writers on the subject, specially in Islamic countries. 
His influence may be traced into the 'Siyasat Nama' of Nizamul Mulk Toosi 
and the 'Prolegomena' of Ibn Khaldun. Ibn Khaldun, who is recognised as the 
founder of Sociology and is an outstanding writer on political economy, no 
doubt, excelled Al-Mawardi in many respects. Enumerating the necessity of a 
ruler, Ibn Khaldun says : "The sovereign exists for the good of the people .... 
The necessity of a ruler arises from the fact that human beings have to Uve 
together and unless there is someone to maintain order, society would break into 
pieces." He observes: 'There is a constant tendency in an oriental monarchy 
towards absolutism, towards unlimited power, so undoubtedly the tendency of 
the oriental governors was towards greater and greater independence of central 
authority." Earlier, Al-Mawardi had pointed out the unlimited powers of 
governors during the decline of Abbaside Cahphate when the governorship was 
acquired through usurpation and the central authority had little control over 

Thus Al-Mawardi stands out as the first great political thinker in Islam 
whose writings as well as practical experience in politics have gone a long way 
in moulding the political outlook of the later writers. 


The citadel of Almut standing amidst the lofty Caucasus was the strong- 
hold of the Ismailis, where Hasan ibn Sabha and his followers (Assassins) had 
built their earthly paradise. This inaccessible stronghold which for centuries 
had successfully defied the successive invasions was at last captured by Hulaku 
Khan, the Mongol in 1256 A.C. A long line of prisoners tied with one another 
was paraded before the Mongol tyrant. Among them was a middle aged man 
peculiarly dressed, who being ushered in Hulaku's presence impressed him with 
his great eloquence and extraordinary intelligence. The man introduced to him 
was Nasir al-Din Toosi, a versatile genius and above all, a capable astrologer, who 
could foretell the fortune of the Mongol conqueror. Hulaku, finding Nasij al-Din 
to be a very useful person took him in his retinue and kept him as his trusted 
Adviser throughout his life. 

Nasir al-Din Toosi, one of tlie great thinkers of Islam, was a man of 
towering ability whose encyclopaedic work embraced almost all branches of 
knowledge, including astronomy, mathematics, sciences, optics, geography, 
medicine, philosophy, logic, music, mineralogy, theology and ethics. 

Abu Jafar Muahmmad ibn Muhammad al Hasan Nisar al-Din al-Toosi 
al-Muhaqqiq (the Investigator) was born on February 18, 1201 A.C. in Toos, 
a city of Khorasan where he received his early education. His principal teacher 
was Kamal al-Din ibn Yunus. His fame as a versatile scholar and astrologer soon 
spread to the distant parts of Persia and he was kidnappfed by Nasir al-Din Abd 
al-Rahman ibn Ali Mansur, the Ismaili Governor of Kohistan, who despatched 
him to Almut, where he remained as an unwilling guest for a long time. In 
1256 A.C when Almut was captured by Hulaku Khan, he entered the service 
of the Mongol conqueror and remained his trusted Adviser. In Fjebniary, 1258, 
when Baghdad capitulated to the Mongols and was sacked by them, Nasir al-Din 
Toosi who accompanied them was greatly instrumental in influencing Hulaku, 
to spare a part of its population as well as the Shiite sanctuaries in Southern 

Hulaku appointed Toosi as his Wazir and Supervisor of Wakf Estates. It 
was under his orders that Toosi at the age of sixty set about building in 1259— 
one year after the sack of Baghdad, on the fortified Maragha Hill, the world 
famous observatory popularly known as the Maragha observatory. It was 


184 Hundred Great Muslims 

equipped with the best available instruments and staffed by some of the 
prominent astronomers of the age who carried on most important astronomical 
researches under the direction and supervision of Toosi. 

Toosi retained his influence in the Mongol Court even under Abaka 
without interruption until his death on June 26, 1274 A.C. in Baghdad. 

Nasir al-Din Toosi was an outstanding encyclopaedist with a fine 
synthetic brain. He was a prolific writer; not less than 56 of his works are listed 
by Brockalmann. A large number of his treatises are not included in this hst. 
He had made a thorough study of Greek learning and had translated as weU as 
edited a number of Greek works, into Persian. This collection of translations is 
called 'Kitab at Mutawassitat Bain al Handasa wal Hai-a' (The middle books 
between geometry and astronomy). He discussed scientific matters with the 
celebrated Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi through correspondence, and with Najam 
al-Din Katibi orally. He dedicated his "Talkhis Muhassal" to the historian 
Alaud-din and his "Awsaf al Ashraf" to Sahib Diwan Shamsuddin. His fame as 
one of the greatest intellects of Islam rests on his researches in astronomy, 
astrology, mathematics, physics, medicine and exact sciences. 

It is in astronomy that Nasir al-Din Toosi acquired great fame and made 
lasting contributions. His practical work and invaluable researches in the subject 
owed much to the interest of Mongol Rulers, especially Hulaku. He took 12 
years to complete his new 'Planetary Tables" known as 'Rkhanian Tables. ' 

He wrote a number of astronomical treatises of which the most important is 
'Kitab al Tazkiraal Nasirya'ov "Tazkira fi Ilm a hai'a" (Memorial of Astronomy) 
a survey of the whole field of astronomy on which numerous scholars 
have written commentaries and which has been translated into several Eastern 
as well as Western languages. The book was named after his first patron Nasir 
al-Din, Governor of Kohistan. Hence the book which had two editions was 
written before 1256 A.C. "Tazkira," which forms a landmark in the develop- 
ment of astronomy, won great popularity throughout the East and the West. 
A large number of its commentaries were written by renowned scholars, 
including "Bayan Maqasid Tazkira" (Explanation of the Aims of Tazkira) by 
Muhammad ibn Ali Husain al Himadhi, with notes by Mahmood ibn Masud 
Qutbuddin al-Shirazi (d. 1310-11); the "Tanzih al Tazkira" (Illustration of 
the Tazkira) written in 1311-12 by al Hasan ibn Muhammad Ali Nishapuri. 
A commentary in Turkish language was written by Path Allah Sherwani in 1414 
A.C. A large number of commentaries assisted in the assimilation of "Tazkira" 
which is very condensed. This book is divided into four large chapters dealing 
wdth (1) 'Geometrical and cinematical introduction with discussions of rest, 
simple and complex motions', (2) 'General astronomical notions— secular change 
of the obliquity of the ecliptic, trepidation of the equinoxes'. A part of this 
chapter which was translated by Carr De Vaux, bristles with scathing criticism 
of Almagest written by Ptolemy. The learned Toosi corrected the views regarding 
the anomalies of the Moon and the motion in latitude of the planets as 

Hundred Great Muslims 185 

contained in Almagest, (3) 'Earth and the influence of celestial bodies on it. It 
also contains accounts of seas, winds, tides and how these are caused', and 
(4) 'The size and distances of the planets'. 

His forceful criticism of Ptolemic astronomy paved the way for the 
Copemican reform. He has written a large number of astronomical treatises 
including (1) 'Zubdat al Hai'a (The Cream of Astronomy); (2) 'Kitab al Tahsil 
fil Najum' (The Stars made Easy); (3) 'On the Trajectory, Size and Distance of 
Mercury'; (4) 'Parts of Mutawassit'; (5) 'Rising and Setting'; (6) 'On the Moving 
Sphere'; (7) 'On the Size and Distances of Sun and Moon'; 'Phenomena'; 
(8) 'On the Ascension of Stars'; (9) 'Spherics'; (10) 'Days and Nights'; 
(11) 'Habitations'; and (12) 'Tahzir al Majisti'. This book contains criticism of 
Ptolemy's views. His 'Zubdat al Hai-a'is extant in Arabic and Persian. 

The fame of Nasir al-Din Toosi in astronomy rests chiefly on his astrono- 
mical researches carried on in the Maragha observatory. The destruction wrought 
by the Mongol herds served as a death blow to all cultural and intellectual 
movements in the world of Islam. Their cultural treasures amassed during 
centuries of intellectual pursuits were reduced to ashes on the fall of Baghdad. 
Together with 'Darul Hukame of Baghdad, founded by Mamoon ar-Rashid in the 
first half of the 9th century and 'Bait-ul-Hukama of Cairo, established by the 
Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakam in the first half of the Uth century, the observatory 
of Maragha was the third greatest centre of literary and astronomical research in 
the East. This Khaniz observatory was completed in 1259 A.C. Its remains are 
still extant. This observatory was equipped with the best available instruments, 
including an "armillary sphere, the mural quadrant and a solstitial armil," which 
were probably brought from Baghdad and Abnut. It also housed a big library, 
which, according to Ibn Shakir, contained more than 400,000 books, collected 
by the Mongol armies from Syria, Iraq and Persia. The Khaniz observatory of 
Maragha functioned under Nasir. al-Din Toosi who was its first Director and was 
later on succeeded by his two sons. It was staffed by some of the eminent 
astronomers of the age, including Mohi al-Din al-Maghribi and the illustrious 
Abul Faraj. The instruments used in this observatory have been described by 
al Urdi and Khwandmir which included 'Tamathil-i-Ashkal-i-aflak'; 'HawamiV 
(deferents); 'Dawairi Mauhuma wa Suwar wa Buruf-i-duwaz' (Imaginary Circles, 
Constellations and Signs of the Zodiac). 

He is reputed as the inventor of the "Turquet (Torquetum), an instrument 
containing two graduated circles in two perpendicular planes, which became 
very popular in the West during the 15th and 16th centuries, towards perfecting 
their instruments. "They endeavoured to make their instruments as large as 
possible," writes Carra De Vaux, "In order to minimise error; they then began to 
make special instruments, each being devoted to special class of observations. 
In the observatory at Maragha there were instruments made of rings for special 
purposes; ecliptical, solstitial and equatorial armillaries. The ecliptical, which 
were very much used, had five rings, the largest of which was some 12 feet 
across. It was graduated in degrees and minutes. When Alfonso of Castilla 

186 Hundred Great Muslims 

wanted to construct an annillary sphere, which would be finest and best that 
had yet been made, it was to the Arabs that he turned for information" 

The principal research carried on in the Maragha observatory which lasted 
for two generations only, related to the compilation of "Al Zij-al-Ilkhani" 
better known as "The Rkhanian Tables ", which earned great popularity through- 
out the East, including China. This Table was compiled by Nasir al-Din Toosi 
after 12 years of hard research and was completed in 1272 A.C. The original 
text was probably written in Persian. This work is divided into four books 
namely, (1) 'Chinese, Greek, Arabic and Persian Chronology, {1) Motions of the 
Planets, (3) Ephemerides, (4) Astronomical Observations. This Table was 
translated into Arabic and several commentaries were written on it. 

His other important astroiiomical works regarding calendar are 
(J) 'Mukhtasar fi Ilm al Tanjim wa Marifat al-Taqwim' (Summary of Astrology 
and of the Calendar) which is extant in Persian; and (2) 'Katab al-Barifi Ulum 
al-Taqwim wa Harakat al Aflak wa-Ahkam al Nufum ' (The excellent book on the 
Calendar, the Movement of the Spheres and Judicial Astrology). This Astrological 
treatise 'Kitab-i-si-Fasl, ' is a work of high order. 

Only next to astronomy stands Nasir al-Din 's contribution to mathematics. 
He has left behind him immortal works on geometry and trigonometry. He 
edited most of the ancient mathematical works numbering 16, which included 
four books of the Muslim period. He wrote four treatises, on arithmetic and 
algebra, including "Al Mukhtasar bi Jami al Hisab bil Takht wal Turab", 
(Summary of the whole of Computation with Table and Earth) and 'Kitab al 
Jabr wal Muqabala ' (Treatise on Algebra), the first one is extant in Arabic and 

He is equally important as a geometer. He wrote no less than fifteen 
treatises on geometry, which included his 'Al Usui ul Maudua' (Treatise on 
Euclids Postulates); 'Qawaid^al-Handasa' (Principles of Geometry) and "Tahrir 
al Usual" (the two Reductions of the Elements of Euclid) in which, contrary to 
the principle followed by Euclid, he multiplied the special caset 

Nasir al-Din toosi played no small part in the advancement of trigono- 
metry. His works on trigonometry marked the culmination of the progress in the 
subject. He is the author of the 'Kitab Shakl al Qatta' (A treatise on Quadri- 
lateral) an extremely original work in which trigonometry has been treated 
independently of astronomy, the book dealing with spherical trigonometry is 
very .comprehensive and perhaps the best work on the subject written during 
the mediaeval times. It was translated into French and edited by Alexandre 
Cara Iheodory Pasha in 1891. Writing in the Legacy of Islam, Carra De Vaux 
says, "Trigonometry, plane or spherical, is now well estabUshed and finds in 
this book its first methodically developed and deliberate expression". This 
treatise of Nasir al-Din had a deep influence over the mathematicians of both 
the East and West who based their trigonometrical researches on this book. 

Hundred Great Muslims 187 

"To appreciate Nasir al-Din's achievements", admits George Sarton", it will 
suffice to realise that his "Shakl al-Qatta"'W2is almost the Arabic equivalent of 
'Regiomontanus', 'De Triangulis Omnimodis Libri Quinque, posthumously 
printed in 1533'. 

Being a versatile genius, Nasir al-Din Toosi has made lasting contributions 
to optics, occult sciences, mineralogy, medicine, geography, music, philosophy, 
theology and ethics. In optics he has left behind three treatises namely "Tahrir 
Kitab al Manazir,' Mabahith Fin'ikas al Shu'aat wa in Ttafiha' (Research on the 
Reflection and Deflection of Rays) and reply to Ali ibn Umar al Qazwini. All 
these treatises have been translated into the German language by Eilhard 

He wrote probably two treatises on music, namely 'Kitab flilm alMausiqV 
which was written in Arabic and 'Kanz al Tuhaf, written in Persian. His musical 
theories were elaborated and enlarged by his celebrated disciple Qutab al-Din 
al-Shirazi. He is said to have invented a flute known as "Mahtar Duduk" (Chapel 

A chapter of his Tazkira deals with geodesy describing the seas, winds the 
tides. His medical works are of no less scientific importance. He wrote 'Kitab 
al Bab Bahiya fil Tarakib al Sultaniya, a regimen divided into three parts which 
deal with diets, health rules and sexual intercourse. This book was translated 
into Turkish language. 

His two treatises deal with logic. These are 'Kitab al TajridfiUm alMantiq 
(Compendium of Logic) and commentary on the 'Katab Alisharat wal Tanbihat', 
written by Ibn Sina. His 'Akhlaq-i-Nasiri' classifies knowledge into speculation 
and practical. The speculative knowledge he has subdivided into (a) Metaphysics 
and Theology; (bj Mathematics (including music, optics and mechanics), (cj 
Natural Sciences which included Elements, Science of Transformations, 
Meteorology, mineralogy, botany, zoology, psychology, medicine, astrology and 
agriculture. The practical knowledge included (a) ethics, (b) domestic economy, 
and (c) politics. 

In order of importance, his large number of philosophical, metaphysical 
and theological treatises rank only next to his works on astronomy and 
mathematics. In orthodox circles of his sect, his fame chiefly rests on these 
treatises. His 'Kitab al Fusul' dealing with metaphysics was written in Persian 
which was translated into Arabic by Al-Jurjani. His monumental philosophical 
work "Tajrid al Aqaid' (Al Kalam) is his most popular work on which a large 
number of commentaries have been written in Arabic, Persian and Turkish 
languages. The best commentary was written by Ali ibn Muhammad Al-Juijani. 
His outstanding work on ethics entitled 'Akhlaq-i-Nasiri' (Hzsimn Ethics) is one 
of the best books written on the subject which still serves as a text-book in 
Arabic schools throughout the Islamic world. This was written before 1256 and 
translated into Arabic as Risala fil Tahqiq-al Rm. Together with Akhlaq-i-Jalali, 
this invaluable ethicd treatise of Nasir al-Din Toosi, is one of the two most 
popular works on the subject in the East. Several editions of this book were 
printed in India and parts of it were also translated and published in the English 
and German languages. 


Muslim Spain has produced some of the greatest intellectual giants and 
scientists of the mediaeval times, including Ibn-Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Khaldun, 
Ibn-Zuhr, Ibn-Baitar, Ibn-Khatib, Dinawari and Abul Qasim Al-Zahrawl, whose 
works, when translated into European languages, brought about the Western 
Renaissance as well as provided the firm ground on which the imposing edifice 
of European culture was built. "It was under the influence of Arabian and 
Moorish revival of culture", acknowledges Robert Briffault in his well-known 
work, 'The Making of Humanity', "and not in the 15th century that the real 
Renaissance took place. Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. 
After steadily sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached the darkest 
depth of ignorance and degradation when the cities of the Saracenic world, 
Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, Toledo, were growing centres of civilization and 
intellectual activity. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into 
a new phase of human evolution. From the time when the influence of their 
culture made itself felt, began the stirrings of new life". 

Al-Hakam II (961—976), better known as Mamoon of the West, was one 
of the most talented, learned and enlightened rulers of the Middle ages, He 
ruled over Muslim Spain in the later half of the 1 0th century . His love for learning 
knew no bounds and his patronage had attracted to his Court, the intellectual 
luminaries from all parts of the world of Islam. Abul Qasim Zahrawi was one 
of them. He had founded a chain of higher educational institutions in Spain and 
had built a library containing four lakh books catalogued in 44 bulky volumes. 
The talented Caliph had gone through a sizeable number of them and had 
written marginal notes in them. According to Ibn Khaldun, he had purchased the 
first edition of the book of Farghani for ten thousand dinars. Mr. S. P. Scot 
writes in his History of Moorish Empire in Spain: "He (Al-Hakam II) was 
worthy representative of the advanced culture, the scientific attainments, the 
poesy and the art of Hispano-Arab civilization, as contrasted with the intellectual 
darkness, the disgusting immorality, the revolting filth, the abject superstition 
which characterised the contemporaneous society of Europe. His tireless 
industry and prodigious erudition were the marvels of his time". 

Abul Qasim Khalef ibn al-Zahrawi, better known as Abulcasis or Albucasis 
or Alsabaravius in the West, was one of the talented figures who adorned the 
court of Al-Hakam II, the Spanish Caliph. He is recognised as the greatest 


Hundred Great Muslims 189 

Muslim surgeon who was the personal physician of the Caliph. He was 
nick-named Al-Zahrawi because he was born at Al-Zahra, a suburb of Cordova in 
936 A.C. He died in 1013 A.C. 

Abul Qasim al-Zahrawi, the greatest surgeon of Islam and of the Middle 
ages, was a versatile genius. He was a talented surgeon, medical theorist and 
physician. The book on which his fame rests in "Al-Tasrif", an encyclopaedic 
work hi 30 sections dealing with medical science, whose most important last 
three volumes deal with surgery. These volumes, introduce or emphasise such 
new ideas as cauterization of wounds, crushing a stone inside the bladder and 
the necessity of vivisection and dissection". Al-Tasrif contains interesting and 
elaborate method of preparing drugs through sublimation and distillation. 
A portion of his surgical volumes is devoted to obstetrics and the surgical 
treatment of eye, ear and teeth. This monumental work, was first translated into 
Latin by Gerard of Cremona, pubUshed in Venice (Italy) in 1497, at Strassburg 
(Germany) in 1532, at Basle (Switzerland) in 1541 and at Oxford (England) 
in 1778 A.C. It was also translated in Provencal and Hebrew. Thus this work of 
repute earned great popularity in the West and held its place for centuries as a 
manual of surgery at Salerno, Montepellier and other early schools of medicine 
ifl Europe. It was illustrated with pictures and sketches of surgical instruments. 
According to George Sarton, 'the Muslim prejudices against surgery stifled Abul 
Qasim's fame in Islam but in Christian world his prestige was soon immense'. 
Al-Tasrif laid the foundation of the development of surgery in the West. An 
elaborate account of Al Zahrawi's surgical work with 100 surgical instruments 
sketched in it is found in the German History of Surgery, "Geschichte der 
Chirurgie, written by E. Grait and published in Berlin in 1898. Capar Wolphin 
his Collection Gynaeciorum" has published the portion of >l/-7asn/ dealing with 

Abul Qasim al-Zahrawi is said to have invented many surgical appliances 
which were not known to the world. Of his several instruments the three most 
useful were: "(1) The sponge tipped probang which he used to remove foreign 
bodies from the upper end of the respiratory canal, (2) The grooved probe 
meant for internal examination of the urethral passage, (3) The ear springs". 

Al-Zahrawi was a reputed physician as well as surgeon. In his invaluable 
work Al-Tasrif he has elaborately dealt with the preparation of several drugs, 
obstetrics and female diseases. His description of the surgical treatment of teeth, 
ears and eyes is of exceptionally high order. It immensely benefited the West. 
He was an outstanding dentist and his book is illustrated with numerous dental 
instruments meant for shaking, loosening and extracting the teeth. His book 
contains the earliest type of the turn key extraction of roots, vulsella for 
removal of portions of the jaw and the gold and silver wire which he used to 
bind a loose tooth with a sound one. He also dealt with the operation for 
correcting the projecting teeth which disfigures human face. He has very ably 
discussed the "oval deformities, dental arches and formation of tartor". He was 
an expert dentist who could very successfully set an artificial tooth in place of 
a diseased one. 

190 Hundred Great Muslims 

As a physician and surgeon Al-Zahrawi occupies an outstanding place in 
the history of medical science. He was rather first to explain the deadly disease, 
Haemophilia in which due to the absence of the clotting property, the incessant 
flow of blood cannot be stopped. He was specialist in treatment of diseases 
with the help of fire and gives a list of fifty such diseases. "He made cautery 
the nautical instruments of the Arabs", which according to Dr. Campbell, "led 
to the widespread use of this means of treatment throughout Western Europe 
during the Middle ages". 

His influence on European medicine, specially on European surgery, 
was overwhelming. In fact, the study of his immortal illustrafed work, >l/-7jsri/ 
which was translated into several European languages laid the foundation of 
Western surgery. The natural dislike for surgery in Islamic medicine prevented 
Al-Tasrif to win the same popularity in the Islamic world which it earned in the 
West. Writing in his well-known v/ork. History of Arabian Medicine, Dr. Campbell 
acknowledges the great influence which Abul Qasim Al-Zahrawi produced on the 
development of Western medicine and surgery. He observes: "His lucidity and 
method of presentation awakened prepossession in favour of Arabian literature 
among the scholars of the West. His method eclipsed those of Galen and 
maintained a dominant position in Mediaeval Europe for five hundred years. He 

helped to raise the status of surgery in Europe. His descriptions of 

operations are clear and particularly valuable because they portray the figures 
of surgical instruments used by him in the long course of his own surgical 

Thus Abul Qasim Al-Zahrawi deserves to be ranked among the greatest 
surgeons of the world, one who was not only the father of surgical science 
during the Mediaeval era but also developed it to a high degree of perfection. 


The Special Court room of the Allahabad High Court was packed to its 
capacity. The front rows were occupied by a galaxy of eminent lawyers who 
had come from all parts of India to defend the accused in the famous Merrut 
Conspiracy Case, the greatest conspiracy unearthed against the British Govern- 
ment since the national upheaval of 1857. The lawyers who had volunteered 
themselves to defend the highly educated accused, numbering more than 100, 
included Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, "Mr. Bhola Bhai Desai, Sir Srinavasa Iyengar, 
Mr. B. K. Das, Mr. P. L. Bannerji, Mr. Asif Ali and Dr. Kailash Nath Katju. The 
Court was presided over by the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Sir 
Shah Muhammad Sulaiman, assisted by Justice Young. 

The case which had taken two years in the Magistrate's Court and four in 
the Sessions Court, was expected to last for months in the High Court. But, to 
the astonishment of all, the hearing of the appeal and the judgement was all over 
in eight days. The judgement deUvered by Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman stands 
out as a landmark in the history of judicial administration in India. Speaking of 
this judgement in Federal Court case No. 1 of 1938, Mr. H. J. Morgan KC, an 
outstanding constitutional lawyer of Britain, while delivering the Tagore Law 
Lectures at the Calcutta University said : 

"Now I have just been reading the judgement of the Federal Court at Delhi 
in that important case. One of those judgements stands out conspicuous 
and pre-eminent and may well prove to be the "Locus Qassicus" of the 
law on the subject. It is a judgement worthy of the highest traditions of 
the House of Lords as an Appellate Tribunal and of the Privy Council 
itself. I refer to the brilliant judgement of Mr. Justice Sulaiman. In depth 
of thought, in breadth of view, in its powers alike of analysis and of 
synthesis, in grace of style and felicity of expression, it is one of the most 
masterly judgements that I have ever had the good fortune to read. 
Everyone in India interested in future development of the constitution 
should study it." 

Shah Muhammad Sulaiman was born into a distinguished family of lawyers 
and scientists of Jaunpur district (U.P.). One of his ancestors was MuUaMahmood, 
a notable physicist, author of Shams-i-Bazigha, and a contemporary of Newton 
in India. Shah Sulaiman's father, Muhammad Usman, was a leading member of 
the Jaunpur Bar. 


192 Hundred Great Muslims 

Young Sulaiman was immensely devoted to his studies. He graduated from 
the Allahabad University in 1906 and topped the list. He was awarded the 
Provincial Government Scholarship to study abroad. He joined the Cambridge 
University and obtained Mathematical Tripos in 1909 and Law Tripos in 1910. 
In 1909 he sat for the Indian Civil Service examination and was luckily not 
selected, otherwise the boredom of the Civil Service would have deprived India 
of one of its greatest legal and scientific talents. He did not make a second 
attempt to appear in the Civil Service examination and prepared to be called to 
the Bar. He was awarded, LL.D. by the University of Dublin (Ireland) in 1910. 

Shah Muhammad Sulaiman reti. ned to India in 1911 and started his legal 
practice as a junior to his father in Jaunpur. In 1912, he shifted to Allahabad to 
practise in the High Court. Here he embarked on his meteoric career which 
remains unique in the annals of Indian jurisprudence. He was endowed with a 
proverbial memory, and an extraordiniry sense of understanding things. He 
possessed a keen eye and a rare grasp of subjects which made him successful in 
whatever field of activity he took part. He achieved distinction in many spheres 
of hfe and his c-reer, in fact, is a catalogue of great achievements. At Allahabad 
High Court where he had to compete with such legal giants as Panait Moti Lai 
Nehru, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Maulvi Ghulam Mujtaba, Sir Sunder Lai, Sir Ross 
Alestan and Pandit Ajodhya Nath Kunzuru, he soon made his mark. The Rani of 
Sherkot's case, the Bamrauli case, the Dharampur case and the Bhilwal case, 
were his early legal triumphs. He impressed the English Chief Justice of 
Allahabad High Court so much that he was offered a seat on the Bench at an 
early ageof S^f. 

Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman acted as Chief Justice of the Allahabad 
High Court when he was 43 and at the age of 46 he was made the Permanent 
Chief Justice of this Court. Five years later, he was elevated to the Federal 
Court, "a record in the British Commonwealth and perhaps in the judicial 
world". As Chief Justice, he delivered that memorable judgement in the Meerut 
Conspiracy Case which stands out as a landmark in the history of jurisprudence. 

Sir Shah maintained the independence of the judiciary in those troubled 
times when the British bureaucracy was considered supreme. He never allowed 
the Government and the legislature to intervene or interfere with the indepen- 
dence of judiciary which he guarded with enviable jealousy. 

Sir Shah was a versatile genius and he distinguished himself in diverse fields 
of human activity and different aspects of learning. He was an institution by 
himself. He was an outstanding educationist who took keen interest in the 
administration and advancement of several educational institutions where he left 
distinctive marks. He was founder President of several educational institutions 
and a member of the Courts and Executive Councils of Allahabad and Aligarh 
Muslim Universities for a number of years. As President of the United Provinces 
Educational Conference at Badaon in 1924, he revived the conference. In 1928, 
he presided over the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference at Ajmer 

Hundred Great Muslims 193 

and in his address he advocated a revolutionary and progressive change in the 
educational system by stressing the practical, technical and vocational sides of 
education. He delivered masterly convocation addresses at the universities of 
Dacca, Aligarh, Hyderabad and Agra, which are characterised by their lucidity of 
expression and clarity of practical thinking. 

Sir Shah was elected Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University at 
a critical period of its history and held that post in honorary capacity with 
distinction. He introduced several beneficial reforms and laid down policies of 
far reaching importance which extricated the University out of its financial and 
administrative crisis and placed it on the road to progress. He gave an impetus 
to education of women in the University and introduced Urdu as an independent 
subject in B.A. classes. He improved the finances of the University, helped 
execution of scheme concerning Water Works, Agricultural and the Technological 
Institutes. His dynamic leadership infused a healthy spirit of competition among 
the students in beneficial spheres of educational activity which enabled the 
Aligarh Muslim University to compete successfully in the AU-India competitive 
examinations in larger numbers. He made the University a centre of higher 
scientific research. 

Sir Shah had agreed to become Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh University 
at a considerable inconvenience to himself. He was a Judge of the Indian Federal 
Court at Delhi and used to visit the University at the weekend without any 
remuneration. At the University he took the ordinary food served in the hostels 
on payment. 

His association with Aligarh MusUm University gave a fresh impetus to 
higher scientific and historical research in this highest Muslim educational 
institution of India and established it on a sound footing, educationally and 

Sir Shah was also the President of the famous Anglo-Arabic College of 
Delhi for a number of years. In his inaugural address at the Hindustani Academy, 
Allahabad, and in his Presidential Address at the All-India Adult Educational 
Conference at Delhi, he dealt with the practical solution of problems facing the 
subcontinent in the spheres of educational activity. 

Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman was a Utterateur of great stature. He had a 
keen sense for poetry and presided over a number of All-India Poetical 
Symposiums. His delightful remarks as well as his enlightened Presidential 
addresses at these gatherings of poets and intellectuals drawn from different 
parts of the country were highly appreciated. He edited and wrote an enlightened 
introduction to ihe"Alam-e-Khiyal", the immorta} Masnari of Shauq Qidwai. 
But, it is in the realm of mathematics and sciences that he has left an ineffaceable 
impress of his unique and versatile personality. He challenged the validity of 
Einstein's Famous Theory of Relativity. He carried out valuable mathematical 
research to correct certain misconceptions and miscalculations in Newton's 

194 Hundred Great Muslims 

Theory of Gravity and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. In this, he was supported 
by a number of outstanding scientists from all over the world and the later 
observations of phenomenon justified his initial conclusions. But, unfortunately 
he did not live to complete his research in the matter. 

Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman as a man was much greater than Sulaiman 
as a scientist, judge, educationist and litterateur. He was the very incarnation 
of courtesy and humility. He always took precedence to pay respects to his 
juniors, subordinates and even to his peons. He made no distinction between the 
highest dignitary and a clerk who came to see him. 

It was really a sight to see him embracing high dignitaries and poor peons 
alike, on the Eid Day and personally serving sweets to them. He followed the 
injunctions of the Prophet of Islam about the equality of man, both in letter 
and spirit. 

Sir Shah breathed his last after a brief illness, on March 13, 1941 at Delhi 
at the prime of his achievements. He was only 52. His irreparable loss was 
mourned all over India and in many foreign countries. A large number of 
mourners, including Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sir Muhammad 
Yaqub and Sir Akbar Hydri accompanied his funeral. He was buried at 



Saif al-Dawla, the Hamanid Ruler of Aleppo was a great patron of arts and 
learning. He attracted to his Court some of the greatest intellectual luminaries 
of his time, including the encyclopaedist Abu Nasar Farabi and poet Mutanabbi. 

Mutanabbi, one of the greatest panegyrists of all times came to the Court 
of the Hamanid Chief in 948 A.C. and stayed there for about nine years. He 
accompanied the Ruler during his campaigns against the By-Zantines and 
Bedouins add wrote some of his best panegyries personifying him as the ideal 
Arab Chief— courageous, magnanimous and generous. 

Saif al-Dawla never treated the over-sensitive poet with arrogance and 
frequently loaded him with gifts. 

But, Mutanabbi's difficult character and over-sensitive nature soon earned 
him many enemies at the Hamanid Court. Their leader was his rival, the 
celebrated poet Abu Firas. Saif al-Dawla who, at first paid no heed to these 
complaints, soon got wearied and Mutanabbi, fmding his life not safe there, 
secretly left Aleppo for Damascus in 957 A.C. 

Abu Taiyib Ahmad bin Al Husain, Al Mutanabbi was born in al-Kinda 
quarters of Kufa in 9 1 5 A.C. His family originated from Yemen, hence he always 
claimed the linguistic superiority of the Southern over the Northern Arabs. 

Mutanabbi was brought up in humble circumstances, receiving education 
only in his native town. But he soon distinguished himself by his keen intelligence, 
prodigious mermory and supremacy as a poet. When Kufa was sacked by 
Carmalhians, his family migrated to Samawa, where they remained for two 
years. This short stay among the Bedouins, enabled the yoimg Mutanabbi to 
have a profound knowledge of the Arabic language. 

On return to Kufa in 927 A.C. Mutanabbi decided to devote himself 
entirely to poetry, to which he had a natural inclination. He was much impressed 
by the works of the celebrated panegyrists, Ibn Tamim and al-Buhturi. 

A bom poet as he was, Mutanabbi found in poeti> a good means of earning 
fame and wealth. Abul Fazal of Kufa was his first pairon and the poet dedicated 
a short piece to him. 


]98 Hundred Great Muslims 

Mutanabbi had a chequered career. His over-sensitive nature and vanity did 
not permit him to stick to one place. He was a convert to Carmathicism and later 
adopted a stoic and pessimistic philosophy, "The world is made of seductions 
which the death destroys". 

He found himself completely out of harmony with the world which he 
contacted. The consciousness of his talent increased his vanity to an incon- 
ceivable degree and created a bitterness in his works. He coveted all his life the 
riches and power which he scorned in his heart. But, despite this apparent 
contradiction in his nature, he stands out from his contemporaries for his rigid 
morality and austerity. 

He set out to Baghdad in 928 A.C. in order to conquer the world with his 
poetic talents and became a panegyrist of Muhammad UbaiduUah Alawi. He did 
not stay there for long and soon left for Syria where, for two years, he led the 
life of a wandering troubadour. His poems of this period, though not of lasting 
value, carry the imprint of his genius. 

Lack of recognition of his exceptional merit produced despondency and 
irritation in his nature. He forsook the work of paid panegyrist for sometime 
and led the Ufe of a religious revolutionary. He was, therefore, put behind the 
bars for two years being regarded as a Carmathian agitator. 

The poems composed by him during this period are distinguished for 
the flight of imagination, spontaniety and vigour of their expression. The poet 
took much liberty with poetic forms. 

He got the epithet of Mutanabbi and was fully convinced that poetry 
alone could lead him to ^ory and realise his ambitious dream of prosperity. 

On release from the prison, he resumed his profession of panegyrist, 
getting at first little success. For several years he led a wandering life, obtaining 
a precarious existence on the subsistence of minor officials of Damascus, Aleppo 
and Antioch. 

His fame continued to grow and the brightness in him yearned for an 
opportunity to show his greatness as a poet. This he got in 939 A.C. when he 
became the Court poet of Amir Badr al-Kashani, Ciovernor of Damascus. He 
regarded Badr as the Maccenes for whom he was waiting so far. His poems 
written in praise of Badr bristled with sincerity of thought and spontaniety c*" 

But Mutanabbi's stay with Badr lasted hardly for IVi years and was 
disturbed by the intrigues of his jealous rivals. The poet had to take refuge 
in the Syrian desert and returned to Damascus, soon after Badr had left the 

Hundred Great Muslims 199 

The fame of Mutanabbi had by this time travelled far and wide. He was 
invited by the Hamanid Ruler of Aleppo, Saif al-Dawla, a great patron of learning. 
Here the poet stayed for nine years and passed the best period of his life. He 
earned the sincere admiration of his patron who fully recognised his greatness as 
a poet. 

Mutanabbi wrote some of his finest panegyrics in the praise of his patron, 
Saif al-Dawla whom he idealised as the best Arab Ruler. But the difficult nature 
of the poet, obUged him to flee from the Hamanid Court to Damascus. 

His poems of this period reveal his supremacy as a poet and place him 
among the greatest panegyrists of all times. In flight of imagination and sublimity 
of thought, in spontaniety of expression and grandeur of diction, he ranks high 
among his contemporaries. His poems are fuller and epic in style than those of 
Abu Firas. 

He arrived in Egypt from Damascus and obtained the patronage of 
Dchshidid Kafur, whom he did not like at heart. He did not stay there for long 
and secretly left for Iraq after writing a biting satire of Kafur. 

Hereafter, he was constantly on move. He visited Kufa and settled down in 
"Baghdad for sometime. Later went to Susiana, where he was welcomed by the 
Buyid Minister, Ibn al-Amid. In 941, he went to Shiraz where he obtained the 
patronage of Buyid Ruler, Adud al-Dawla and wrote some of his best panegyrics 
in praise of his new patron. 

He was returning to Baghdad from Shiraz when he was attacked by the 
marauding Bedouins and was killed in August 955 A.C. 

Thus ended the chequered career of Mutanabbi, one of the greatest 
panegyrists of all times, who exercised considerable influence over the later 
Arabic poetry, which owed much to him. 


The three leading poets of the Court of Mahmood were one day conversing 
together in a garden of Ghazna. They were Unsari, Asjadi and Farrukhi. A 
stranger from Nishapur arrived there and desired to join their conversation. 
Unsari resenting this untimely intrusion said to him : "Brother ! we are the Court 
poets and none but a gifted poet may participate in our conversation. Each of 
us will compose a verse in the same rhyme and if you could supply the fourth 
hemistich of the quatrain, you will be welcomed in our company, otherwise not. 
The stranger who was no other than Firdausi readily consented to this amazing 
condition and Unsari intentionally choosing a rhyme wherein three hemistiches 
could be composed but not the fourth one, started : 

"Thine eyes are clear and blue as sunslit ocean" 

Asjadi said: 

"Their glance bewitches like a magic potion" 
Farrukhi stated : 

"The wounds they cause no balm can heal, nor lotion" 

Instantly Firdausi alluding to a scarcely known legend of the ancient kings of 
Persia concluded : 

"Deadly as those Give's spear dealt out to Poshan." Explaining the allusion, 
Firdausi exhibited such a rich knowledge of the ancient history of Persia, that 
the three Court poets were astounded by his poetical superiority as well as by his 
historical knowledge and readily admitted him to their society. 

Firdausi, the author of the immortal Shah Noma, was the greatest of all 
the great Persian poets. Persia, the land of poetry, learning and culture in the 
East, has produced some most outstanding poets in the world, including Rumi, 
Saadi, Hafiz, Anwari and Firdausi. Firdausi towering high above them is 
universally recognised as one of the greatest epic poets of all times. 


Hundred Great Muslims 201 

Hassan ibn Ishaq ibn Sharf alias Firdausi was borp in Toos. The Tarikh 
Guzida (Select History) written by the historian Hamdullah Mustawfi in 1330 
A.C., gives the name of Firdausi as Abul Qasim Hassan Ali of Toos. His birth 
place is a controversial issue among historians. According to Chahar Maqala, it 
was Baz, a village of Bostan. The preface of Sliah Noma gives it as Shadab. But 
it has now been established by modern reliable research scholars that he was 
born in the District of Toos, the place which produced renowned scholars of 
Islam like versatile imam Ghazali and the encyclopaedist Nasiruddin Toosi. 

It is related that on the birth of Firdausi, his father dreamt that the 
newly born child climbing the upper storey of the house raised a strident cry 
which was reponded from all sides. Elaborating on the dream Najibuddin 
predicted that the boy would one day become a great poet who would win a 
world-wide recognition. Firdausi, when he grew up, received thorough education. 

Mahmood of Ghazna, the well-known Muslim conqueror, was a great 
patron of art and learning. Being a renowned scholar himself, he had drawn to 
his Court such well-known intellectual luminaries of Islam as Biruni, Firdausi, 
Unsari, Farrukhi and Daqiqi. He had built a magnificent college and a big 
museum at Ghazna, which rivalled Baghdad and became the highest seat of 
learning in the East. He contemplated having a thorough research conducted 
into the ancient history of Persia and was in search of a competent poet who 
could undertake this gigantic work, but no such versatile poet was available. 

According to one source, he summoned Firdausi for this task. Firdausi 
on his way to the Court of Mahmood, met the three leading poets, referred to 
above, in a suburban garden of Ghazna. Unsari was so much impressed by the 
genius of Firdausi that he introduced him to the Sultan saying that he was the 
most competent and pre-eminently fit person to undertake the task of versifying 
the national epic. 

This account is based on the research of Daulat Shah. Other historians 
maintain that Firdausi first appeared in the Court of Ghazna, where the above- 
mentioned poetic competition was held. 

Mahmood entrusted this important assignment to Firdausi, and allotted 
him an apartment in the Royal Palace, fully equipped with all sorts of weapons 
and paintings depicting battle scenes and palace life in ancient Persia. 

Mahmood offered to pay him one gold coin for each couplet, apart from 
one thousand gold coins on completion of one thousand couplets. But Firdausi 
declined to accept the payment piecemeal and consented to receive full payment 
on the completion of the assignment. 

It may be noted that the Shah Nama was begun long before Firdausi's 
arrival in the Court of Mahmood. It took 35 years for its compilation as stated 
by Firdausi in one of his couplets and Mahmood's reign lasted for 31 years only. 

202 Hundred Great Muslims 

Hence Firdausi had begun it in his native town under the patronage of Abu 
Mansoor, the Governor of Toos. Salan Khan succeeded Abu Mansoor as the 
Governor of Toos. By this time, the fame of Shah Noma had reached Mahmood 
who summoned Firdausi to his Capital. At first Firdausi declined this offer but 
soon he recollected the prophecy of Shaikh Mashooq and consented to go to 

Firdausi immediately applied himself to the most arduous task and after 
labouring on it unremittingly for over a decade, he completed the monumental 
epic poem comprising sixty thousand couplets. But, according to one version, 
contrary to the agreement, Firdausi was paid in silver instead of gold coins. This 
broke his heart and obliged him to write a touching satire of Mahmood. In fact, 
his exclusiveness had offended Ayaz, the favourite of Mahmood. 

Moreover, there was an influential group in the Court of Mahimood 
constantly working against Firdausi and his admirer Prime Minister, Hassan 
Memandi. This rival group was greatly instrumental in the breach of the earlier 
offer made to Firdausi. 

The great poet, broken-hearted and friendless, left Ghazna and roamed 
about in the neighbouring dominions in search of a peaceful place. But as ill- 
luck would have it, no neighbouring ruler was prepared to give him a lasting 
asylum, being afraid of incurring the hostility of Mahmood, who was offended 
by Firdausi's satire. At last he reached Baghdad, where he was welcomed by the 
Abbaside Caliph. Here he wrote his another long poem 'Yusuf and Zulaikha,. 

Stung by remorse and qualms of conscience, Mahmood at last softened 
towards Firdausi and despatched the agreed money to him. But it was too late. 
When the camels carrying the award of Shah Nama were entering Toos through 
one gate, the funeral of Firdausi appeared from the other. Browne in his Literary 
History of Persia (Vol. !I, page 137} quotes one Nizami of Samarqand vide 
Chahar Maqala by Daulat Shah, compiled a century after the death of the poet, 
as saying "In the year 514 A.H. (1120-21 A.C.) when I was in Nishapur. 1 
heard Amir Muizzi say that he had heard Amir Abdur Razzaq of Toos relate 
as follows: Mahmood was once in India, returning thence towards Ghazna. It 
chanced that on his way there was a rebellious chief possessed of a strong 
fortress. Next day, Mahmood encamped at its gates and despatched an 
Ambassador to him, bidding him come before him on the morrow to do homage 
and pay his respects at the Court, where he should receive a robe of honour and 
return to his place. Next day, Mahmood rode out with the Prime Minister on 
his right hand. The Ambassador had turned back and was coming to meet the 
King. "I wonder," said the King to the Minister, "what reply he will have given?" 
The Minister answered : 

"And should the reply with my wish not accord. 
Then Afrasiyab's field, and the mace and the sword." 

Hundred Great Muslims 203 

"Whose verse is it", enquired Mahmood? "For he must have the heart of 
a man". "Poor Abul Qasim Firdausi composed it", answered the Minister, 
'he who for five and twenty years laboured to complete such a work and reaped 
for it no advantage". "You speak well", said Mahmood, "I deeply regret that 
this noble man was disappointed by me. Remind me at Ghazna to send him 
something". So, when the Sultan returned to Ghazna, the Minister reminded 
him and Mahmood ordered that sixty thousand dinar worth of indigo should 
be given to Firdausi, and that this indigo should be carried to Toos on the 
King's own camels and that apologies should be tendered to Firdausi. 

"For years the Minister had been manoeuvring till at last he achievei 
his end. So now he caused the camels to be loaded and the indigo safely reachei 

But even as the camels were entering through the Rudbar gate, the funerai 
of Firdausi emerged from the gate of Razan. Outside the gate there was a garden 
belonging to Firdausi, and there they buried him and there he lies to this day. 

They say that Firdausi left a very high spirited daughter, to whom they 
would have given the King's gift : but she would not accept it, declaring that 
she did not need it. 

"The postmaster wrote to the King who ordered that the money should 
be given to Imam Abu Bakr ibn Ishaq for the repair of the Serai at Chaha, 
which stands on the road between Merv and Neshapur at the confines of Toos. 
When this order reached Toos and Nishapur, it was faithfully executed and the 
restoration of the rest-house at Chaha was effected with this money." 

"When the famous traveller Nasir Khusroe visited Toos in 430 A.H. he 
found a big caravan serai there, which, he was told was built out of the money 
awarded to Firdausi. According to Farhang Rashidi and ChaharMaqda this was 
named as "Chah ". 

But modern research has established that the story of Sultan Mahmood 
•iling from his commitment to pay 60,000 gold coins is more a fib than a 
I act. It was least expected from such a generous patron of learning like Sultan 

Firdausi's works include "Shah Noma, Yusuf and Zulaikha and a 
considerable number of lyrical fragments, collected, translated and edited 
by Dr. Etha. 

It is on Shah Natna universally recognised as one of the best epic poems 
in the world, that Firdausi's reputation as a poet rests. In their high estimate 
of this monumental poem, the Western as well as Eastern writers and critics are 
unanimous, with the exception of Professor Browne, who, ignorantly considers 
it to be inferior to the Arabic Muallaqat. 

204 Hundred Great Muslims 

Maulana Shibli Nomani, the author of the famous Sherul Ajam, has 
refuted this underestimate of Firdausi most convincingly. Professor Browne has 
based his conclusions regarding the value of Shah Nama on minor flaws. He 
has failed to appreciate its sublimity of thought, its beauty of expression, its 
thoroughness of description, its faithful portrayal of difficult situations and 
emotions in which the minutest details have not escaped the imaginative eye of 
the great poet. 

The combat and battle scenes as pictured in Shah Nama can very 
favourably be compared with the great Greek Classics liliad and Odessy. Firdausi 
has out-matched Homer, his Greek counterpart, in this vital department of 
epic poetry. 

Ths Shah Nama which was completed in 400 A.H. took 35 years for its 
completion. It was begun by Firdausi 20 years before his arrival at Ghazna, 
and not at the behest of Mahmood as wrongly contended. Firdausi has very 
faithfully versified the events of the ancient history of Persia. A German 
Professor has written a book detailing the sources of Shah Nama. 

The outstanding qualities of Shah Nama have enabled it to rank among 
the greatest poems in the world are many. The poet has an unrivalled hold over 
the Persian language and in his long poem comprising sixty thousand couplets 
he has very rarely used Arabic words at a time when Arabic had become almost 
the literary language of the Islamic world, including Persia. Thus, he succeeded 
where Ibn Sina had failed. 

One who reads Shah Nama is struck by the thoroughness of the poet's 
description. He has very faithfully portrayed scenes of life in ancient Persia. 
He has a deep insight into the secrets of human nature and has very sincerely 
pictured subtle human emotions both on the occasions of war syid peace. In 
this respect, he has outmatched not only all oriental but also Western poets. 

He is a master-craftman who has faithfully versified diverse and difficult 
situations and emotions. Brevity and lucidity of expression, thoroughness of 
description and flawless portrayal of emotions as well as true picturing of battle 
scenes have made Shah Nama an immortal epic poem in the world. 

Homer is acclaimed as the greatest epic poet of the West, while Viyas, 
the author of Mahabharat is known as the greatest Indian epic poet, but Firdausi 
is far greater of the two. How splendidly he begins the story of Sohrab and 
Rustam ! 

The story of Sohrab and Rustam now hear ! 

Other tales thou hast heard : to this also give ear. 

A story it is to bring tears to the eyes, 

And wrath in the heart against Rustam will rise. 

If forth from this ambush should rush the fierce blast. 

Hundred Great Muslims 205 

And down in the dust the young orange should cast. 
Then call we it just, or unkind and unfair. 
And say we that virtue or rudeness is there? 

Shah Nama became a very popular poem throughout the world of Islam. 
For centuries its couplets were on lips of everybody and were oft quoted in 
literary discourses and pursuits for Khorasan to Baghdad. 

Firdausi has been universally acclaimed as a great poet both in the East 
and the West. Anwari, another renowned Persian poet, sa^s about him : 

Aan ki Ustad bood o ma Shagird 
Aan Khudwand bood o ma Bandah 

(He was my teacher and I am his pupil. He was the god of poetry and I am his 

The celebrated historian Ibn Athir states that the Arabic language despite 
its phenomenal development could not produce anything which could rival 
Shah Nama. Sir Gour Osley has compared Firdausi with Homer. Maulana Shibli 
Nomani in his monumental work Sherul Ajam has classed Firdausi among 
the greatest poets of the world. 


The main thoroughfare of Tabriz was thronged with her populace. The 
inhabitants of the metropoUs i>f Mongol conqueror Hulaku Khan had come out 
of their homes and lined both sides of the main road to witness the imperial 
procession which was passing along it. The procession was attended by all the 
Ministers, Courtiers and high dignitaries of State, including the celebrated Prime 
Minister, Khwaja Shamsuddin and his talented brother Khwaja Alauddin, who 
were greatly instrumental in converting the son of Hulaku Khan to Islam. 
Suddenly the imperial procession came to a halt and Prime Minister, Khwaja 
Shamsuddin and his brother alighted from the royal coach and hurriedly 
advanced towards a frail bodied old man, who was standing among the 
spectators. They respectfully bowed before him and kissed his hands : 

"Sire ! How are you here? You should have graced our humble residence 
with your benevolent presence," remarked the Prime Minister. 

"I have just arrived in Tabriz and was on my way to your residence when I 
happened to come across this procession and did not want to disturb you here", 
replied the old man. 

The two brothers came back to their royal coach. The Imperial son of 
Hulaku Khan was highly surprised at the unusual respect paid by his celebrated 
Prime Minister to the betattered frail bodied old man, and enquired. 

"Who is he that received so high respects from you learned brothers?" 

"He is our father," the Prime Minister. 

"But your father died long ago?" retorted the Emperor. 

"He is our spiritual father," repUed the Prime Minister. "Sire, you would 
have heard the name of Saadi, the well-known poet, moralist and sage of Persia. 
It was he". 

The Emperor expressed his great desire to meet Sheikh Saadi. Next day 
the Prime Minister and his brother called on the Sheikh and implored him to 
accompany them to the Emperor. The pious Sheikh shunned Imperial Society 


Hundred Great Muslims 207 

but, on the imploration of the two brothers who were his disciples, he consented 
to visit the Emperor. On arrival at the Imperial palace Sheikh Saadi vvn^ 
respectfully received by the Emperor and at the end of their prolonged meinu's 
he requested the Sheikh to give him some advices. The Sheikh replied, "Aticr 
death, only good deeds wiU help you. Now it is up to you to collect and carry 
good or bad deeds with you". The Emperor was highly impressed by the 
spiritual advice of the Sheikh and requested him to compose it in verse, which he 
did instantly. The recitation of these couplets moved the Emperor to tears. 

Muslehuddin Saadi, the originator of Persian lyric and the greatest ethical 
writer that the world has produced, was one of the three prophets of Persian 
poetry, the other two being Firdausi and Anwari. "No Persian writer enjoys to 
this day", writes Browne, "not only in his own country but also wherever his 
language is cultivated, a wider celebrity or a greater reputation". 

His date of birth is a disputed point among the historians, but according 
to majority of them he was born at Shiraz about 1 184 A.C. and died more than 
a centurian in 1291 A.C. His father, whom he lost at an early age, was in service 
of Atabek Saad bin Zangi, ruler of Shiraz, hence he took 'Saadi', as his pen name. 

His parents played a great part in his early education which moulded his 
character. On his father's death, he was taken under the protection of Atabek 
Saad bin Zangi and was sent to Baghdad where he joined the famous Nizamiah 
University. Here he received education from Ibn Jauzi. His long life, which, 
according to several reports, lasted for 120 years, has been divided into three 
distinct periods. The first period lastingup to 1226 A.C. was the period of study, 
spent mostly at Baghdad. Even during this period he made several trips including 
one mentioned in Book V of Gulistan to Kashgar in 1210 A.C, when Sultan 
Khwarizm Shah had made peace with Cathay (The ancient name of China). 
In Baghdad he came under the influence of the celebrated Sufi Saint Sheikh 
Shahabuddin Shurawardy, an event which was greatly instrumental in building 
up his role as a great moralist. In one of his anecdotes in 'Boston \ Saadi speaks 
highly of the deep piety and humanity of the Sufi Saint. Ibn Jauzi was another 
learned figure of Baghdad whose deep erudition greatly benefited young Saadi. 

The second period lasting up to 1256 A.D. was a period in which Saadi 
made extensive travels in the world of Islam. Leaving his native city of Shiraz in 
1226 due to unsettled conditions in Pars, he wandered from India in the East 
to Syria and Hejaz in the West, gaining rich experience which he incorporated 
in his two immortal books 'Gulistan ' and 'Bos/an '. To his departure from Shiraz 
he alludes in the preface to Gulistan : 

"0 Knowest thou not why, an outcast and exile. 
In land of the stranger a refuge I sought? 
Disarranged was the world like the hair of a negro 
When I fled from the Turks and the terror they brought." 

208 Hundred Great Muslims 

He travelled in a true dervish fashion, mixing with all sorts of people, at 
times wandering miles in trackless deserts, at others carrying a water bag on his 
back in Jerusalem, sleeping by roadside, and seeing life in all its nakedness. He 
observed the diversities of life and studied the characteristics of different 
nationalities, societies and regions from different angles. The "Pilgrim's Progress" 
was not confined to a particular region. It was extensive and spread over a large 
part of the Islamic world. He visited Balkh, Ghazna, Punjab, Somnath, Gujarat, 
Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Baalbak, Damascus, Baghdad, Egypt, North Africa and 
Asiatic Turkey. He wandered through the great educational and cultural centres 
of Islam, including Baghdad, Damascus, Balkh, Ghazna and Cairo. He has incor- 
porated his rich first hand experiences in his momentous books: Gulistan,' 
and Bostan,' which have made them the most popular ethical works in the 
world. "In his own writings (specially in Gulistan)", writes Browne", he appears 
now painfully stumbling after the pilgrim caravan through the burning deserts of 
Arabia, now, bandying jests with a fine technical flavour- of grammatical 
terminology with school boys at Kashghar, now a prisoner in the hands of 
Franks, condemned to hard labour in the company of Jews in the Syrian town of 
Tripoli, now engaged in investigating the mechanism of a wonder-working 
Hindoo idol in the temple of Somnath". 

Saadi was a good humourist who excelled in quick repartees. Writing in 
his well-known work, 'Sheruj Ajam' (The Oriental Poetry), Maulana Shibli 
Nomani describes an incident in Sheikh's life, when, wandering through the 
Syrian forests he was caught by the Jews and was assigned the digging of a ditch 
in Tripoli. A few days after, an old friend of Saadi, happened to pass that way 
and was astonished to find him in such a plight. On enquiry, Saadi recited two 
couplets asking him to realise the condition of a person who shuimed the society 
of human beings to be made to live among animals. The friend was deeply moved 
by his couplets, paid 10 dinars for freedom and married his daughter to Saadi 
for 100 dinars. His wife was very arrogant and haughty. One day, she taunted 
him that he should not forget that he was freed by her father. The Sheikh 
replied instantly, "Yes, he freed me for 10 dinars but ensalved me for 100 

According to some sources Saadi had met Amir Khusrou in India. He 
returned to Shiraz after the death of Saad Zangi. 

Saadi was in fact a dervish who was greatly loved and respected by the 
rulers, administrators, nobles and people of his time. The rulers and their 
administrators, vied with each other to please the SheiJdi and sent to him large 
sums of money to be distributed among the poor. Once Khwaja Shamsuddin, 
the celebrated Grand Vizier of Hulaku Khan's son sent 50 thousand gold coins 
for the Sheikh, which he was reluctant to accept. But the Grand Vizier, who was 
a disciple of the Sheikh persuaded him to accept the money for God's sake. 
At last the money was accepted and a magnificent caravan sarai was built 
with it. 

Hundred Great Muslims 209 

During the last days of his life, Saadi retired to a secluded hut built in the 
suburb of Shiraz. He spent his time in prayers and fasting. Here the rulers and 
the ruled often assembled to pay their respects to the great moralist. 

Saadi combined in him the rare qualities and capabilities of a poet, a sufl, 
a jurist and a moralist. He had observed hfe from diverse angles. On his return 
to his native town, Shiraz, in 1256 A.C. he settled down to literary work. This 
marks the beginning of the third period of his Ufe lasting till his death, being 
the most important period of his life mainly devoted to literary creations. In 
1257, he wrote his famous 'Boston ' (Orchard) in verse, and a year later in 1258, 
he completed his well-known 'Gulistan' (Garden) in prose, a collection of 
anecdotes, drawn from rich stories of observation and experience, based on 
ethical reflections and maxims of worldly, wisdom. "Both the books are so 
well-known", writes Browne, "and have been translated so often in so mar.y 
languages that it is unnecessary to discuss them at length". His 'Gulistan' and 
'Boston ' are the first classics to which the student of Persian is introduced. In 
Persian lyric, he occupies a place only second to Hafiz. 

His Gulistan and Boston are undoubtedly the most popular ethical works 
in the world. These have been widely translated into Western as well as Eastern 
languages including English, French, German, Russian, Latin, Polish, Turkish, 
Arabic, Urdu and Hindi. The oldest copy of the 'Kulliyat-i-Sheikh' (The works 
of Saadi) exists in the London Museum library. This was copied by Abu Bakr 
ibn Ah ibn Muhammad, 36 years after the death of Saadi. It contains 'Gulistan', 
'Boston', Arabic and Persian panegyrics, elegies, lyrics, quatrains, etc. But the 
works which have estabUshed his fame and immortaUsed his name among the 
men of letters in the world are Gulistan, Boston and his Persian lyrics. Saadi is 
very popular in Europe. His book 'Boston ' was published in Vienna in 1850 and 
in London in 1891 . The German translation of the book was published in Jena 
in 1850 and in Leipzing in 1882; the French traivilation was published in 1880 
and the English translation was published in London in 1879. His other book 
in prose, 'Gulistan ', was even more popular than 'Bostan '. The book was published 
in EngUsh in Calcutta in 1806, in Hertford in 1850 and again in 1863, in London 
in 1823, 1852, 1880 and 1890; in Frenchit waspubUshedin 1631, 1704, 1789 
and 1858; in Latin it was pubUshed in 165 1 and again in 1655; in German it was 
pubUshed in 1654, 1822 (in Hamburg), 1846 (in Stuttgart)and 1806 (in Leipzig); 
in Russian it was published in Moscow in 1857; in PoUsh it was published in 
Warsaw in 1879; in Turkish it was pubUshed in Constantinople (Istambul) in 
1874 and again in 1876; in Arabic it was published in 1263 A.H. and in Urdu it 
was published in Calcutta in 1852. (SherulAjam of Maulana Shibli Nomani). 

Saadi, as no^d before, had a many-sided personality. But his real fame 
rests on his ethical writings. Both in verse and prose he is matchless and unique 
as a morahst and ethical teacher. Even before Saadi, ethical poetry existed in 
Persian and produced such well-known poets as Sinai, Khayyam and Attar, but 
Saadi carried it to a height where none could reach. His ethical writings do not 
suffer from the insipidity of a missionary. Ethical teachings when deprived of 

210 Hundred Great Muslims 

imaginative touches become philosophy rather than poetry. Saadi has drawn 
valuable morals from ordinary tales created out of his observation or imagina- 
tion. His favourite ethical subjects are justice, kindness, love, generosity, 
hospitality, contentment aud thankfulness. In his teachings regarding 
contentment he has emphasised on self-respect rather than on the negative 
ascetic attitude of inactivity, leaving everything to fate. He states, "By God it is 
better to dwell in Hell rather than go to Paradise with the help of one's 
neighbour". Again, he remarks that if you would adopt contentment you would 
not find any difference between the king and the beggar. Why do you bow 
before a king, leave your lust and you are yourself a king. He is very outspoken 
in his criticism of bad rulers and their ministers. His approach has always been 
free from all prejudices and partisanship. 

Saadi represents the half pious and half worldly side of Persian character. 
Worldly wisdom rather than mysticism are his chief characteristics. The secret 
of his popularity as the greatest ethical teacher in the world rests on his catholi- 
city. "His work Gulistan", writes Browne, is matter of every taste, the highest 
and the lowest, the most refined and the most coarse, and from his pages 
sentiments may be called worthy, on the one hand, of Eckhardt or Thomas. A 
Kampis or, on the other, of Caesar, Borgia and Heliogabalus. His writings are a 
microcosm of the East, alike in its best and its most ignoble aspects, and it is 
not without good reason that, whenever the Persian language is studied, they 
are, and have been for six centuries and half, the first book placed in the learner's 
hands." In his ethical writings, pious sentiments abound but these are predomi- 
nantly practical. He has exposed the fickle nature of autocrats. "Wise men", 
states Saadi, "have said that one ought to be much on one's guard against the 
fickle nature of kings, who will at one time take offence at a salutation, and at 
another bestow honours in return for abuse." 

Saadi is a great champion of downtrodden, destitute, orphans, widows and 
all those who should be helped on humanitarian grounds. His repartees and 
ethical writings have melted many a tyrant's heart. He has a soft corner specially 
for orphans, because he had himself tasted the pangs of losing his father at an 
early age. In 'Bostan'hs states : 

"Protect thou the orphan whose father is dead; 

Brush the mud from his dress, ward all hurt from his head. 

Thou knowest not how hard his condition must be; 

When the root has been cut; is there life in the tree? 

Caress not and kiss not a child of thine own 

In the sight of an orphan neglected and alone. 

If the orphan sheds tears, who his grief will assuage? 

If his temper should fail him, who cares for his rage? 

O ! see that he weeps not, for surely God's throne 

Doth quake at the orphan's most pitiful moan ! 

With infinite pity, with tenderest care. 

Wipe the tears from his eyes, brush the dust from his hair." 

Hundred Great Muslims 21 1 

As a lyrist, Saadi occupies a place only second to Hafiz. But Hafiz, too, 
has acknowledged the greatness of Saacfi as a lyrist known for the simplicity of 
his diction and the sincerity of his ideas. Hafiz has stated, "Saadi had been the 
master of lyric". Another great Persian lyrist and versatile genius Amir Khusrou 
has admitted that he has followed Saadi in his lyrics. Browne is reluctant to 
admit that Saadi was inferior to Hafiz. But, according to Maulana Shibli Nomani, 
an authority on the subject, Saadi ranks only second to Hafiz as a lyrist. The 
chief characteristics of his lyrics are his sincerity of ideas, simplicity of diction 
and originality of expression. He is the father of Persian lyric, whose sincerity 
and naturalness has added much poetic appeal to his lyrics. But the exuberance 
and sentimentalism of Hafiz distinguishes him from the simplicity and sincerity 
of Saadi. 

Saadi has also written some fine panegyrics and elegies. In panegyrics he 
followed the Arab panegyrists and confined himself to facts and even fearlessly 
giving the praised person his valuable advice. In elegies, he introduced national 
elegies. On the destruction of Baghdad in 1258 A.C., at the hands of Hulaku 
Khan he wrote a pathetic elegy mourning the loss sustained by the metropolis 
of islam, which went against the interest of his patron Abu Baky Zangi who 
had alUed himself with the Mongol tyrant. 

Saadi, the sage of Persia, loved and respected by all, passed away in 691 
A.H. at a ripe age of 120 years. He was buried in the suburbs of Dilkusha, now 
called Saadiya, which is a favourite resort of pilgrims drawn from distant parts 
of the Islamic world. 


On his arrival in Shiraz the great Tamerlane, who had conquered a 
substantial part of the known world, sent for Hafiz Shirazi, and equired from 

"Have you composed this couplet?" 

"If my beloved could conquer my heart I would bestow Samarkand and 
Bukhara for her mole". 

"Yes," replied Hafiz. 

"Do you know that I have overrun the entire world in order to build up 
Samarkand and Bukhara, which are my native places, and you are prepared to 
give them away in return of a mole only," asked the awe-inspiring monarch. 

Hafiz remained unmoved and retorted: "This is on account of such 
extravagances that I have been reduced to this state of poverty". The great 
conqueror, in whose presence mighty rulers used to tremble with fear was 
much amused with the reply of Hafiz and sent him back loaded with presents 
and we^th. 

Hafiz Shirazi, the immortal Persian lyrist and one of the four pillars of 
Persian poetry, is called by his admiren 'Lisanul Ghaib' (The Tongue of the 
Unseen) and "Tarjumanul Asrar' (The Interpreter of Mysteries). 

Tlie grandfather of Hafiz, who resided in the suburbs of Isfahan, had 
migrated to Shiraz during the time of Atabeks of Shiraz. His father, Bahauddin, 
a wealthy merchant, died a premature death, leaving behind three sons, who 
squandered his wealth in frivolities. Hafiz, the youngest among his brothers, 
remained with his mother, and due to extreme poverty was obliged to work 
in a baker's shop. Hafiz had great passion for learning. Whatever time he could 
spare from his master's work, he spent in learning. He gave one-third of his 
wages to his mother, the other one-third to his teacher and the rest one-third 
to the needy persons. Thus he obtained a resp^table education and learnt the 
Quran by heart, hence he adopted his poetic pen name as 'Hafiz,' a term 
commonly applied to those who learn the Quran by heart. 


Hundred Great Muslims 213 

Hafiz's was the age of poetry and romance. There was a cloth merchant 
in his locality, who was an admirer of poets. Poets from different parts of the 
city gathered every evening at his shop and recited their poems. It served as an 
incentive to young Hafiz, who also began to compose and recite poems, but 
with little success. People made fun of him. One night, being highly disappointed 
with his failure as a poet, he visited the shrine of Baba Kuhi, situated on a hill 
north of Shiraz. He wept and prayed for his success and in a vigil it is said he 
was visited by Hazrat Ali, who gave him to eat some mysterious heavenly food 
and told him that henceforth the gates of poetry as well as knowledge would 
remain open for him. When he woke up the next morning he composed a poem, 
which surprised everybody. Henceforward, Hafiz was unparalleled in the realm 
of Persian lyrics and his fame as an immortal lyrist soon reached the distant 
parts of the Muslim world. 

Hafiz received letters from the Royal Houses of Iraq, India and Arabia 
inviting him to visit their countries, but he was not prepared to leave his 
beautiful land at any cost. High praise of the rose garden, fascinating description 
of lovely scenes and bracing salubrious climate of Shiraz pervade his numerous 

Maulana Shibili Nomani, in his monumental work : 'Sherul Ajam ' (The 
Poetry of the East), refers to several rulers whose favour and patronage Hafiz 
enjoyed. One of these was Sheikh Abu Ishaq Inju, a semi-independent ruler of 
Shiraz. Himself a reputed poet, the pleasure-loving Abu Ishaq was a great patron 
of arts and learning who pursued culture at the cost of the affairs of the State. 
One day, when he was persuaded by his favourite Sheikh Aminuddin to pay 
attention to the Muzaffarl hosts, who were invading his Capital, Abu Ishaq 
simply remarked that 'the enemy must be a fool to waste the pleasant spring 
season in such a fashion'. 

Hafiz saw several rulers of Shiraz, who succeeded one another. All were 
impressed by his poetic genius and favoured and placated him. It was during the 
reign of Zainul Abdin that Tamerlane (Taimur) visited the city and met the 
famous poet. E>aulat Shah has described in detail the meeting of these two 
outstanding figures of the era— one, the greatest conqueror of his time and the 
other, the greatest poet. 

Sultan Ahmed ibn Owais-i-Jalair, the talented II Khani ruler of Baghdad, 
requested Hafiz to visit Baghdad, but the poet declined saying : 

"The Zephyr— breeze of Musalla and the stream of Ruknabad. 
Don't permit me to travel or wander afield." 

Invitations were also received by him from two rulers of India, who 
tried their best to induce him to visit their courts. One of these, Mahmood 
Shah Bahtnani, a great patron of arts and culture, even sent the travdling 
expenses and a ship to bring Hafiz to India. He sent his favourite Mir Fazalullah 

214 Hundred Great Muslims 

along with money and presents to escort the immortal poet from Shiraz to 
Gulbarga. Hafiz spent a considerable part of the money in Shiraz and on arrival 
on the Persian Gulf gave the rest to a destitute friend. Two Persian merchants 
bound for India offered to meet the entire travelling expenses of the poet. 
When they reached Hurmuz, a ship was waiting to convey the poet to India. 
Hafiz got on the ship, but, when the ship was about to set sail a tempest arose 
and Hafiz got ashore. Instead of going to India he sent the following few 
couplets written on the occasion to King Mahmood : 

Not all the sum of earthly happiness 

Is worth the bowed head of a moment's pain, 
And if I sell for wine my dervish dress 

Worth more than what I sell is what I gain ! 
The Sultan's crown, with priceless jewels set, 

Encircles fear of death and constant dread; 
It is head dress much desired-and yet 

Art sure 'tis worth the danger to the head? 
Down in the quarter where they sell red wine 

My holy carpet scarce would fetch a cup 
How brave a pledge of piety is mine, 

Which is not worth a goblet foaming up ! 
Full easy seemed the sorrow of the sea 

Heightened by hope of gain— hope flew too fast? 
A hundred pearls were poor indemnity. 

Not worth the blast. 
(Translated by Miss Gertrude Lowthian Bell— Poems from "Diwan" 

of Hafiz). 

Another Indian ruler. Sultan Ghyasuddin of Bengal also implored Hafiz 
to visit his Court, but the poet, instead sent him an ode. 

Hafiz had a good knowledge of the Arabic language, which is evident from 
his billingual poems. 

Hafiz is universally recogjiised as one of the four pillars of Persian poetry 
and one who is matchless in the realm of the lyric. His successors, including 
Saib, Urfi, Salim have acknowledged his incomparable skill in this branch of 
poetry. He, not only expanded the scope of the Persian lyric through his 
Epicurian philosophy, which was earlier expanded by Umar Khayyam in his 
famous quatrains, but also immortalised, Persian lyric through his inimitable 
style, his sincerity and sublimity of thought and exuberance of expression and 
melliflousness. Before him Saadi and Khusrou had beautified the Persian lyrics 
through their sincerity of thought and simplicity of diction and Salman Sauji and 
Khwajoo Kirmani beautified it through ornamentation of language as well as 
with rhetorical artifices. Hafiz, combined in himself the merits of all those poets 
as well as added a charm of his own. His lyrics have been fascinating to all lovers 
of Persian poetry during the last six centuries, that have elapsed since his death 

Hundred Great Muslims 215 

in 793 A.H. Having a tinge of humour, his couplets brim with an optimistic 
note. Being a man of cheerful disposition, he observes Hfe with a smiling 
countenance and preaches Epicurian philosophy with greater success than 

As a panegyrist, he is distinguished from the great Persian panegyrist 
Zahir Faryabi, Anwari and Salman of Sawa, as he never employed mean and 
despicable ways to extort money, hence his praise lacks the high sounding words 
and excessive flights of imagination so essential for good oriental panegyrics. 
He is a devotee of Shiraz, and is never wearied of singing the praise of the stream 
of Ruknabad and the rose gardens of Musalla. 

"Bring, cup bearer, all that is left of thy wine ! 

In the garden of Paradise vainly thou 'It seek 
The life of the fountain of Ruknabad 

And the bowers of Musalla where roses twine". 

He sings of spring, rose, nightingale, wine, youth and beauty which at 
times elevate him to the realm of eternal beauty and bUss of which all these 
fair things are a pale reflection. 

According to Sir Gore Ouseley, "his style is clear, unaffected and 
harmonious, displaying at the same time great learnings and matured sciences, 
and intimate knowledge of the hidden as well as the apparent nature of things; 
but above all a certain fascination of expression unequalled by any other poet". 

Miss Gertrude Lowthian has given a correct estimate of Hafiz when she 
states: "To Hafiz, on the contrary, modern instances have no value; contem- 
porary history is too small to occupy his thought. . . . But some of us will feel 
that the apparent indifference of Hafiz (to his environments), lends to his 
philosophy a quality which Dante does not possess. The Italian is bound down 
within the limits of his philosophy, his theory of universe is essentially of his 
own age, and what to him was so acutely real is to many of us merely a beautiful 
of terrible image. The picture that Hafiz draws represents a wider landscape, 
though the immediate foreground may not be so distinct. It is as if his mental 
eye endowed with wonderful acuteness of vision, had penetrated into those 
provinces of thought, which, of later age, were destined to inhabit. We can 
forgive him for leaving for us so indistinct a representation of his own time, and 
the life of the individual in it, when we find him formulating ideas as profound 
as the warning that there is no musician to whose music both the drunk and 
the sober can dance". 

The poetry of Hafiz has a universal appeal. His philosophy is the same as 
that of Khayyam, but in his it has been more vigorously and fascinatingly 
expressed. He states that man is hardly aware of the secrets of nature. This idea 
had earlier been propounded by Socrates, Farabi, Ibn Sina and Khayyam, 
but in Hafiz, it has attained greater force and charm of expression. In his opinion 

21 6 Hundred Great Muslims 

the presence of the Eternal Being (lod) is visible from every particle, every lea*' 
and ever) tiling found in this world, and only the spiritual eye can see Him. 
Through the words of 'Saqi' {cup bearer), wine, rose, garden, he has conveyed 
the praise of Eternal Beauty, which has charmed the Sufis (Mystics) and 
commoners alike. His poetry also contains high class moral philosophy, through 
which he has exposed such preachers who do not practise what they preach. 

Hafiz is undoubtedly one of the most popular poets of the East. His 
fame as an immortal lyrist, one who has painted some lively pictures of the 
optimistic side of life, has transcended the barriers of Persia and reached the 
distant parts of ths East and the West. Numerous biographies as well as 
commentaries on his works have been written after his death. Begitming from 
Daulat Shah, who wrote his biographical work a century after the poet's death, 
there is a long list of biographies down to quite modern compilations like Raza 
Quli Khan's "Majmaul Fusaha" and "Riyazul Arfeen". 

But his best critical study is found in Shibli's "Sherul Ajam", written in 
Urdu. Among the notable Persian biographies of Hafiz are Daulat Shah's 
"Memoirs of Poets", Jami's 'Baharistan' Lutf Ali Beg's 'Atishkada' (Fiie Temple) 
and a quite modem biography "Majmaul Fusaha" (Assembly of the Eloquents). 

The number of commentaries on the poems of Hafiz in Persian, Turkish 
and Urdu languages, is considerable. The three best commentaries in Turkish 
language are those of Sururi, Shami and Sudi. 

The poems of Hafiz, 693 in number have been translated into several 
Western languages, including English, German, French and Latin. A translation 
of his complete work in German verse has been done by Rosenzweig Schwannan 
and in English prose by WiUberforce Clark. Of English verse translations of 
Hafiz, the largest is that of Herman Bickwell. But the greatest European poet 
influenced by Hafiz was Goethe (German) who dedicated a number of poems 
to Hafiz. 

There has been a general practice in Persia and India of taking out auguries 
from 'Diwan-i-Hafiz ' which have often proved to be true. Instances are common. 
Shah Abbas II, the Safavi Ruler of Persia (1642-67 A.C.) obtained the following 
augury from 'Diwan-i-Hafiz ' regarding his intended campaign against Azerbaijan 
Province, of which Tabriz was the Capital. 

"Tliou has captured Iraq and Pars by thy verse, O Hafiz ! 

Come, for it now the turn of Baghdad and the time of Tabriz." 

The king at once decided in favour of the campaign which turned out 
to be completely successful. 

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir has been a number of instances in his 
well-known "Memoirs", in which the auguries taken out by him from 'Diwan-i- 
Hafiz ' turned out to be true. 

Hundred Great Muslims 21 7 

Hafiz died in 793 A.H. and was buried in a green orchard in the suburbs 
of Shiraz, which was later called after him as "Hafiziya". His tomb was built 
by Abul Qasim Babai, the great grandson of Tamerlane (Taimur) and further 
beautified by later rulers. It is now a place of recreation and pilgrimage for the 
visitors drawn from distant countries. The poet's words have come out to be 
true : 

"When thou passest by our tomb, seek a blessing, fot it shall become 
a place of pilgrimage for the libertines of all the world". 

Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay on Persian Poetry, pays blowing tributes 
to Hafiz : 

"Hafiz is the Prince of Persian Poets, and in his extraordinary gifts adds 
to some of the attributes of Pindar, Anacreon, Horace, and Bums, the 
insight of a mystic, that sometimes affords a deeper glance at Nature than 
belongs to either ofthese bards. He accosts all topics with an easy audacity". 
"He only", he says, "ts fit for company, who knows how to prize earthly 
happmess at the value of a nightcap. Our father Adam sold Paradise for 
two kernels of wheat; then blame me not, if I hold it dear at one grape- 
stone". He says to the Shah, "Thou who rulest after words and thoughts 
which no eai has heard and no mind has thought, abide firm until thy 
young destiny tears off his blue coat from the old greybeard of the sky". 


Two persons were exchanging hot words in a street of Kenya. Both were 
abusing each other. One was saying, "0 ! cursed, if you would utter a single 
abuse against me, you would get ten in return". Maulana Rumi, who happened 
to pass by, heard their altercation. Addressing them he said: "Brothers! what- 
ever store of abuse you have, shower on me. You may hurl thousands of abuses 
on me, but you would not get anything in return". The two persons forgot all 
their abuses, fell on the feet of the great Maulana, and reconciled themselves. 

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. the greatest mystic poet that the world has 
produced, whose renowned Mathnavi is known as the Quran in the Persian 
language, was born in Balkh in 1207 A.C. He came of a family of great religious 
scholars, descending from the first Caliph of Islam. His grandfather Husain 
Balkhi, a great mystic scholar, was so much respected that Sultan Muhammad 
Khwarizm Shah married his daughter to him. Hence the ruler of Khwarizm was 
the maternal grandfather of Jalaluddin Rumi. 

Sheikh Bahauddin Balkhi, the father of Jalaluddin Rumi, was acknow- 
ledged as one of the greatest scholars of his time in the world of Islam. 
Muhammad Khwarizm Shah became a disciple of Sheikh Bahauddin and 
frequently visited him. He imparted education and lectured on all subjects. But 
due to the Court rivalry. Sheikh Bahauddin left Balkh and followed by hundreds 
of his disciples and followers migrated westward. He passed through Nishapur 
and in 1212 visited Sheikh Fariduddin Attar, who, according to chroniclers, 
took Jalaluddin in his arms, predicted his greatness and gave him his blessings 
and a copy of his poem 'Asrar Noma '. From Nishapur, the Sheikh arrived in 
Baghdad, where he stayed for a number of years, lecturing on religious subjects. 
The Ambassador of the Seljuk Ruler, Kaikobad, who also attended his lectures, 
apprised his Ruler of the deep learning of the Sheikh. King Kaikobad also 
became a disciple of the Sheikh. From Baghdad the Sheikh and his party went 
to Hejaz and thence of Zanjan, where he remain^ for one year, and thence to 
Larinda (Kirman) where he stayed for seven years. Here he married his son 
Jalaluddin to a lady named Gauher, who bore two sons. Sultan Veld and Alauddin. 
The Seljuk Ruler, Alauddin Kaikobad, an admirer of the Sheikh, invited him to 
stay in the capital. Accepting the invitation, the Sheikh went to Kenya (Icenium), 


Hundred Great Muslims 219 

the Capital of Seljuk State. The Seljuk King along with his courtiers, went out 
of the city to receive the Sheikh, and followed him on foot. Here Sheikh 
Bahauddin, the father of Maulana Jalaluddin, died in 1231 A.C. 

Jalaluddin received his early education from his learned father. Among 
the disciples of his father was a renowned scholar, named Syed Burhanuddin 
Muhaqqiq. The Maulana was entrusted to his care; he taught him all worldly 
subjects. At the time of the death of his father, Jalaluddin who was 25 years of 
age, went to Damascus and Aleppo, great centres of learning for higher 
education in those days. Syed Burhanuddin also instructed him in the mystic 
lore. After his death, Jalaluddin came under the influence of and received 
teaching from Shams-i-Tabriz, a "weird figure", as Nicholson calls him "wrapped 
in coarse black felt, who flits across the stage for a moment and disappears 
tragically enough". 

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, who had become a great scholar, a worthy 
son of his learned father, was surrounded by scholars and followers attracted 
from distant parts of the Islamic world. Here, in 642 A.H. he met Shams-i- 
Tabriz. The meeting, proved a turning point in his life. From a worldly teacher, 
Rumi became^ S recluse. Discarding all worldly pomp and pleasures, he retired 
to a life of prayers and devotion to his spiritual teacher, Shams-i-Tabriz. This 
sudden change in his life created restiveness among his disciples, and Shams-i- 
Tabriz in order to calm their uneasiness, slipped away, from Konya one night. 
This separation from his teacher, utterly disquieted the Maulana, who reacted 
to the incident by renouncing the world. It caused deep perturbation to his 
family. Therefore, his eldest son was deputed to search Shams-i-Tabriz. He 
brought him back to Konya from Damascus. The teacher and his disciples 
remained together for sometime, and one day, being annoyed by certain followers 
of the Maulana, Shams-i-Tabriz again disappeared from Konya never to return. 
A thorough search for the Saint, in which the Maulana himself participated, 
ended in a fiasco. 

The disappearance of his spiritual teacher brought a great change in 
Maulan's life and gave an edge to his sentiments and his inspirational poetical 
instincts which hitherto lay dormant in him. This revolutionary spiritual 
transformation was climaxed by a spurt of poetical effusion. The beginning of 
his immortal Mathnavi (long poem) was made during this period. 

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi gave birth to a line of mystics called Jalalia. 
The celebrated Sheikh Bu Ali Qalander of Panipat remained with the Maulana 
for a number of years and was much influenced by him. Another well-known 
Saint, Sheikh Shahabuddin Suhrawardy had also benefited from him. Sheikh 
Saadi, the famous Persian poet and moralist, according to the author of 
"Manaqib-ul-Aarfeen" hid also visited the Maulana at Konya. 

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi has left behind him two works on which his 
fame rests-his Diwan and his immortal "Mathnavi". His Diwan containing 50 

220 Hundred Great Muslims 

thousand couplets, mostly mystical lyrics, is wrongly considered to be composed 
by his spiritual teacher Shams-i-Tabriz, due to the latter's poetic name being 
frequently used in the last couplet. The bulk of this work Was composed by 
Rumi after the disappearance of his spiritual teacher, while Rida Quli Khan 
regards the major part of this work to have been composed in his memoriam. 
According to Nicholson, a "part of Diwan was composed while Shams-i-Tabriz 
was still living, but probably the bulk of it belongs to a later period". 

The Maulana's lyrics are replete with sincerity and sublimity, deep 
emotionalism and a spirit of forgetfulness which characterise the works of 
mystic poets of Persia, including Sinai and Attar. His lyrics are free from 
ornamentation and passivity prevalent in the lyrics of Salman, Khakani and 

It was a time when great panegyrists flourished in Persia, so much so that 
poets of the caUbre of Saadi and Iraqi, too, could not abstain from dabbling in 
panegyrics, but Maulana Rumi steered clear of this growing social evil. He 
confined his poetry to sincerely translating his true sentiments into verse. 
Instinct with exuberance of feelings, his lyrics have immense poetic appeal which 
elevates one to the higher world. He appeals more to the higher and nobler 
sentiments of man. 

With the decline of Seljuk power in Persia, the patrons of poets 
disappeared, hence the poets paid greater attention towards lyrics instead of 
panegyrics. The poets who refined lyrics and made it a vehicle of sincerity of 
feelings, were Rumi, Saadi and Iraqi. The Maulana himself a great mystic, 
has faithfully painted the diverse phases of love, which he had experienced 
in his life. 

His immortal, "Mathnavi" is undoubtedly the most popular book in the 
Persian language. It has been translated into several Eastern and Western 
languages and has given him a distinguished place among the few immortal poets 
of the world. According to the author of 'Majma-us-Safa ', the four outstanding 
books in the Persian language are Shahnama-i-Firdausi, Gulistan-i-Saadi, 
Mathnavi of Rumi and Diwan-i-Hafiz, but the Mathnavi of Rumi is the most 
popular of all. It has always been a favourite book of intellectuals and religious 
men. A number of commentaries have been written on it. 

This immortal work of Maulana comprising 6 books and containing 
26,660 couplets, was completed in 10 years. According to the author, the 
Mathnavi contains, "the roots of reUgjon and the discovery of the mysteries of 
nature and divine knowledge". (Arabic Preface to Book I). "It contains great 
number of rambling anecdotes" writes Browne in his 'A Literary History of 
Persia', of the most various character, some sublime and dignified, others 
grotesque, interspersed with mystical and theosophical digressions, often of the 
most abstruse character, in sharp contrast with the narrative portions, which 
though presenting some pecuUarities of diction, are, as a rule, couched in very 

Hundred Great Muslims 221 

Simple and plain language". The book is further remarkable as beginning abruptly , 
without any formal doxology, with the well-known and beautiful passage 
translated by the late Professor E. H. Palmer, under the title of the "Song of 

The Mathnavi (long narrative poem) as a form of poetry owes its growth to 
Mahmood of Ghazni under whose patronage Firdausi made it a vehicle of 
narrating the ancient history of Persia in his immortal Shah Noma. Later Hakim 
Sinai wrote 'Hadiqa', the first mystic poem in the Persian language. He was 
followed by Khwaja Fariduddin Attar, who wrote several Mathnavis alive wdth 
mystic thoughts. But the Mathnavi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi marks the 
climax of mystic poetry and ranks among the immortal poems of the world. 

Among the factors which have contributed to the popularity of this 
matchless massive work are the sublimity of thought and subtlety of complex 
ideas versified in an extremely simple maimer, hardly found in any other 
language. The ethical and mystic values have been beautifully explained through 
intelligent stories and parables drawn from everyday life. The way in which the 
Maulana has explained the intricate ethical and mystic problems through realistic 
stories, amply brin^ him out to be a person who has a keen insight into the 
secrets ot human nature. With him, the art of teaching morality through life-like 
stories, has reached its climax. He points out to hidden evils of humanity in such 
a maimer that one feels he knew it beforehand. 

The main characteristic of this poem is the sublimity of thought and the 
simplicity and spontaneity of its expression. Contrary to the pessimism and the 
Ufe of resignation practised and preached by the mystics in general, the Maulana 
preached a healthy optimism and a life full of action. In one of his stories he 
argues that it is self-evident what a master means when he places a shovel in the 
hands of his servant. In the same way, God who has given us hands and feet, 
wants us to make use of them. Hence the Ufe of renunciation and resignation is 
against the wiU of God. The Islamic teaching is that one should try his best and 
leave the result to God. Man proposes but God disposes. In this way, among all 
the mystics, the Maulana made the most practical, realistic and Islamic approach 
towards life and became the forerunner of Iqbal, the poet of Islam. 

Before his meeting with Shams-i-Tabriz, the Maulana passed a life fuU of 
pomp and splendour. Wherever he went, he was accompanied by a large number 
of scholars and disciples. Thereafter, he spent his time in prayers and speculation. 
Mostly he spent the whole night in prayers. 

He was very humane and generous. The neighbouring rulers and their 
courtiers sent valuable presents which he always distributed among the poor. 
Whenever there was nothing to eat in his house, he was much pleased and 
exclaimed : "Today our house is like those of saints". He was so generous that he 
used to offer to the supplicant whatever he had on his body. 

222 Hundred Great Muslims 

He shunned the society of rulers and their courtiers. The rulers and their 
ministers \aed with each other in order to win his favour and visited him at 
times, but he avoided them as far as possible. 

That Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi was gifted with supernatural powers from 
his very childhood, will be evident from the following anecdote : 

As a child of eleven , while Rumi was playing one day with his friends on 
the roof of his house, the former suggested they might now shift to the opposite 
house to resume their play there. Rumi refused to accompany his playmates 
giving them to understand that he would jump over to the said house in spite of 
a wide lane between the two houses, rather than go there through the stairs. 
"How could that be possible? You are not a Jinn, nor have you Alladin's 
wonderful lamp to summon one to transport you to the opposite house lying 
across the lane, over the roof, they asked jeeringly. On reaching the roof of the 
other house they were flabbergaled to find Rumi already present there. 

The Maulana died in 1273 A.C. and was buried in the mausoleum erected 
over his father's grave at Konya by Alauddin Kaikobad, the Seljuk Ruler. People 
of all communities and sections followed his funeral crying and wailing. The 
Christians and Jews were reciting their scriptures. The Seljuk King who also 
accompanied the funeral procession asked them what relation had they with the 
virtuous Maulana. They replied, "If the deceased was like your Muhammad 
(PBUH) he was like our Christ and Moses". The entire population had turned 
out to pay their last homage to the departed Saint. 

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi was an eminent poet, an outstanding mystic and 
above all a great man. "He is undoubtedly the most eminent Sufi poet that 
Persia has produced", writes Browne, "while his mystical Mathnavi deserves to 
rank amongst the great peoms of all times". 


Muslim Persia has produced some of the greatest luminaries of the Islamic 
world, who have immensely contributed to the intellectual development of 
mediaeval times and were mainly instrumental in bringing about the renaissance 
of the Western world. Their invaluable works procured the necessary link in the 
evolution of mankind and have left their ineffaceable marks on the pages of 
world history. 

In the development of Islamic Uterature, the Persians formed the vanguard 
of all cultural and literary movements and a number of their literatures acquired 
international reputation. The four pillars of Persian poetry are Firdausi— the 
author of Shah Nama, the world famous epic poem ; Saadi-the great moralist ; 
Hafiz— the celebrated lyrist and Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, author of the well- 
known ' Mathnavi ' ^h\c\y is held as the 'Quran in the Persian language'. 

Umar Khayyam, one of the intellectual giants of the Middle ages— a man 
of versatile taste and a sceptic by nature who is not much known in Persia as a 
poet but as a mathematician and an astronomer. "Umar Khayyam is a name 
more familiar in England and America than in Persia", writes H. A. R. Gibb in 
the Legacy of Islam. 

Ghyasuddin Abul Fateh ibn Ibrahim Al Khayyam, better known in the 
world as Umar Khayyam, was born in 1048 at Nishapur, the capital of Khorasan 
which is a province of Persia. His place of birth is a disputed point among 
historians. Muhammad and Saharazuri hold that he was bom in Basang, a village 
of the district of Astrabad, but their contentions do not stand the test of later 
historical researches. Actually he was born and educated at Nishapur where he 
passed the major part of his life and ultimately died and was buried then. "His 
tomb at Nishapur is in itself sufficient proof of the identity of his birth place", 
says a writer. "For in Iran thecustom in Umar's days as in ours, was to bury the 
dead in the place of their nativity". 

Though Umar has universally been accepted as a Persian national, some 
historians hold that he originally belonged to an Arabian tribe, "Al-Khayyami", 
who were tent makers and had migiated and settled in Persia long after her 
conquest by the Arabs. Not much is known about the early life of the celebrated 
poet, but being the son of a well-to-do father he was given the best education 


224 Hundred Great Muslims 

available in those days and became the pupil of the learned Imam Mowakkif , a 
well-known teacher of the Islamic world. Here he met and made intimate friend- 
ship with Hasan Ali ibn Ishaq, better known in history as Nizamul Mulk Toosi, 
the Grand Vizier of Malik Shah Seljuki and Hasan bin Sabah who later on 
became the founder of the fanatical sect of IsmaiUes, called "Assassins". 

The three class-fellows, who, in their later Ufe, earned immortal places in 
the pages of history and were intimate friends, had entered into a remarkable 
bond of friendship— that being the pupils of Mowakkif who were mostly successful 
in Ufe, if anyone of them got ahead of the others, he would try his level best 
for the advancement of the remaining two, to the extent of sharing his wealth 
and honour. Nizamul Mulk who was the most brilliant among the trio and 
topped the list in the examination, was invited to undertake the education of 
Alp Arsalan, the Seljuk Prince. On the accession of Alp Arsalan as the Emperor 
of Seljukide Empire, Nizamul Mulk was elevated to the high rank of the Grand 
Vizier and proved himself as one of the ablest administrators the Islamic world 
has produced. In the midst of his many preoccupations Nizamul Mulk did not 
forget his former friends and in spite of being fully aware of the evil propensities 
of Hasan, kept his promise and installed him in a pojt of considerable responsi- 
biUty-but the crafty Hasan involved himself in several court intrigues and left 
the service to become the founder of the notorious sect of Assassins, which was 
later on responsible for the assassination of his illustrious friend and benefactor, 
Nizamul Mulk. 

Umar Khayyam, a sceptic by nature, had, on the other hand, declined a 
lucrative government job and preferred an annual pension of 1,200 gold pieces 
paid out of the revenues of Nishapur, where he had settled to devote the rest of 
his life to literacy pursuits. 

Umar Khayyam was a high class poet, whose worth as a poet was not fully 
realised during his lifetime and whose immortal Quatrains (Rubaiyat) have been 
better appreciated in the West during the last one century. The best part of his 
poems were composed during his youth in the quiet and beautiful landscape of 
Nishapur. Under the shade of sweet-scented trees that shed their lovely flowers 
at his feet, Umar often sat sipping his cold 'Sharbat' from the hands of 'Saki' and 
smoke his fragrant 'Hookkah': He watched the dark -eyed maidens roaming 
about— and as he watched, he forgot all the anxieties of worldly life. 

The translated version of his famous Rubaiyat (Quatrains) was first 
published by E. Fitzgerald in 1859, which made him famous throughout the 
Western world. "If the moods expressed in the famous Quartrains", says Gibbs, 
"is not the most heroic or exalted, none-the-less they caught the exact tone of 
the age, and voiced it as perfectly as eight centuries earlier they had voiced the 
poUshed hedonism of the cultured society of Isfahan". 

His verses are clothed in beautiful and chaste Persian which is much suited 
and add charm to his favourite theme, like Hafiz, Umar Khayyam used the 
metaphors and figures of Suflsm to add colour to his works. 

Hundred Great Muslims 225 

Alongside the ecstatic spiritualism of the Sufis lies the colder pessimistic 
scepticism of Umar Khayyam, who, to a great extent, followed the line toed by 
Avicenna. He has impressively portrayed the transient character of human life. 

Think, in this battered carvan-sarai 

Whose portals are alternate night and day 
How Sultan after Sultan with his pomp 

Abode his destined hour, and went his way. 

The wise man is he who passes the few moments of his uncertain transitory life 
in pursuit of pleasure, free from all worldly cares and anxieties. Here his ideas 
follow the lines of Epicurian philosophy, namely: "Eat, drink and be merry" 
and come very close to the Hedonistic theory of "Pleasure as the End of Life". 

Ah, my beloved, fill the cup that clears 

Today of past regret and future fears 
Tomorrow! why, tomorrow I may be 

Myself with yesterday's seven thousand years. 

In his poetry he is typically Persian. In it he shows himself as the chief and the 
foremost of that group of free thinkers, who ridiculed the limitations of the 
dogma and taught the futility or piety and orthodoxy. He would prefer to enjoy 
the pleasures of this world than to aspire for the enjoyment of the next. 

Some for the glories of this world, and some 

Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come, 
Ah, take the cash and let the credit go. 

Nor heed the rumble of a distant drum ! 

It is not to be wondered that the philosophy of Umar was very much repugnant 
to the conservative class of people. The question of "Jaza" and "Saza" hzs been 
agitating the minds of our thinkers who could hardly procure a satisfactory 
solution of this controversial issue. Umar has taken advantage of this point of 
Muslim leligious philosophy. 

Oh, thou who didst with pitfalls and with gin 

Beset the route I was to wander in 
Thou wilt not with predestined evil round 

Enmesh, and thou impute my fall to sin. 

It is needless to search for a carefully reasoned system of philosophy in 
the works of a poet— so was the case with Umar, whose verses record certain 
moods. The dominant note of his verses is to cast off the cares and anxieties of 
the worldly life by sipping a cup of wine. A few drops of liquor would free one 
from all sorts of miseries and would transport him to the realm of ecstasy and 

226 Hundred Great Muslims 

The verses of Umar were composed at various periods of his life and the 
contradictions in his writings are due to the progress of his ideas as he passed 
through various stages of life— from pious Muslim to avowed sceptic. His sole 
consistency lies in his praise of wine, to which in his moments of depression he 
turns for obUvion and perhaps for exaltation. His love for wine is so intense that 
he wishes that his body may be washed with wine after his death. 

Ah, with grape my fading life provide, 

And wash the body whence the life has died, 
And lay me, shrouded in the living leaf. 

By some not unfrequented garden side. 

He says that he tried to give up wine and swore not to taste it again— but when 
spring came he scattered penitence to the winds. 

Indeed, indeed, repentence oft before 

I iwore— but was I sober when I swore 
And then, and then came spring, and rose in hand 

My thread— bare penitence apieces tore. 

Umar has also left behind him three metaphysical treatises— namely, the 
manuscript of the treatise, "On Existence" exists in Berlin; manuscript of a 
small Persian treatise titled "Dar ibn Qulliyat" has been preserved in a Ubrary of 
Paris and "Nauroz Nama" has recently been revealed by F. Rosen. 

After completing his studies, Umar visited Samarkand, Bukhara, Isfahan 
and Balkh which were the intellectual centres in those times and added to his 
astronomical knowledge by exchanging views on the subject with some of 
the eminent intellectuals residing in those cities. He united with his scientific 
pursuits the study of medicine and won a high reputation as a healer. 

Khayyam's fame in the Muslim countries mainly rests on his outstanding 
mathematical and scientific researches and not on poetry. In Europe, too, he 
was known for his scientific achieverhents long before as a poet. His works on 
Algebra were translated in 1851 while his "Rubaiyat" were first pubUshed in 
1859. The manuscripts of his principal works exist in Paris and in the India 
Office, London; "Masadrat" researches on Euclid's axioms and Mushkilat-al- 
Hisab, dealing with compUcated arithmetical problems have been preserved in 
Munich (Germany). Aocording to V. Minorsky , "he was the greatest mathematician 
of the hiediaeval times". His primary contribution is in Algebra in which he has 
registered much advance on the works of the Greeks. His Algerba is an advance 
on that of Khwarizmi, too in degree of equation— as the greater part of Umar's 
book is devoted to cubic equations while Khwarizmi dealt with quadratic 
equations only. His Algebra deals with geometric and algebraic equations of 
second degree, an admirable classification of equations, including the cubic. His 
classification of equations is based on the number and different terms which 
they include. He recognises thirteen different forms of cubic equations. His 

Hundred Great Muslims 227 

solution of cubic and quadratic equations with the help of conic sections is 
probably the most advanced work of Arabic mathematics that he left for us. 
"His skill as a geometer", says Max Mayerhof, "is equal to Ms Uterary erudition 
and reveals real logical power and penetration". 

In Physics, Umar's researches are devoted to specific weight of gold and 
silver. The Tarikhul Fi gives the Mizamul Hukama which determines the method 
of ascertaining the weight of objects studded with precious stones without 
taking out such stones. 

During the reign of Malik Shah Seljuki, his illustrious Grand Vizier, 
Nizamul Mulk Toosi, a great patron of learning, had invited a body of savants to 
carry out astronomical observations which was headed by Umar Khayyam and 
Abdur Rahman Hazini. Their efforts led to the reform of Calendar which was 
in advance of the Gregorian by 600 years and, according to Sedillot, an authority 
on the subject, "it is more exact". The famous observatory where Umar carried 
out his astronomical researches was constructed at Ray and the Calendar 
formulated by Umar is known d&At Tarikh-al Jalali. 

According to the latest research conducted by Soviet orientatists, the Code 
of Rules on Astronomy, a hitherto anonymous treatise, is now definitely 
attributed to Umar Khayyam, an outstanding Persian poet and scientist of the 
Middle Ages. 

The authorship of the treatise has been estabUshed by Nuriya Hairetdinova, 
a young mathematician from the Teachers' Training Institute in Ferghana, 
Uzbekistan. Her conclusions have been supported by prominent Soviet 

She has analysed the Code of Rules which consists of a preface, six 
preambles and three books, by using a photostat copy of the manuscript kept at 
the Istanbul Library. 

Her research has helped glean new information on the development of 
spherical trigonometry in the mediaeval Orient, and the scientific views of Umar 
Khayyam, the initiator of a reforms of the old Arabic calendar and the author of 
famous treatises on mathematics and other fields of knowledge. 

The treatise kept in Istanbul was re-written in 1235. A searching textual 
analysis helped the Uzbek mathematician to establish that Umar Khayyafti 
finished this treatise in 1094 A.C. 

Of his death the following story is told by Nuzhatul-Arwah. "On the aay 
of his death, Umar was attentively reading the Book of Healing, a metapftiysical 
work of Aviceima. When he oame upon the chapter titled, 'One and Many ', he 
put aside the book, stood up, offered his prayers and made his last injunctions 
to his friends and relations. Since then he neither ate nor drank till the evening 

228 Hundred Great Muslims 

and after the evening prayers he prostrated and cried out, '0, Almighty, verily I 
have tried to realise Thee to the extent of my abiUties. I beg Your Forgiveness', 
Saying- this he sank to death and was widely mourned by his friends and 
admirers. He was buried according to his life-long desire in a beautifully shaded 

Such was the end of Umar Khayyam, a great poet, philosopher, astronomer 
and mathematician. 


Ghalib was born in a period when India was passing through one of the 
most revolutionary and turbulent times of her history. The great Mughal Empire 
lay tottering and Bahadur Shah, the last Mughal Emperor, was a monarch in 
name only. The War of Independence in 1857 had shaken the fabric of the entire 
Indian society and served as death-knell to Muslim civilisation in India. The 
British rulers tried to efface all traces of Muslim culture. 

Bom in Agra in 1797, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, originally of Tatar 
descent, later settled down in Delhi, the Capital of the tottering Mughal Empire. 

He traced his descent from the House of Turan, son of Faridun. His 
grandfather had migrated from Transoxiana (Central Asia) to India and sought 
employment with the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. His father, Mirza Abdullah 
Khan, had a chequered career, serving one royal court after another. He served 
with the Nawab of Oudh, the Raja of Alwai and the Nizam of Hyderabad. 

Young Asadullah Khan was hardly five years old, when his father di?d and 
he was brought up by his maternal uncle, Mirza Nasarullah Khan, a Risaldar in 
the British army. He was given good education by teachers like Moazzam and 
Nazir Akbarabadi. 

At the age of 13, Ghalib was married to a noble lady of the Loharu ruling 
family. Born and brought up in a rich and cultured family, Asadullah Khan's 
later hfe was far from happy. 

India at that time was passing through the worst period of her history. The 
Muslims who had ruled for about a thousand years had reached the lowest level 
of their decadence. The last vestige of the Muslim power,, the Mughal Emperor, 
was no better than the king of a chessboard. 

The politico-economic condition of the MusUms had much deteriorated 
and the British were slowly but surely replacing the Muslim power in the 
subcontinent. In such an atmosphere, surcharged with uncertainty and 
economic depression, especially for Muslims, GhaUb had to struggle for the rest 


230 Hundred Great Muslims 

Ghalib's married life was not happy. His early marriage was followed by 
the death of several children in infancy. In the absence of his own children, he 
had developed great attachment to one of his nephews, named Arif. But, 
unfortunately, Arif, too died in youth. Ghalib wrote a touching elegy on his 
death which guided his disciple, Hali, to pave the way for the introduction of 
modern elegy in Urdu poetry as opposed to the conventional elegies on the 
martyrdom of Karbala, written by Mir Anees and Dabir and other Lucknow 

Ghalib's domestic and fmancial worries kept on multiplying till his death ; 
these shattered his nerves and eventually reconciled him to his fate. 

His misfortune did not leave him alone. A pension of Rs. 500 per year 
granted by Wajid AU Shah, last Ruler of Oudh, was stopped two years after its 
inception due to the aimexation of Oudh by the British. A personal brawl with 
a British Inspector of Police in Delhi, landed him in prison for three months. He 
could not get a job of Professor of Persian in the newly-founded Delhi College 
as the British Secretary did not show him normal courtesy when he called on 
him for an interview. A salary of Rs. 50 per month granted to him by the last 
Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, for writing the history of the Timur 
dynasty was discontinued after the War of Independence in 1857. 

The post-War of Independence period proved to be the culminating point 
of his miserable life-all his near and dear ones had perished, the Imperial city of 
Delhi was in ruins and the literary gatherings in the Red Fort of Delhi were no 
more. He struggled for life till his death in 1869. 

Despite all these hardships, Ghalib never thought of stooping below his 
dignity. He bore these trials and tribulations cheerfully. 

Ghalib was much influenced by the happenings of his time, which are 
deeply reflected in his poetry. like Mir, he also passed a life full of woes and 
sorrows, but unlike him he did not wail for his sufferings; his contentment 
and cheerful disposition enabled him to face all these miseries with a smiling 
countenance. Says he : 

(Sorrows disappear if one gets accustomed to them; I had to face so many 
troubles that these have ceased to be troublesome to me). 

"No poet can ascend the summit of greatness, unless he has a deep insight 
into philosophy", says Coleridge. Ghalib is one of the two great philosopher 
poets that Urdu has produced. Iqbal is more a philosopher than a poet while 
GhaUb is more a poet than a philosopher. 

Hundred Great Muslims 231 

Some westernised people have compared Ghalib with a host of European 
poets like Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Milton, without reflecting deeply into 
his poetical attributes. Salahuddin Khuda Bakhsh has compared Ghalib with the 
German poet, Heine, who was simply a poet of love, while Ghalib depicts the 
multifarious phases of human life in his verses and soars high in the realm of 
imagination. Dr. Iqbal, being himself a great poet, has made in the following 
couplet a correct appraisal of Ghalib when he compares him with the celebrated 
German poet Goethe. Both have reached the limits of human, imagination and 
have mirrored almost all aspects of human life. 

Iqbal was a great admirer of Ghalib. He paid him compliments by placing 
him in the Heaven alongwith Mansur-al-Hallaj. The famous Urdu critic and writer, 
Dr. Abdur Rahman Bijnori has equated Ghalib's "Z)iwan "with Vedas, considering 
them as the only two Divine books in India. In his preface to his work on Ghalib, 
Dr. Bijnori says : "0 Ghalib : if the art of poetry were a religion, this book 
would form the divine gospel of that religion". 

Ghalib had a singularly rich personality. It has many facets like that of the 
great German poet Goethe. 

Aristotle considers poetry a sort of photography. Ghalib's verses are 
matchless from this point of view and on every page ofhisiJiwan one comes 
across such lines which may be converted into living pictures and sketches. 
Ghalib has painted the sentiments of love in their most natural forms, which 
require a command over the language as well as a deep insight into human nature. 

Nature is a hidden reality. The secrets of nature hidden from our eyes are 
exposed to the eyes of the poet who unfolds them in his verses. He sees a new 
light in every sight. Ghalib, like Wordsworth, observes life from different angles 
and paints it in all its varied shades. Like Shakespeare and Wordsworth, he sees 
nature through an imaginative eye and his natural scenes are marked with brevity. 

Ghalib takes a non-materialistic view of life and the world around. He 
denies the existence of matter and in this respect his philosophy is similar to that 
of Hume. 

In Urdu poetry, metaphysical conceptions have hardly been so beautifully 
portrayed as in Ghalib. He says : 

232 Hundred Great Muslims 

a tip' ^^/o^^ ^»^fi 

(Where is the second footstep of the heart's desire, Lord? This wilderness 
of being appeared to be a mere footprint). 

He was an outstanding philosopher-poet who combined in himself the 
genius of a poet with the art of a skilful artist. He expresses the views of the 
celebrated Averroes in his couplet when he says that "one does not complain of 
the sorrows of life when the secrets of existence are unfolded to one's eyes and 
he thinks life and miseries as two sides of the same picture". 

Ji 4oh> ulJ^\ f^.^ ^ir^ c>\^je 

At times Ghalib has broken the bonds of grammar and let loose his imagi- 
nation. But grammar is the objective phase of logic and poetry is free from logic. 
According to Abdur Rahman Bijnori, "Shakespeare and Ghalib are too great to 
care for the dogmatism of grammar and diction. Rather grammar should be 
moulded according to their writings". He has coined a variety of new words, 
phrases and idioms and made them vehicles of his lofty ideas. He was an expert 
in the art of forming beautiful phrases. He has maintained an individuaUty of his 
own, inventing new similes and metaphors. One great quality of Ghalib which is 
hardly found in any other poet is that some of his couplets contain a store of 

*^ jl>^ tf' j>^ J/ 
it A, 

The poet had the real taste of life in love only. 

It |>jj) )ji Jl \ia (f )j) 

♦•T f ^ 

In love I found the ecstasy of hfe, 
A remedy to my pain 
A remedy which is nothing 
But an eternal pain. 

The entire edifice of his poetry stands on the foundation of originality- 
originality of thought and expression, similes and metaphors, allusions and array 
of words. This exceptional adherence to originality had made him somewhat 
unpopular in his days, but he never cared for it. Once he said : 

Hundred Great Muslims 233 

I have neither longing for praise nor yearning for compensation. I do not 
care if my couplets are meaningless. 

But the immense popularity of Ghalib among future generations has fully 
brought out the worth of his verses. Ghalib struck a different line for himself. He 
is undoubtedly one of the greatest poets of the world, who instead of being 
carried away by conventionalism, created a world of his own and influenced 
later poets. His departure from traditionalism in Urdu literature was followed by 
Hali, his worthy disciple, who incorporated these progressive ideas, in his famous 
work of Urdu criticism, 'An Introduction to Poetry', which served as a turning 
point in Urdu Poetry. Paying rich tribute to Ghalib for his sublimated thought, 
Iqbal says in Bang-i-Dara: 

Your life clarified it to human thought- 
How far are the reaches of man's imagination. 


Maulana Altaf Husain Hali who died on December 31, 1914 is one of the 
greatest figures of Urdu litterature. Born in 1837, at Panipat, and bred in the 
most stormy period of Indian History. Hali, was destined to play an important 
role in shaping the modern Urdu literature. Being a high class biographer, an 
eminent poet and above all an outstanding literary critic, he was, to a great 
extent, responsible for preparing the ground on which the grand edifice of 
modem Urdu poetry was built. In fact he was the first to strike at the roots of 
conventionalism in Urdu poetry. He was a literary genius who greatly contri- 
buted towards social, cultural and political awakening of the Muslims of the 
Indo— Pakistan Subcontinent. 

The great catastrophe of 1857 had shaken the entire social and political 
structure of India. The tottering Muslim Kingdoms of Delhi and Oudh were 
unprooted for ever, and the well-known literary centres of Delhi and Lucknow 
which were established under the patronage of their Rulers disappeared with 
their patrons. But it served as an essential factor to reorientate the outlook of 
our litterateurs. The occasional contacts with English literature, gave birth to 
same tendencies in Urdu literature, which the "Renaissance" in the 16th century 
and the urge for "Romance" in the 18th century, had brought about for English 
literature. The persons first to respond to this call were Muhammad Husain Azad 
and Altaf Husain Hali. Hali, the famous disciple of Gahlib, inspired by the lead 
given by his celebrated teacher in the sphere of Urdu lyric and affected by the 
growing influence of Western thought proved to be the greatest exponent of 
modem Urdu poetry. 

Far from being a conservative, he was liberal enough to accept and 
introduce the modern trends of Western literature. He provided the turning 
point in Urdu literature, especially in the spheres of poetry and literary 
biography and the difference in the Urdu literature produced before and after 
Hali is very pronounced. 

Urdu language flourished during the decline of Muslim power in India, 
hence its old literature contains germs of a decadent society. The old Urdu 
poetry, which, in fact, was a child of Persian poetry suffered from hackneyed 
ideas, sophisticated and unnatural love themes. 


Hundred Great Muslims 235 

Before the emergence of Hali on the literary horizon of India, only half- 
hearted effort was made at Fort William College, Calcutta, to simplify Urdu 
prose and Mir Amman's 5fl^ft-o-5fl/iar was a commendable effort in this direction. 
Ghalib, with his originaUty in thought and diction, had also struck at con- 
ventionalism in Urdu literature. But, it was Hali, who proved to be the real 
crusader against the deep-rooted conventionalism of Urdu literature and 
successfully accomplished this task during his lifetime. 

Literary criticism was unknown in Urdu liteature before Hali, who wrote 
the first book on literary criticism in which he discussedthe nature and evaluation 
of poetry which paved the way for modern Urdu poetry. 

The publication of his Introduction to Poetry, stands as the grearest 
landmark in the annals of Urdu literary criticism which was mainly instrumental 
in changing the course of Urdu poetry, particularly of the lyric. Hali, himself 
being an eminent poet, translated into practice what he preached. He widened 
the field of Urdu lyric and made it the vehicle of his diverse ideas. His lyrics are 
distinguished for sincerity and sublimity of thought as well as simplicity of 

Hah introduced natural poem into Urdu poetry which was later developed 
by Iqbal, Chakbast, Akbar and Josh. His "Mosaddas Maddo-JazH-Islam". (The 
poem relating to the Rise and Fall of Islam) is recognised as a classic of Urdu 
poetry and is the most widely read Urdu poem. This poem, which beautifully 
portrays the rise of Islam in the world and the causes of its downfall, is one of 
the masterpieces of Urdu poetry. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who had requested the 
poet to write such a poem says : 

"Of course it was I who persuaded him to take up this task and I think it 
to be one of my good deeds so that when God would ask me, "what have 
you brought with you, I would reply that I have got iheMusaddas "written". 

Being deeply influenced by his environments. Hah wails the futiUty and 
misfortunes of human life. Like Saadi, Hali too, was a great moralist, but his 
preachings, at times, suffer from the passivity of professional missionaries. 

In elegy, too, Hah has given a lead to other Urdu elegists. TiU his time, 
elegies in Urdu were confined to the conventional theme of the tragedy of 
Karbala. He was the first to write a personal elegy in Urdu poetry. His elegy on 
the death of his weU-known teacher, GhaUb, fulfills all the conditions of modern 
elegy. The elegies written by Milton and Gray are criticised for being devoid of 
the personal touch, but HaU mournfully relates the loss which he suffered with 
the death of his great teacher. 

The Ahgarh School of thought led by the celebrated Sir Syed Ahmad Khan 
which included such intellectual luminaries of the age as Hali, Shibli, Mohsinul 
Mulk, Wiqarul Mulk, Nazir Ahmad and Maulvi Chirag Ali, proved to be the 

236 Hundred Great Muslims 

greatest modernising force in the sphere of Urdu Uteraure. But, of all these 
intellectual giants, Hali was the greatest reformer. It was he who translated into 
action the revolutionary ideas of his school and played a dominant role in 
shaping the trends of modem Urdu literature. 

He introduced literary biographies in Urdu and wrote three voluminous 
as well as brilliant biographies, namely, 'Hayat-e-Sadi' (Life of Saadi), 'Yadgar-i- 
Ghalib', (The Reminiscence of Ghalib) and 'Hayat-i-Javed (Life of Sir Syed 
Ahmad Khan). 

His style in prose bristles with simplicity, spontaneity and sincerity. He 
discarded the flowery and high sounding language used in Urdu prose and 
adopted simple, lucid and straightforward language for expressing his ideas. He, 
at times, makes. use of suitable English words in his writing and has thus enriched 
the Urdu vocabulary. Although not well versed in English language, he had fully 
understood the trends of English literature and has very creditably applied them 
to his critical study of Urdu poetry. 

As a man, Hali was the very embodiment of humility and simpUcity, 
hospitality and humanitarianism. hi one of his interesting articles, Maulvi Abdul 
Haq, who was a close associate of Hali, speaks very highly of him as a man and 
enumerates many qualities of his head and heart. His reforms, no doubt, evoked 
country-wide criticism, but whoever came in contact with him was received 
with a smiling countenance and a magnanimous heart. His severest critics, were 
disarmed by tiis affability and accommodating spirit. 

Thus, Maulana Altaf Husain Hali, who, though brought up in a conservative 
environment, was endowed with all the qualities of a reformer and with the 
efficient use of his modernising weapons brought about the greatest revolution 
in the History of Urdu Literature. 


Shibli Nomani was one of the greatest luminaries who glittered on the 
literary firmament of Urdu literature and the brilliance of whose achievements 
outshone those of his contemporaries as well as predecessors in diverse branches 
of knowledge. Few writers in the 19th century could achieve the versatility of 
the genius of Shibh. 

The impact of Western civilisation brought about a reorientation in the 
outlook of Urdu writers which culminated in the creation of the same atmosphere 
for Urdu literature in India, as the Renaissance in the 16th century and the zeal 
for Romance in the 18th century had developed for Eriglish literature. Azad, 
Hah and Shibli were the torch-bearers who heralded this revolution and paved 
the way for later writers. Azad left behind him some good specimen of natural 
poetry, while Hah introduced the revolutionary changes in Urdu literature, 
especially in Urdu Poetry. Shibli, though not destined to be as great a poet, yet 
he outmatched his two rivals as a critic, historian, biographer and philosopher. 

Shibli was born in a conservative family of Azamgarh district (U.P.), India, 
in the stormy year of 1857 and got his education from the learned teacher 
Maulana Muhammad Farooq Chirayyakoti. He was later employed as Professor 
of Arabic in the Anglo-Muhammadan College, Aligarh. He was an associate of 
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. He devoted himself to the service of Urdu literature 
and had the distinction of being the founder of Daml Musannafeen (The House 
of Authors) at Azamgarh which is still functioning and which had drawn within 
its portals a galaxy of talented scholars, such as Maulanas Sulaiman Nadvi, 
Abdus Salaam Nadvi and Masood Nadvi who enriched Urdu Uterature by their 
invaluable contributions. Maulana Shibli died in 1914. He was a profilic writer 
and has dozens of high class books to his credit. 

The Maulana had cultivated a unique style for the conveyance of his ideas 
which embodied the elegance of Azad, the colloquialism of Nazir Ahmad and 
the simplicity of Hah. He believed in moderation and his style with slight 
modification could successfully be employed in scientific, poetic, critical, 
historical and philosophical themes. He elevated Urdu Uterature to an eminence 
so that it may easily compete with the advanced literatures of the world. He 
initiated the spirit of research in Urdu; some of his outstanding works are 


238 Hundred Great Muslims 

distinguished for thorough research on those subjects and may be classed with 
the best works of the world. Hardly any other Urdu writer had been so popular 
and beneficial to the educated class. His style is characterised by clarity, 
simplicity, lucidity and amplification of points. A logical sequence pervades his 
writings, which never suffer from the complexities of expression, and are 
distinguished for the vigour and spontaneity of expressions. Complimenting him 
on his immaculate style, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan once said, "Both Delhi and 
Lucknow should be proud of you". 

The Maulana was one of the leading figures of his time. One hardly comes 
across a person with a greater range of ideas and diversities of taste. He embodied 
in himself the attributes of a remarkable historian, a successful critic, a high class 
biographer and an efficient reformer. He occupies a high position as a litterateur, 
historian and a scholar of literary research. His principal historical contributions 
are Al-Farooq, Al-Mamun, Al-Ghazali, Al-Noman and Aurangzeb Alamgir. In 
Al-Farooq, he deals with the life and achievements of the redoubtable Farooq-i- 
Azam, the Second Caliph of Islam who was known for his piety, jusitce, simpli- 
city and indomitable will. Few books on Caliph Umar in oriental literature may 
reach the authenticity and fluency of Shibli's book. Al-Mamun narrates the 
achievements of Mamun, the Great, whose reign is known as the golden age of 
Islamic culture. Mamun was a great patron of learning and during his re'gn 
Muslims made invaluable contribution to the advancement of knowledge and 
various sciences and arts registered phenomenal progress. According to a 
European writer, "To the Islkmic world, Christians had conceded and that 
grudgingly— only a military superiority. Now they realised with shame that it was 
also the intellectually superior". Al-Ghazali deals with the life and teachings of 
Imam Ghazali, the greatest religious teacher that Islam has produced and who is 
better known as "Hujjat-ul-Islam". Shibli has clearly brought out the different 
phases of the philosophy and mysticism of the great teacher, which ultimately 
revolutionised the Islamic religious thought in more than one way. The Maulana 
has excellently portrayed the brilliant reign of the greatest of the Mughal 
Emperors, Aurangzeb Alamgir, who passed a truly Islamic life. The example set 
by the pious Emperor would serve as a beacon light to those who want to buUd 
their state on the foundations of Islamic poUty. Shibli, undoubtedly is the 
greatest historian in Urdu language and his historical works are distinguished for 
their authentic research and lucidity of expression. He has clothed the past 
grandeur of Islam in modern attire, 

Maulana ShibU has earned for himself an immortal reputation by writmg 
the "Seemt-un-Nabi" (The life of the Holy Prophet) (PBUH) which is one of 
the best achievements on the subject in oriental languages. It runs into several 
volumes. At places the description of events is too graphic and one comes across 
good specimen of poetic prose, reminiscent of the passages of the celebrated 
Aab-i-Hayat of Azad; The chapter dealing with the philosophy of sacrifice and 
the story of Hazrat Ismail is vivid in description and superb in presentation. 
Besides the above, he also wrote the "Sawaneh Maulana Rum" (The Biography 
of Maulana Rum) who was a great mystic poet of Persia and was the spiritual 

Hundred Great Muslims 239 

mentor of the late Allama Iqbal. His work Hayat-i-Khusrou (The life of 
Khusrou) deals with the many-sided personality and poetical achievements of 
this celebrated Indian savant. Khusrou was a disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin 
Aulia and is supposed to be one of the greatest lyrists of Persian literature and 
the pioneer of Urdu poetry. 

The real fame of Shibli rests on his role as an outstanding literary critic. 
His "SheruJ Ajam " (The poetry of the Orient) dealing with the principles of 
criticism and the brilliant criticism of Persian Poetry may be ranked as one of 
the best works on literary criticism in any language. According to the famous 
British orientalist Professor Browne, Sherul Ajam is undoubtedly the best 
literary estimate of Persian poetry written up to the present day. It is in this 
book that the Maulana has displayed his masterly hold over the literary study 
of literature and his depth of knowledge. It combines the high class research 
with the fluency and lucidity of expression. The fifth chapter of the book 
elaborately deals with the principles of criticism, on which he has based the 
poetical estimate of Persian poets. "Moazina Anis-o-Dabir" (The Comparison 
between Anis and Dabir) is another standard book of Uterary criticism in which 
he has compared the achievements of the two greatest elegists of Urdu poetry. 
Anis, no doubt, was greater of the two; the Maulana has fully proved with 
examples the superiority of Anis, both in thought and expression. The poetry of 
Anis was known for its purity of language, simplicity of diction, novelty and 
originality of ideas and graphic descriptions. Dabir, on the other hand believed 
in the verbosity of language and excessive flights of imagination. 

The Maulana wrote some excellent essays in "Makalat Shibli" (The Essays 
of Shibli) on various topics. His book Philosophy of Islam and Al-Kalaam are 
valuable contributions to Islamic philosophy and reUgion. 

ShibU belongs to the modem school of Urdu Poetry. Had he exclusively 
devoted himself to the service of the Muse, he would have been the second Iqbal. 
Kali simply lamented the decline of the Muslim power, but could not seriously 
contemplate the remedies for saving Islam from falling into the abyss. Shibli's 
poetical career may be divided into two parts. During the first period, when he 
was employed at Aligarh, he was a close associate of Hali and Sir Syed Ahmad 
Khan. His outstanding achievement of this period is his well-known poem 
Subh-i-Ummeed (The Morn of Hope) in which he has chosen the theme of 
Mosaddas Hali. The only difference between the two is that Hall's poem bristles 
with pessimistic ideas, while a sort of optimism pervades the poem of Shibli 
which concludes with a forecast of the bright future for Islam. But the poem 
of Hali is superior of the two, as it maintains uniformity in standard which 
Shibli's poem so badly lacks. This poem of ShibU comes very close to the healthy 
optimism preached by Iqbal in a later period. The second part of his poetical 
career starts from the time, when, due to ideological differences, Shibli had to 
sever his connection with the AUgarh Muhammadan College and henceforward 
he devoted himself solely to the betterment of MusUm India. He was not an 
opponent of Aligarh College, but he did not like the principles of its Education 

240 Hundred Great Muslims 

for its excessive liberalism. Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet, was at one 
time a great supporter of the French Revolution, but when he awarded of its 
unhealthy developments he became its great opponent. The deep insight of 
Shibli helped him cultivate his point of view regarding Western civilisation, 
which was ultimately adopted by Akbar and Iqbal. Unlike the bUnd imitation 
of the West as propagated by the Hali group, ShibU adopted a via media and 
his clear insight enabled him to shun the harmful influences of Western culture 
and adopt the beneficial objects found in it. HaU and Shibli both lamented the 
decline of MusHm power— but Hali ascribed it to their dissociation from the 
materialism of the West, while Shibli attributed it to their estrangement from 
Islamic principles. Shibli has given graphic description of events in his poem 
'Adl-i-Jahangir (The Justice of Jahangir) and Hamari Tarz-i-Hukoomat (Our 
System of Government)'. He wrote a pathetic poem lamenting the premature 
death of his younger brother Ishaq, which fulfills all the conditions of modem 

ShibU devoted the major part of his life to literary pursuits. He is, 
undoubtedly, one of the mam pillars on which the grand edifice of Urdu 
hterature rests. He, on the whole, was a versatUe genius, who occupies a 
prominent place amongst the men of letters in this subcontinent. 


On the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 A.C., there set 
in the process of disintegration of Muslim power in India which touched its 
lowest depths during the second half of the 19th century, when the British 
rulers, alang with the Hindus conspired to oust the Muslims from the political 
and economic life of the country. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his worthy 
companions successfully planned to stem the deterioration in the politico- 
economic life of Muslim India. But the awakening of Muslim masses in the 
subcontinent owes primarily to the poetry of Iqbal, the writings of Maulana 
Muhammad Ali and Sulaiman Nadvi and the selfless services of Maulana Hasrat 
Mohani, Maulana Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Nawab Badadur Yar 
Jang, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and Maulana Shabbir 
Ahmad Usmani. It was they who, through Muslim mass contact movement, 
prepared the ground for Pakistan which was ultimately established under the 
capable and inspiring leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 

Iqbal, the poet of Islam is, in fact, the poet of humanity in the wider 
sense, as Islam transcends all political, sectarian and colour barriers. He was 
born in a middle class family of Sialkot on November, 9, 1877. His grandfather, 
Muhammad Rafiq had migrated from his ancestral home in Kashmir to settle 
down in Sialkot. His father. Sheikh Noor Muhammad was a Sufi and a man who 
attached considerable importance to spiritual values. It was under the spiritual 
guidance of his learned father and the inspiring supervision of his celebrated 
teacher Maulvi Mir Hasan that the initial growth of IqbaFs mind had taken place. 
From the very inception Iqbal was an abnormal child. He was an exceptionally 
bright student. He started writing verses even during his school days and sent 
some of his earlier lyrics to the celebrated Urdu poet, Dagh for correction. But 
after sometime, Dagh wrote back to Iqbal that his verses needed no correction. 

In 1895, after passing his first University Examination from the Scotch 
Mission College, Sialkot, Iqbal migrated to Lahore, the intellectual centve of 
north-western India, for higher studies. Here he came into contact with Sii 
Thomas Arnold, who introduced him to all that was best and noblest in Western 
thought. Iqbal obtained his M.A. in Philosophy in 1898. 

During this period he recited his well-known poem, "Himala" zta literary 
gathering of Lahore. It was published in the "Makhzan" in 1901. It introduced 


242 Hundred Great Muslims 

him to the outside world. His recital of "Nala-i-Yateem" (Wails of an Orphan) 
at an annual function of Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam created a stir in literary 
circles of Lahore and acclaimed him as a rising poet on the literary horizon of 
the subcontinent whose brilliance, later, dazzled the eyes of people living in 
distant countries and won for him an honourable place amongst the galaxy of 
immortal poets of the world. 

Iqbal later became a Reader in Philosophy in the Government College, 
Lahore. In 1905, he went to Europe for higher studies. His three years stay in 
Europe greatly contributed to the development of his thought. He joined the 
Lincoln's Inn for Bar. He was admitted as an advanced student of Philosophy 
at the Cambridge University and wrote his thesis on the Development of 
Metaphysics in Persia. The University of Munich (Germany) conferred on him 
the degree of Ph.D. for this thesis. He was called to Bar in 1908. He returned 
home in August, 1908. The same year he joined the Government College, 
Lahore, as a part-time Professor of Philosophy and English Literature. He was 
allowed to practise Law. But, later, he resigned his Professorship and whoUy 
concentrated on Law. 

Iqbal's stay in Europe enabled him to study Western learning and 
civiUsation closely and he formulated an outlook on life, modern as well as 
ancient. Contrary to the westernised persons of the East, who are dazzled by the 
glamour of Western civilization, he could see it in all its nakedness and instead of 
being an admirer, became its critic. His study of Western nationalism totally 
changed his views on the subject. Hitherto, he was a great exponent of Indian 
nationalism. But now he became its opponent and an exponent of Inter- 
nationalism and Pan-Islamism. 

Ehiring his stay in Europe, Iqbal wrote some excellent romantic poems 
in which he depicted romantic scenes giving in them imaginative touches which 
brought him very close to the celebrated English poet Wordsworth. There is 
a personal note in his treatment of Nature. Describing the advent of the Spring 
he states : 

"Arise ! for on hills and dales 
The Spring has arrived 

Mad in singing are nightingales 
Cuckoos, partridges and quails. 
Along the banks of the brook 
Have sprung roses and poppy. 
Come out and see. 

Arise ! for on hills and dales 
The spring has arrived". 

(Translated by S. A. Vahid). 

Like Wordsworth, Iqbal was a lover and worshipper of Nature in the 
begiiming. He says : 

Hundred Great Muslims 243 

In each thing glows some spark of beauty immortal : 
Mankind has speech, and buds with all hues dazzle; 
A secret union lurks within dispersal; 
One are the firefly's glitter, the flower's sweet phial 

(Translated by V. G. Kiernan). 

A common theme of Iqbal's lyrics of this period is his concept of beauty 
and love. He sees beauty in everything which is powerful and perfect. For him, 
beauty is a mental experience. His concept of beauty has cultivated a robust 
vitality in his poem which is conspicuous by its absence in the oriental lyrical 
poetry. He widened the scope of Urdu "ghazal" (lyric) and made it a vehicle 
of expressing his diverse ideas. His lyrics are distinguished for lucidity of 
expression and musical harmony. 

Some of his well-known romantic and Nature poems of this period are : 

Love. End of Beauty. The Star of Dawn. The Bud. A Glimpse of Beauty. 
An Evening and Separation. 

But it was the transitory period of Iqbal's poetic career. His ideas were 
being matured. 

It was after his return from Europe that started his real poetic career. 
His transitory period was over. His ideas had matured in Europe and he had 
formulated his outlook on different aspects of life which lasted throughout his 
life. He composed his epoch-making poems "Shikwa " (Complaint) and "Jawab-i- 
Shikwa" (Reply of the Complaint) within a few years of his return from Europe. 
In 1915 he wrote his long Persian poem "Asrar-i-KhudV (Secrets of Self) which 
thrilled the literary circles of the East and the West. It deals with the fundamental 
principles leading to the development df human personality. It was translated 
into English by Professor R. A. Nicholson of the Cambridge University. Writing 
in the introduction of the book. Professor Nicholson remarks : 

"The artistic quality of the book is remarkable when we consider that 
the language is not author's own." 

Hailing the development of ego, Iqbal states : 
"Appear, rider of Destiny 

Appear, light of the dark realm of Change ! 
Silence the tumult of the nations, 
Imparadise our ears with thy music ! 
Arise and tune the harp of brotherhood. 

Give us back the cup of the wine of love ! 
Bring once more days of peace to the world 
Give a message of peace to them that sue out battle ! 
Mankind are the corn-field, and thou the harvest, 
Thou art the goal of Life's Caravan. 

(Translated by R. A. Nicholson) 

244 Hundred Great Muslims 

The book created a storm in the pseudo-mystic circles. Iqbal vehementb- 
attacked the so-called mystic philosophy and its exponents like Hafiz who 
preached a life of inaction. He was deadly opposed to the negative and pessimistic 
Platonic philosophy which he considered as against the spirit of Islam, in 1917, 
Iqbal wrote his another well-known Persian poem Rumuz-i-Bekhudi ( Mysteries 
of Selflessness) the counterpart of his first poem Secrets of Self. 

These two poems deliver the message he has for mankind. The Asrar-e- 
Khudi, deals with the doctrine of the development of individual self, while the 
Rumuz-i-Bekhudi deals with problems an individual faces as a member of the 
society. In formulating his outlook about self, society and life, he was much 
influenced by the teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi who, in his well-known 
Mathnavi, preached the Islamic mysticism. His mysticism did not preach a life 
of idleness but a dynamic life full of vitality and activity. His robust optimism 
was opposed to the pessimistic Platonic and inactive mystic philosophy. 

In the meantime, Iqbal published a collection of his Urdu poems, Bang-e- 
Dara (Call of the Caravan) containing some of his well-known Urdu poems which 
created a stir throughout the Subcontinent. This was followed by his another 
Persian poem, Payam-i-Mashriq (The Message of the East) which was written in 
response to Goethe's West-Ostlicher Divan. Two years later he wrote Zubur-i- 
Ajam containing his "mystic, vitalizing and ennobling" Persian verses. This was 
followed by Javed Noma, a long Persian poem, universally acknowledged as the 
masterpiece of Iqbal. This is a counterpart of Dante's Divine Comedy, in which 
iqbal has travelled through Heavens accompanied by Rumi meeting there some 
of the historical personalities who express their views on diverse problems 
confronting humanity in the present-day world. The Hindu sage Jetan Dost 
(Vishwamitra) tells that the salvation of humanity today lies in the synthesis 
of Eastern and Western Cultures. East has been concentrating too much on 
spiritualism neglecting materialism, while the West is concentrating on materialism 
caring little for spiritualism. He says : 

"The East saw God but failed to see the world of matter 
The West got embroiled in the world and neglected God". 

(Translated by S. A. Vahid) 

Jamaluddin Afghani asks the poet to inform the communists that without 
God their progress will come to naught. 

Ahmad Shah Abdali was alarmed at the growing tendency of blind 
imitation of the West in Eastern countries. 

Thus Iqbal's Javed Nama ranks among the world classics. 

In 1935 appeared another collection of his Urdu poems, Bal-i-Jibreel 
which vibrates with dynamism. Another such collection, Zarb-i-Kalim was 
published in 1936. He published a Persian poem, Musafir (Traveller) in 1934 

Hundred Great Muslims 245 

another Persian peom Pas Che Bay ad Kard in 1936. His best, collection of Urdu 
as well as Persian poems entitled, Armughan-i-Hejaz, appeared after his death. 
His monumental work in Ym^i^, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, 
a collection of six lectures delivered by him in Madras, Hyderabad and Aligarh, 
was published by the Oxford University Press. In this book, he elucidates the 
dynamic philosophy of Islam which is the only religion which has preached a 
healthy practical life. In it he exposed the pessimistic Platonic and inactive 
mystic philosophy as the very negation of the teaching of Islam. On the basic 
of this book he was invited by the Oxford University to deliver the Rhodes 
Lectures, but his failing health did not permit him to complete this assignment. 

Iqbal suffered from a prolonged illness between 1934 and 1938. He 
breathed his last on April 21, 1938. His death cast a gloom all over the East. 

Iqbal was, undoubtedly, the greatest Islamic thinker of the modern times 
and one of the greatest of all times. He was, in fact, a versatile genius-poet, 
philosopher, lawyer, educationist, politician and reformer. As a thinker and 
philosopher, he has made a lasting contribution to human thought. Through his 
immortal poetic works, he has earned an honourable place amongst the greatest 
poets of the world. As a politician, he was the dreamer of Pakistan, and in 1930 
elaborated his scheme of an independent Muslim State in the Subcontinent in 
his Presidential Address of the All India Muslim League Session at Allahabad. 
His views on education have been creditably explained by Mr. K. G. Saiyidain 
in his well-known wjoik, Iqbal 's Educational Philosophy. 

Iqbal gave a message of hope and action to mankind. "For Iqbal", observes 
Mr. S. A. Vahid in his work. An Introduction to Iqbal, "the two powerful 
impulses to artistic expression are his faith in human capacity for limitless 
development and man's unique position in the Universe ; and both these impulses 

serve to impart an unparalleled charm to his poetry Life, according 

to Iqbal, is nothing but a progressive succession of fresh ends, purposes and 

The patriotic poetry of Hali, Shibli, Akbar, Chakbast, Jauhar and Hasrat 
found its culmination in the poetical works of Iqbal. There are two phases of 
Iqbal's patriotic poetry— Indian and Islamic. Young Iqbal was highly impressed 
by the Indian National Movement waged against the domination of a Foreign 
Power over the Subcontinent. In those days Muslims and Hindus worked side 
by side for the liberation of their country from alien yoke. During this period 
of his poetic career, Iqbal wrote some beautiful poems depicting the Indian 
scenes, pleading for communal harmony and reminding the people of their past 
glory. In Himala, he has painted fascinating landscapes of the mountains giving 
imaginative touches here and there. He concludes this poem with a beautiful 

"Han dekha de ai tasawwar phir woh subho sham tu 
Daurpeeche ki taref taref aiy gardish-i-ayyam tu. " 

246 Hundred Great Muslims 

The poet yearns for the good old days. His another immortal poem, 
Taswir-i-Dard (The Picture of Agony) is a masterpiece in which he has made an 
impassioned appeal to his countrymen to sink their differences and fight 
unitedly against the common enemy. At places, he has used allegorical language 
to bring home his view-point which has added to the charm of the verses. He 
warns the people not to be lethargic but beware of the machinations of the West, 
which is bent upon their annihilation. 

"Ghhupa kar aastin men bijlian rakkhi hain gardoon ne 
Anadil bagh ke ghafil na bathen ashiyanon men. " 

The similies and metaphors, the excellent setting of words, the unique 
turn of phrases and the fine touches of imagination, have made this poem one 
of the masterpieces of Urdu poetry. 

His National Anthem is still the most popular poem sung in India. He 
paints some Uvely pictures of the Indo— Pakistan Subcontinent. Its running 
streams, its verdant meadows, its emerald mountains crowned with milky white 
peaks have been immortaUsed in this poem through the masterly pen of Iqbal. 

His Naya Shiwala (New Temple) marks the culmination of his national 
feelings. He is a worshipper of his country and, therefore, preaches communal 

Being an idealist, he wants to build a temple in his heart, which would 
be the highest place of worship and whose pinnacles would feach the sky : 

"Sooni pari hui hai muddat se dil ki basti 
A a ik naya shiwala is des me banaden 

Duniya ki teerathon se uncha ho upna teerath 
Daman-e-asman se iska kalas miladen. " 

Iqbal was profoundly influenced by his environments. His change over 
from the Indian nationalism to Islamic poetry marks the growth of his poetic 
career and the growth of his personaUty. In Europe, his ideas on nationaUsm 
had undergone a great change. It was but natural. His first hand knowledge of 
modem nationalism in Europe exposed it in all its nakedness. He saw with his 
own eyes that nationalism had divided into warring nationalities which resulted 
in two of the bloodiest wars in living history. This mad passion for nationaUsm 
has contributed to international conflicts and instead of being a blessing has 
proved a curse for humanity. He had to change his views. Moreover, his foresight 
enabled him to realise the dangers of Hindu dominated nationalism in India. The 
advent of such a nationaUsm in the subcontinent would have amounted to 
deUvering a death blow to Islamic culture and civilization in the subcontinent. 
He had to dissociate himself from such a nationaUsm which was far from being 
the panacea for the ills of humanity. 

Hundred Great Muslims 24 7 

Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet was, at one time, a great admirer 
of French Revolution. But, when he studied it fully and from close quarters, 
he totally changed his views and became its opponent. Iqbal's stay in Europe 
greatly contributed towards the maturity of his political ideas on the subject. 
A learned European critic has said that Laws of Nature are universal and not 
national, hence nationalism is against Nature. Another Western writer says that 
God has created man while Satan has divided them into nationalities. According 
to Renan, Islam frees humanity from nationalism, caste, creed and colour bars. 
All such divisions based on national and colour bars, are, therefore, un-Islamic 
in character. Islam transcends all geographical and sectarian barriers and Muslims 
residing in any part of the globe are Muslims first and last. Iqbal realised the 
dangers of modern nationalism and found in Islam the solution of all problems 
facing humanity. He became a poet and preacher of Islamic patriotism. Now 
he began to say about modern nationalism. 

"Akwam men makhlooq-i-Khuda bat-ti hai is se, 
Kaumiyati-Islam ki jar Kat-ti hai is se. " 

(Nationalism divides the creation of God into groups and strikes at the 
root of Islamic brotherhood). 

Realising the futility of modem nationalism which was responsible for 
many tragedies and strifes during the present times, Iqbal became a preacher of 
Pan-Islamism. Islam which transcends all barriers, according to him, is the 
panacea of all ills facing humanity today. Thereafter, Iqbal devoted himself to 
write his classical poems on Islam, reminding its followers of their past glory 
and their virtues which enabled them to bring about in a short span of 30 years, 
the most amazing political and social revolution recorded in the annals of man- 
kind. He wants Muslims to read the same old lesson of truth, justice and valour 
which had made them the leaders of the world. He strikes an optimistic note 
when he says that Muslims would once again lead the world. 

"Sabaq phir parh sadaqat ka, adalat ka, shujat ka, 
Liya jayega tujh se kaam duniya ki imamat ka. " 

He wants to restore the same self-confidence among Muslims which led 
them to the heights of glory in the past. 

A true Muslim, in his eyes, is all-powerful and none can visualise the 
strength of his arms as well as the depth of his character. His inner self is so 
bright that his mere look can change human destinies. 

"Koi andaza kar sakta hai uske zore bazu ka 
Nigah-i-marde momin se badal jati hain takdirein. " 

(Who can visualise the strength of a Momin's arms whose mere look 
changes human destinies). 

248 Hundred Great Muslims 

While returning from Europe in 1908, he was moved at the sight of Sicily, 
once the cradle of Arab civilization and their important naval base. 

"Rule ab dil khol kar ai deedai khoonaba bar 
Woh nazaraata hai tahzib-e-Hejazi ka mazar. " 

(My eyes . . ! shed tears of blood as I behold before me the ruins of Hejazi 

"Ghalgalon se Jinki Lazzat geer abtak gosh hai 
Kiya woh takbir ab hamesha ke liye khamosh hai. " 

(Has the cry of AUah-o-Akbar been silenced for ever which is still 
resounding in my ears). He implores the land of SicUy to disclose its agony to 
the poet : 

"Dard apna mujh se kah main bhi sarapa dard hoon 
Jiski too manzil tha main us karwan kigard hoon. " 

(Divulge your agony to me as I am too full of anguish. 1 am the last dust of 
the Caravan whose destination you were). 

On his return from Europe, his message took a definite shape. He gave 
the message of action, hope and struggle to suffering humanity. 

"Razi hayat poonch le Khizri khajasta gam se 
Zinda har ek chiz hai koshish-e-natamam se. " 

(Ask the secret of life from Khizr, the untiring traveller. Everything lives 
by vainly and constantly striving for it). 

His Islamit Anthem is rather the most popular poem sung by the Muslims 
of the subcontinent. In a very impressive language, the poet recalls the past 
glory of Islam. Islam is an universal religion and the entire world is the native- 
land of Muslims. 

"Oieeno Arab hamara Hindustan hamara 
Muslam hain ham watan haisarajahan hamara. " 

(Ours is China, India and Arabia. We are Muslims and the whole world is 
our nativeland). Then he recalls the great achievements of Muslim arms. 

"Maghrib ki wadiyan men goon/'i Azan Hamari 
Thamta na tha kisi se sail-e-rawan hamara. " 

(Our call for prayer echoed in the valleys of the West and none could 
check the current of our storm.) 

Hundred Great Muslims 249 

A Muslim, according to him, can never be cowed down by falsehood. 

Batil se dabne wale ai aasman nahin ham 
Sao bar karchuka hai tu imtehan hamara. 

(We are not among those who can bow down to falsehood. In this respect 
we have been tested hundreds of times). 

His poems Shikwa (Complaint), Jawab-i-Shikwa (Reply of the Complaint) 
and Tuloo-i- Islam (The Dawn of Islam) provides the culmination of Iqbal's 
poetry. In Shikwa, the poet boldly complains to God for the decadence of 
Islam in the present day world. He reminds God that it was the Muslims who 
carried His true faith to the four comers of the world. 

"They Hameen ek tere marka aaraon men 

Khushqion men kabhi larte kabhi dariyaon men 
Din Azanen kabhi Europe ke kalisaon men 

Kabhi Africa ke tapte hue saharaon men 
Shan Aankhon men najunchti thi jahandaron ki 

Kalima parhte the hami chhaon men talwaron ki. " 

(We were the sole warriors of Yours. We fought for You on land and rivers. 
We sounded the call of Your prayer in the churches of Europe and the hot 
deserts of Africa. We were never impressed by the pomp of the rulers and recited 
the 'Kalima ' even under the shadow of sword). 

In Jawab-i-Shikwa (Reply to the Complaint) God replies to the Com- 
plaints of the poet and gives reasons for the decline of Muslims. But a ray of 
hope illuminates the sombre picture. The poem ends on an optimistic note in 
which God reminds the poet that the Muslims can regain their past glory by 
faithfully following the principles of Islam. 

In his immortal poem, Shama-o-Shair (The Candle and the Poet) Iqbal 
gives the message of hope. It vibrates with healthy optimism. 

"Aasman hoga saher ke noor se aaina posh 
Aur zulmat rat ki seemab pa ho/aye gi. " 

(The Sky will be brightened by the first streaks of Dawn and the darkness 
of the night will disappear). 

He wants to revive the self-confidence of Muslims which they have lost. 

"Kiyun giriftar-i-tiiiseme hech miqadari hai tu 

Dekh to poshida tujh men shaukat-i-toofan bhi hai" 

250 Hundred Great Muslims 

(Why are you suffering from inferiority complex? Behold, you have the 
power to raise a storm.) 

His another patriotic poem is Tuloo-i-Islam (The Dawn of Islam) in which 
he preaches a life of action for Muslims. He gives a message of hope and puts 
forward certain invaluable principles which may lead Muslims to regain their 
past glory. 

"Yaqeen mohkem, amal paiham, mohabbat fatahe alam 

Jihad-e-zindgani men hain yeh mardon ki shamsheeren. " 

(Iron Faith, Incessant action and the all conquering love are the means 
of the valiant in the struggle of hfe). 

He wants to restore self-confidence among the Muslims. 

"Gulami men na kam aati hain shamsheerain na tadbirain 
Jo ho zauq-e-yaqeen paida to katjati hain zangirain. 

(The swords and plans are of no avail in slavery. The chains break up if one 
possesses self-confidence). 

The chief distinction of Iqbal's patriotic poetry lies in the spirit of 
optimism which runs through his verses. He is an idealist who takes the 
reader to a dreamland, the land of his glorious past. He is the chief herald and 
embodiment of national renaissance of Muslims India. 

Iqbal's patriotic poetry deeply influenced the younger generations of 
today and produced a host of Urdu poets who tried to follow him and wrote 
some patriotic poems, relating to Islam and Pakistan. Among such poets are 
Josh Malihabadi, Zafar Ali Khan, Faiz, Mahir, Asad Multani, Nazar and Anwar 

Iqbal's fame transcended the national barriers during his lifetime and 
reached the distant comers of the civilized world. Articles were written on his 
life and works in almost all the progressive languages of the world. His 
well-known poetic works were translated into Arabic, English, Turkish, Latin, 
French, German and Russian languages by well-known scholars. Professor 
R. A. Nicholson of Cambridge University translated his Asrar-i-Khudi into 
English. Professor A. J. Arberry translated his Rumuz-i-Bekhudi into the EngUsh 
language. His well-known Urdu poems Shikwa andJawab-i-Shikwa were translated 
into English by Mr. Altaf Hussain, Dr. Abdul Wahab Azzam, Professor of 
Al Azha/ University, Cairo, translated his Payam-i-Mashriq and Zarb-i-Kalim into 
Arabic. Payam-i-Mashriq was translated into Turkish language by Dr. Ali Ganjeli. 
Mr. Bahrum Rangkuti, rendered his Asrar-i-Khudi into Indonesian Language. The 
Quotations of Payam-i-Mashriq were translated into the German language by 
Professor Hell, of Erlangen University. Madame Eva Meyerovitch of Paris has 

Hundred Great Muslims 251 

translated Iqbal's Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam in French. His 
well-known work, JaverfA^i/wa was translated into Italian by Professor Alessandor 
Busani under the title "II Poema Celeste" and into English by Professor Arberry. 

Iqbal was one of the greatest thinkers and intellectuals of the modem 
times. Like Goethe, he was a seer and humanist. His poetry has a mission behind 
it. His dynamic philosophy will continue to inspire mankind to hope and action. 


The mighty Indian National Congress and its undisputed leader, Mahatama 
Gandhi, had championed the cause of Hindi as the National Language of India. 
He had brushed aside Urdu, as the language of Muslims, written in the Quranic 
script. But a frail-bodied, resourceless man took up this challenge to prove that 
Urdu, born and bred in India, having been developed by Muslims and Hindus 
alike, cannot be treated as a language of one community only. This man was 
Maulvi Abdul Haq whose devotion to his cause at last compelled the great 
Mahatma to change his view and admit in the Bhartiya Sahitya Parishad meeting 
held at Nagpur that Hindustani, written both in Arabic and Devanagri scripts, 
was the national language of the subcontinent. 

Dr. Maulvi Abdul Haq, who was later popularly known as Baba-e-Urdu, 
lived, laboured and died for Urdu. There could be few parallels to his devotion 
to a mission, which will continue to inspire all those who struggle and make 
sacrifices for a noble cause. 

He was the last in the galaxy of Urdu luminaries that glittered during the 
19-20 century. These included Sir Syed, Azad, Mali, Shibli and Dr. Nazir Ahmad. 
Abdul Haq was born in March 1870 in a middle class family of village Sarawan, 
Tehsil Hapur. District Meerut (U.P.). His father's name was Sheikh All Hasan. 

He received his early education in his home village and later moved to 
Aligarh for higher studies. Here he came under the influence of Sir Syed Ahmad 
Khan who inspired him with his perseverance, unlimited energy and lucid Urdu 
prose-qualities which were creditably acquired by Abdul Haq himself. 

Abdul Haq graduated from Aligarh in 1894 with High Proficiency in 
Mathematics. He ct)mpeted for Honours in Mathematics with no less a person 
than the late Dr. Ziauddin Ahmad. In Aligarh he came under the influence of 
Sir Syed Ahmad who kindled in him the flame of Urdu which burnt in his heart 
till his last breath. 

He moved to Hyderabad in 1895 as a teacher in the Madrassa-e-Asafiah. 
Here he started his magazine Afsar. He was appointed Honorary General 
Secretary of the Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu in 1912 and it was then that people 
could discover his devotion, dri/e and energy. The Anjuman created in 1903 by 


Hiiiijrcd Clrcal Muslims 253 

the Muslim Education Conference was hitherto a lifeless body. Maulvi Abdul 
Haq's association with it as Secretary soon made it a virile organization charged 
with a noble mission. The Head Office of the Anjuman remained at Aurangabad 
with its Secretary for 25 years. He served in the Education Department of 
Hyderabad State for a considerable time and retired from the State Service as 
the Principal of Aurangabad College. 

Immediately afterwards, he was offered the Chair of Urdu at the Osmania 
University. But he did not occupy it for long and moved to Delhi after resigning 

During his stay in Hyderabad which lasted for about 45 years, he made 
valuable contribution to the establishment of Osmania University and the 
organisation of the Translation Bureau which under his supervision as Nazim 
translated hundreds of technical and classical books from foreign languages into 

The Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu was set up by the All-India Muhammadan 
Educational Conference in 1903 to check the rising tide of Hindi. Its first 
Secretary was Maulana Shibli Nomani. He resigned in 1905 and was succeeded 
by Habibur Rahman FChan Sherwani and later by Aziz Mirza. Maulvi Abdul 
Haq, who was appointed Secretary of the Anjuman, was greatly instrumental 
in making it a virile organisation. His association with the Anjuman lasted for 
50 years, till his death in 1961 . 

The Head Office of the Anjuman moved to Delhi along with him in the 
early thirties. This was the time when the Indian National Congress flushed with 
success at the polls had taken up the cause of Hindi as the national language of 
the subcontinent. Mahatma Gandhi and his associates had openly declared that 
Urdu was the language of the Muslims written in Quranic script. The Vidiya 
Mandir and Wardha schemes sponsored under the patronage of Mahatma Gandhi 
and his associates had given Hindi a privileged place at the cost of Urdu which, 
long before, during the British regime had been declared the Court language of 
Northern India. 

It was this challenge of the powerful All-India Congress, vnth its unlimited 
financial and other resources, that the Secretary of the Anjuman with his limited 
resources had to face. He travelled widely from 1939 to 1947, in every nook and 
comer of the country, advocating the cause of Urdu. He fought with courage 
and conviction with the powerful Congress both on the platform and through 
the Press. His fortitude and unlimited energy at last obliged the great Mahatma 
to yield and accept Hindustani— written both in Devanagri and Arabic scripts— 
as the lingua-Franca of the subcontinent. 

The All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference had long suspended 
its financial assistance to Anjuman. But Maulvi Abdul Haq gave the Anjuman 
his life earnings. He made it a dynamic organisation which had branches all 

254 Hundred Great Muslims 

over the country. At the time of the partition of the Indian subcontinent, 
the Anjuman had assets worth Rs. half a milUon. More than 250 books were 
translated and compiled by it. 

The most ambitious programme of the Anjuman was the Compilation of 
the Dictionary of Scientific Terms which was started in 1917 and was completed 
under his supervision in 1925, when the Anjuman pubUshed this invaluable 
dictionary. The Anjuman, under his Editorship, started three journals, including 
the quarterly "Urdu ", which was launched by Maulvi Abdul Haq at Aurangabad 
in 1921 and was soon recognised as the best literary journal in the country. 

Most of the literary researches about Urdu, conducted under the auspices 
of the Anjuman, specially about the early Urdu literature, were done by Maulvi 
Abdul Haq himself. He had taken up the early development of Urdu literature 
of a period several hundred years before Wall. 

With the assumption of power by the All-India National Congress, first 
in the Provinces, and later at the Centre, Urdu— Hindi controversy had taken a 
serious poUtical turn and assumed an unusual importance. Hindi was patronised^ 
by the Hindu Congress and backed by its unlimited financial resources and 
powerful press. Urdu, which was backed by the MusUm League had one man 
behind it, Maulvi Abdul Haq-who had made it as his life mission. It was at this 
stage that he came in contact with Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jiimah, who 
extended him his whole-hearted support. 

In September 1947, when Delhi was in the grip of communal frenzy, the 
Head Office of the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu in Dariyaganj, was set on fire and 
many invaluable manuscripts were reduced to ashes. This has only one parallel, 
though on a much bigger scale, in the burning of the invaluable literary treasures 
of Baghdad by Hulaku Khan in 1258, of the magnificent library of Tripoli 
(Syria) by the Crusaders, and of the famous library of Alexandria (Egypt) by 
JuUus Caeser. 

This act of vandalism broke Maulvi Abdul Haq's heart but not his 
indomitable spirit. He had to migrate to Pakistan, to start his work afresh in the 
newly -born country. 

He settled down at Karachi and started the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu, 
Pakistan, which founded the Urdu College, a unique experiment in the country 
of teaching all sciences and arts through the Urdu medium. In this, he was very 
successful as was abundantly clear from the splendid results of the Urdu College 
in the University examinations which brought home the fact that students could 
learn difficult subjects better through the medium of their mother tongue, and 
that Urdu was capable of teaching all subjects. His ambition was to estabUsh a 
Urdu University in Pakistan on the lines of the Osmania University of Hyderabad, 
but he did not live to realise this ambition. 

Hundred Great Muslims 255 

In Pakistan, he had no easy task. He had to work hard for the recognition 
of Urdu as the State Language of Pakistan and its introduction as the medium 
of instruction in educational institutions and as the official language in the 
Government and other offices. As expected, he had to encounter stiff opposition 
from the regional languages of Pakistan and serious resistance from the 'English- 
minded' civil servants of the country. The oft-repeated changes in the Govern- 
ment in Pakistan which ultimately led to the political domination of civil 
servants in the country, marred the progress of Urdu and the realisation of the 
dream of Maulvi Abdul Haq to make Urdu as State language of Pakistan in the 
practical sense, applicable to all spheres of life. The anti-national narrow-minded- 
ness of the "English-minded" civil servants, stood in the way of Baba-e-Urdu 
realising his dream during his lifetime. 

Maulvi Abdul Haq has made a lasting contribution to literary research in 
Urdu. He has creditably edited many unknown and rare Urdu Tazkiras and 
Diwans. These included 'Malukars Shuara-i-Bijapur Ka Kalam-o-Halaat Ka Jaiza 
aur Tabsara, Mulla Nusrati, Marhatti Zaban Par Farsi Ka Asar, Urdu Ki Nasho 
Numa Men Sufta-i-Kiram Ka Kaam, Muqaddmaat (Two Volumes), Tanqeedaat 
(Two Volumes), Khutbaat, Chand Ham Asar, Intikhab-i-Kalaami-i-Mir, Intikhab- 
i-Dagh, Hali-Halaat-o-Afkar, Mazameen-i-Abdul Haq, and Alam-i-Islam. He has 
also edited and published scores of manuscripts, including Sabras. 

He has also compiled Urdu Grammars, namely, Urdu Sarf-o-Nahv and 
Qawaid-i-Urdu. He has compiled English into Urdu dictionaries, namely. 
Standard English-Urdu Dictionary (for students). Popular English-Urdu 
Dictionary (for schoolchildren) and Qadeem Urdu Lughaat. But his monumental 
work was the Urdu Dictionary of Scientific Terms which had enabled the 
teaching of technical and scientific subjects through Urdu medium in Osmania 
University, Hyderabad (Daccan). His other imperishable work is Chund Ham 
Asar (A few contemporaries) in which he has very lucidly and accurately given 
the pen portraits of some of his famous contemporaries. 

His prose is distinguished for its simplicity, brevity and lucidity, devoid 
of verbosity and unnecessary ornamentation. 

As a writer, Maulvi Abdul Haq is one of the stylists of modem Urdu 
prose which include Hasan Nizami, Abul Kalam Azad, Niaz Fatehpuri, Abdul 
Majid Dariyabadi, Rashid Ahmad Siddiqi and Qazi Abdul Ghaffar. 

Maulvi Abdul Haq died in Karachi on August 16, 1961. With him passed 
away an inimitable stylist of Urdu prose, an ardent devotee of learning and 
literature who symbolised m his person a whole century of Muslim culture 
prevaiUng in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. He was the greatest figure in 
Urdu literature after Sir Syed Ahmad Khan-and one who lived and died for Urdu. 

The people and the Government of Pakistan, deeply mourning his death, 
paid rich tributes to him for his erudition and dedication to the cause of Urdu. 


The Annual Convocation of Nadvat-ul-Vloom was being held in a packed 
Hall at Lucknow in 1907. The conferring of degrees in this well-known institu- 
tion of religious education was to be followed by Dastar Bandi ( Investiture of 
academic gowns and turbans) ceremony, which was being presided over by 
Khwaja Ghulam-us-Saqlain, a renowned scholar and son-in-law of Maulana 
Altaf Husain Hali and was attended by Mohsinul Mulk and other intellectual 
luminaries of the time. 

Meanwhile, someone got up from amongst the audience and addressing 
Maulana Shibli Nomani, questioned the scholarship of the students who had 
graduated from the Institution and their proficiency in modern Arabic. The 
Maulana, being a celebrated historian, accustomed to confront his adversaries 
with incontrovertible facts, asked a young graduate to deliver a speech on any 
given topic. The student got up and dehvered a masterly speech in chaste Arabic 
on certain aspects of modem philosophy. His command over the language, the 
sublimity of his ideas and his excellent delivery, astounded the President and all 
those present there. The speaker was the young Sulaiman, who was destined to 
become one of the greatest historians and the greatest biographers of the 
Prophet of Islam during his time. 

Syed Sulaiman was born in 1885 in a well-known Syed family of 
Desna, a village in the district of Patna (Bihar, India). His father. Hakim Syed 
Abul Hasan, known for his learning and piety was highly respected in the 

The young Sulaiman received his early education from his elder brother. 
Then he joined the Arabic Madrassa at Phulwari Sharif and later he enrolled 
himself in the Madrassa-e-imdadia, Darbhanga. 

In 1901 he joined the Darul-Uloom of Nadva, Lucknow, which was 
recognised as the foremost institution of religious and Arabic education in the 
subcontinent. Here he completed his seven years' Arabic course and came in 
contact with such eminent scholars as Maulana Farooq Chirayyakoti, Syed 
Muhammad All of Monghyr, Maulana Hafizullah and Allama Shibli Nomani 
who were much impressed by his talent, intelligence and diligence. 


Hundred Great Muslims 257 

In 1904, when Allama Shibli Nomani joined the staff of Nadva, Syed 
Sulaiman came under his direct tutorship, a relationship which turned into a Ufe- 
long companionship between the two great scholars of modem India. 

In 1906, he joined the staff of An-Nadva, a magazine brought out by the 
Darul-Uloom. In 1908, he was appointed a lecturer in the Darul-Uloom, and for 
two years worked as an Assistant to Allama Shibli Nomani, who was engaged 
in the preparation of his well-known work, Seerat-un-Nabi (Life of the Holy 
Prophet), the major part of which, in fact, was completed in six volumes by 
Syed Sulaiman himself after the death of his illustrious teacher. 

The international political situation was becoming extremely explosive at 
this time. The European powers were conspiring for dividing the Turkish Empire 
and wanted to fnish this "Sickman of Europe". In 191 1, when Italy launched 
an unprovoked attack on Tripoli, a port of the Turkish Empire, young Sulaiman 
gave up his literary and educational pursuits and joined Al Hilal, Calcutta, 
edited by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, another pupil of Shibli Nomani. Together 
with Azad, Syed Sulaiman made 'Al-Hilal' a powerful organ of young Muslims 
which ultimately played a dominant role in the awakening of Muslim India. 

The association of Syed Sulaiman with Al-Hilal could not last long. In 
1912, Allama Shibli Nomani got him appointed as Assistant Professor of Persian 
at the famous Deccan College, Poona. Here, too, he could not stay for long. The 
death of his illustrious teacher, Shibli Nomani, two years later, obliged him to 
return to Azamgarh and take up the unfinished literary work of his master. 

Syed Sulaiman Nadvi hereafter settled down at Azamgarh to a peaceful 
life of research and study, which later won for him an immortal place as a 
historian and scholar. 

Sulaiman Nadvi, whose life had been an un-interrupted devotion to scholar- 
ship and literary pursuits, was called upon to devote his energies to the service 
of Islam and his country. The first quarter of the present century was a period 
of trials and tribulations for the Indian Muslims in particular. The political 
scene was tense, surcharged with revolution. The Caliphate held by the Turkish 
Sultan was at stake. The Western powers were conspiring to do away with this 
"Sickman of Europe". The wars in the Balkans and Tripoli and ultimately 
World War I, were all pointing to this end. In India, too, the Indian National 
Congress and especially the All-India Khilafat Committee, under the dynamic 
and inspiring leadership of Maulana Muhanunad Ali, had created a stir through- 
out the length and breadth of the Subcontinent which led to an unprecedented 
awakening of tlie masses. Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, too, could not resist respond- 
ing to the national call. In 1920, he joined a Khaiafat Delegation, headed by 
Maulana Muhammad Ali, to London, for securing equitable and just treatment 
to Turkey at the hands of the victorious Allies. 

258 Hundred Great Muslims 

In 1924, when the Sharif of Makkah and King Ibn Saud of Najd were at 
war, Sultan ibn Saud sought the help of the Khilafat Committee to settle the 
dispute. A delegation, headed by Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, which included Maulana 
Muhammad All and Shoaib Qureshi went to Hejaz in 1 926 and fearlessly placed 
the views of Indian Muslims before Sultan ibn Saud for establishing a truly 
democratic rule in the Holy land. In 1926, Syed Sulaiman presided over the 
memorable annual session of Jamiat-ul-Ulema at Calcutta, which considered 
the deteriorating Hindu— Muslim relations in the subcontinent due to the 
Shuddhi-Sanghattan Movement started by the Shardhanand-Malaviya Group. 
The same year, the Maulana at the invitation of King Ibn Saud headed a 
delegation of celebrated Muslim leaders including Maulana Muhammad All and 
Shaukat Ali to Makkah to participate in the Motamar-i-Alam-i-Islami. Delegations 
of almost all Muslim countries had participated in the conference and Syed 
Sulaiman Nadvi had been elected the Vice-President of the Conference (Motamarj. 
On his return from Makkah, he retired from active politics and decided to devote 
his heart and soul to literary pursuits only. 

Syed Sulaiman Nadvi had started his career as the Sub-Editor of An Nadva, 
a well-known magazine devoted to religious research. In 1910 he joined as an 
Assistant Editor and leader writer of the celebrated 'Al Hilal' of Maulana Abul 
Kalaam Azad. He wrote some of its best editorials, including one on Cawnpur 
Mosque incident which electrified the Indian Muslims. But his association 
with Al Hilal lasted two years only. In 1914, when the Shibli Academy was 
established and its official organ, the 'Maarif started publication, he became 
its founder Editor. This magazine, during the last 44 years of its existence has 
maintained an enviable record of high class articles. It introduced in Urdu 
joumalism short notes and second leaders on important men and matters, called 

The greatest achievement of Syed Sulaiman Nadvi was the establishment 
of Danil Mosannafeen (House of Writers) also known as the Shibli Academy at 
Azamgarh which became the pioneer in the field of literary and historical research 
in the subcontinent. He attracted around him a large number of talented scholars 
who canied on the literary mission of his illustrious teacher, Shibli Nomani, with 
unabated zeal. This institution of learning founded in 1914 continues to spread 
its lustre throughout the subcontinent and during the last 48 years of its existence 
has published some outstanding works on diverse branches of knowledge. 
Maulana Sulaiman Nadvi dedicated his life to the service of learning and kept his 
uninterrupted association with the Shibli Academy, Azamgarh. During this 
period he spent an austere life at Azamgarh, busy in writing books which inspired 
an entire generation. 

Syed Sulaiman Nadvi was a prolific writer who wrote books on history, 
biography, literature and travel. His greatest work is the Seerat-un-Nabi (Life of 
the Prophet of Islam) in six volumes which has hardly any parallel in any language 
of the world. This outstanding work on the life of the Holy Prophet of Islam was 
started by Shibli Nomani, but the major part of it was completed by his pupil, 

Hundred Great Muslims 259 

Syed Sulaiman. This has since been translated into several languages and is the 
most widely read book on the life and teachings of the Great Prophet of Islam. 
He has made 'Seerat' a new and separate subject in Islamic studies. 

His first book was Durus-ul-Adab, an Arabic reader in two parts. In 1912 
he compiled a Dictionary of New Arabic Words. In 1915 he brought out the first 
volume and in 1918 the second volume of Arzul Quran (the lands of Quran) 
which is a priceless piece of historical research. This is the only book of its kind 
in Urdu which has made great impression of his scholarship on the orientalists. 

In 1910, he wrote another very important biographical work, Seerut-e- 
Aisha which is the most authentic book on the life of Hazrat Aisha, wife of the 
Prophet of Islam. 

His other widely read book is Arbon ki Jahazrani (Arab Navigation) 
dealing with the great voyages undertaken by the Arab navigators during the 
mediaeval times who, with the help of Mariners' compass, which they invented, 
roamed about in open seas reaching as far as the Bering Strait, East and West 
Indies and even touched the New World. 

The Khayyam, which appeared in 1933 deals with the life and work of 
Umar Khayyam. It is yet another popular work of his. Dissipating a popular 
misconception about Khayyam being a dreamer, steeped in wine, he brought out 
Khayyam's great contribution to mathematics, astronomy and science. 

His Khutbaat-e-Madras is a collection of his lectures delivered at the invita- 
tion of the Muslim Educational Conference at Madras on the life of the Holy 
Prophet of Islam. This has been translated into English and has since been 
pubUshed into several editions. 

In 1939, he published a collection of his essays on diverse subjects, known 
as Naqoosh-e-Sulaiman. These essays known for the subHmity of thought and 
lucidity of diction are a living testimony to his scholarhsip and mastery over the 

His yet another monumental work Hayat-e-Shibli was published in 1943. 
It deals not only with the life and works of his teacher, Allama Shibli Nomani, 
but, in fact, is a detailed history of literary and educational activities of Muslim 
India during the last 100 years. 

Syed Sulaiman Nadvi had developed a style which was sober and lucid but 
at the same time convincing and impressive. It was essentially suitable for his 
historical writings. He is scholarly and objective in his treatment of history 
which appeals more to the head than to the heart. 

The brutal persecution of Muslims in India by the Hindu majority 
community compelled him to migrate to Pakistan in 1950. The pleadings of the 

260 Hundred Great Muslims 

Prime Minister of India not to leave India could not dissuade him from going to 
Pakistan where he was inunensely needed for guiding the framing of a truly 
Islamic constitution. On arrival in Karachi, he was made President of the Islamic 
Talimaat Board, attached to the Constituent Assembly. He had come to Pakistan 
with an ambitious plan in his mind of establishing an Academy of Islamic 
Studies in Karachi which could rival the Shibli Academy of Azamgarh (U.P.). 
But he was not destined to live here long and died three years after, in 1953. His 
death was mourned throughout the world of Islam and the loss of this great 
scholar, historian and religious writer was universally acknowleged. His death 
has created a void in the literary Ufe of the subcontinent which cannot be easily 

Syed Sulaiman Nadvi was a great scholar, historian, religious writer but 
above all he was a great man. Like all truly great scholars he was the embodiment 
of humility and simplicity. He was unostentatious and never took pride in his 

The services of Syed Sulaiman Nadvi were recognised and his greatness 
as a great scholar was acknowledged during his Ufetime. The Muslim University, 
Aligarh, conferred on him the degree of D. Litt. in 1941. A number of Univer- 
sities and institutions, including the Aligarh MusUm University, the Hindustani 
Academy of Allahabad, the Jamia Millia, Delhi, the Nadvat-ul-Ulema, Lucknow, 
and the Hindustani Committee of the Government of Bihar, had associated him 
with their work. 



Saifuddawlah, the Hamdanite monarch who ruled over Aleppo and the 
neighbouring country, was presiding over a congregation of learned men 
summoned from different parts of the Islamic world. A manikin with sparse 
beard, attired in Turcoman dress and heeUess shoes with painted toe called 
'zerbul', was ushered into the meeting hall. This was Farabi. Saifuddawlah 
requested him to take his seat. 

"Where should I sit", asked Farabi. "Should I sit according to my status 
or yours?" 

"No, according to yours", repUed the Ruler. 

Thereupon Farabi went forward, and pulling the Ruler aside, sat down in 
his place. Saifuddawlah was a bit annoyed and told his servant in a secret dialect 
that he would put certain questions to Farabi and if he could not give correct 
repUes he should be severely dealt with. None seemed to be conversant with this 
dialect except the Ruler and his servant. But, to his utter astonishment, Farabi 
replied in the same dialect, "Master, have patience. The end will justify the 
means". The Ruler asked him, "Do you also know this dialect?" "Yes, I am 
conversant with seventy languages", replied Farabi. Thereafter the meeting was 
addressed by Farabi in a hushed silence. His masterly exposition of diverse 
subjects and his brilliant eloquence made the audience spell bounded. The 
meeting was later on dispersed by the Ruler who asked Farabi if he would eat 
or drink anything. "No", replied Farabi. He, however, consented to musical 
entertainment. The best troupe of his musicians was summoned by the Ruler. 
The demonstration did not move Farabi at all. Taking out his W ('lute) he 
started playing over it. His performance cast a spell over the audience; he 
directed their sentiments as he liked. They were so much enchanted that all of a 
sudden they began to laugh. He changed the tune and they burst into tears. He 
again changed the tune and now they feU asleep. 

The above account of the entry of Farabi into the Durbar of Saifuddawlah 
has been given by the famous historian Allama ibn Khalikan. The virtues and 
the versatility of Farabi had a deep impression on Saifuddawlah who highly 
respected him and did not part with him till his death. Farabi, the Muslim 
Neo-Platonist and encyclopaedist was, according to George Sarton, "conversant 
with the whole scientific thought of his day". 


264 Hundred Great Muslims 

Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tar Khan Abu Nasr Farabi (Latin— 
Alpharabius), one of the greatest intellectual giants of the mediaeval times, was 
born towards the end of the IXth century A.C. in Wasij, a small town in Farab 
(Turkistan). His father was a General in the army. Juiji Zaydan asserts in his 
History of Islamic Gvilisation that his parents were Persians but reliable historical 
records reveal his Turkish origin. Farabi never gave up his Turkish dress where- 
ever he went. He received his early education in Farab and Bukhara, and later on 
settled down in Baghdad for 42 years (901 to 942). He acquired a command 
over the Arabic language and a thorough knowledge of various branches of 
learning. Ehiring the period, he saw six Caliphs and passed his time in solitude in 
pursuits of poetry, music and philosophy. He wrote 'Al Taleem al Sani' at the 
behest of Ali Salman, the Ruler of Turkistan whom he visited while he studied 
at Baghdad. 

He visited Damascus, Egypt and finally settled down at Aleppo, which 
was ruled by Hamdanite monarch Saifuddawlah, a great patron of scholars. His 
Durbar was adorned by some of the greatest intellectuals of the age, including 
Farabi and Mutanabbi. 

He was a sufi and in spite of the repeated persuasions of the Ruler who 
held him in highest esteem, Farabi consented to accept only four dirhams 
a day for his expenses. He died in 950 A.C. (339 A.H.) at the ripe age of 80 in 
Damascus whither he had accompanied the King on a campaign. 

By nature he was very sensitive and simple minded and passed a secluded 
life. He was thoroughly versed not only in philosophy, logic, politics, occult 
sciences and sociology but also in mathematics and medical sciences. It has been 
recorded that he could speak 70 languages, but it has been established beyond 
doubt that he was fully conversant with Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Greek and 
Hebrew languages. 

Farabi was a versatile genius and encyclopaedist, an outstanding 
mathematician and physician, an occult scientist and a. distinguished musician. 
According to reUable historical sources, he left behind him more than hundred 
works in Arabic on different subjects, but only 15 or 20 more are extant. The 
list of his works given by Kifti and Ibn Abi Saibah contains 17 commentaries, 15 
treatises and 60 books on diverse branches of knowledge. 

He wrote a large number of original works, including psychological, 
polititical and metaphysical treatises of great importance, such as On the 
Intelligence, Intelligible, On the Soul, Faculties of Soul, One and the Unity, 
Substance, Time, Empty Space and Space and Measure. He was first to speak of 
evolution in psychology and thus influenced later writers. 

He also wrote several treatises explaining and elaborating the philosophical 
theories of Plato and Aristotle. The most important is 'Risala Fusus of Hikam' 
(The Bezels of Philosophy or Wisdom). 

Hundred Great Muslims 265 

Of his scientific treatises, the most useful is 'Kitab Ihsal Ulum ' which deals 
with the fundamental principles of science. The Arabic originals of his treatises 
translated into Latin as 'De Scientus ' and 'De Ortu Scientiarum ', have been lost. 
In 1890 Dieterici had edited and published in German 12 small treatises of 
Farabi, mostly scientific. 

Farabi made a lasting contribution to sociology by writing his memorable 
work 'Risalah ft Ara AM al-Madinah al Fadilah (Epistle on the Opinions of 
People of Superior City) and thus paved the way for the immortal 'Prolegomena 
of Ibn Khaldun'. It was translated and published by Dieterici as 'Philosophia de 
Araber' and later on as 'Der Mustarstaat von Alfarabi'. Farabi has presented his 
conception of a model city in his well-known work 'Al Siyashat al Madniyah' 
(Political Economy) in which he seems to be inspired by the Republic of Plato 
and Politica of Aristotle. His ideal city is to be governed by wise men who are 
perfect morally and intellectually. He lays great importance on the happiness 
and high morality of the citizens of his model city. The book in 34 chapters, 
translated and edited by Dieterici, is of great sociological interest. 

His book 'Musiqi al-Kabir' is the most outstanding book on oriental 
music and is regarded an authority on the subject. His works were published in 
translations into German, Latin, French and Hebrew which began to appear in 
the last quarter of the 19th century. Some of his books including 'Ihsa al Ulum', 
an encyclopaedic work, have greatly influenced the Western writers. A complete 
bibliography of his works has been prepared by Hazmi Tura and B. Ahmad Atas 
which is preserved in the libraries of Istambul. 

Farabi is also known for simplifying logic. He made two divisions of logic- 
imagination and proof. According to Kazi Syed, the author of At Tausif al 
Tabajat ul-Umam, Farabi outmatched all previous philosophers in logic. 

Farabi is known as the commentator of Aristotle which won him the title 
of Moallim-e-Sani (Second Teacher). His commentaries as well as those of 
Averroes popularised the works of Aristotle in the West, which was awakened to 
his greatness. Farabi commented on 'Categories', 'Hermenuties', 'Analytics', 
'Sophistics ', 'Rhetoric ' and 'Poetics '. He also wrote commentaries on the 'soiJ' 
and physics of Aristotle as weU as on the 'Almagest' oi Ptolemy. He is one of the 
great Muslim thinkers who saved the Greek thought from oblivion and it is due 
to him that the West came to know of Aristotle. 

During a period of intellectual stagnation in Europe which lasted from 5th 
to 10th centuries A.C., Islamic thinkers kept aloft the candle of knowledge, 
which ultimately dispelled the gloom that had enveloped Europe. One of these 
intellectual luminaries was Farabi, whose philosophical system, according to 
George Sarton, "is a syncretism of Platonism, Aristotelianism and Sufism". 
Farabi is the foundei of the Turkish School of Philosophy. He is an exponent of 
Muslim Neo-Platonic Philosophy, a system which was originated by Al-Kindi and 
acquired its full growth in Avicenna. Apparently there is a marked difference in 

266 Hundred Great Muslims 

the philosophical approach of Farabi and Zakariya Razi (Razes) who was his 
contemporary. "While Farabi's system is deductive, rational and built entirely 
on abstract logic". Writes a Western orientalist, "Razi's philosophy is experi- 
mental, inductive and is more specially concerned with the concrete— but they 
are two aspects of a more general system and not opposed to one another. Razi, 
who was a physician and naturalist, emphasises the concrete side of the system, 
while Farabi who had more inclination towards logic, mathematics and mystic 
speculation, presents the abstract side of it. In Avicenna we find the two forms 
reunited". Avicenna is no doubt clearer and more methodical in his approach. 
The difference between Farabi and Avicenna is more pronounced on the 
question of the immortality of soul which is accepted by the former and rejected 
by the latter. 

Like Hato, Farabi is a mystical thinker, whose reasoning leads him finally 
to mysticism and metaphysics. With him, like all mystics, contemplation 
dominates action. 

He interpreted a number of religious dogmas and concepts in a philosophical 
manner. He tried to find the reasoned and logical explanation of such intricate 
problems as prophecy , inspiration, heavens, destiny and celestial throne. Prophecy, 
according to Farabi, is a form of moral perfection rather than an innate gift. In 
this way, he is considered as the founder of philosophical theology which later 
on found its great exponent in Fakhruddin Razi. He was also first to preach 
practical morality by recognising that the faculty of discerning good from evil 
is possessed by oneself. Avicenna, thus, borrowed the idea of his mysticism of 
right or reason from Farabi. 

Farabi was the greatest musical theorist that the Muslim world has produced. 
He composed several outstanding works on music. Among them were the 
Kitab Mausiqi al-Kabir (Grand Book of Music), Styles in Music, and On the 
Qassification of Rhythms. Besides the above, he has also dealt with musical 
topics in two of his voluminous works on the science: The Qassification of the 
Sciences, and The Origin of Sciences. His Grand Book of Music is universally 
recognised as the highest authority on the oriental music and, according to 
Farmer, a well-known writer on music, this work of Farabi, "deserves to be 
ranked as one of the greatest works that has been written on music". Out of the 
several works of Farabi on music, Kitab Musiqi al Kabir has survived, which in 
the words of Sarton, "is the most important oriental treatise on the theory of 
music". According to Farabi, he wrote this book, because he found that the 
earlier books written by Greeks, Romans and Persians were full of obscurities 
and shortcomings. H. G. Farmer pays glowing tribute to this immortal work 
of the great musician, saying, 'Al Farabi's treatment of physical and physiological 
principles of sound and music is certainly an advance on that of Greeks". Farabi 
has given a detailed account of musical instruments which is non-existent in the 
musical works of Greeks. He invented the musical instruments called 'Rabab' 
and 'Qanun'. He also knew mensural music and recognised the major third (4:5) 
and the minor third (5 : 6) as consonances. Farabi made a valuable contribution 

Hundred Great Muslims 26 7 

to physiological acoustics which was not touched by the Greeks. He was an 
outstanding practical musician of his time and when he played on his flute in the 
presence of his patron Saifuddawlah he is said "to have cast his hearers into a fit 
of laughter, drew tears from their eyes or set them all asleep, including even the 
door-keepers". The Mawlawi darveshes still sing ancient chants composed by 
him. The musical works of Farabi had a universal appeal and influenced the 
musical theories of the West as well as those of Muslim Spain. "Al-Farabi still 
continued to attract the attention of the scholars until the 17th century A.C." ; 
says H. G. Farmer. According to Kazi Sayad, "Farabi had attained a perfection 
both in theoretical and practical sides of music". 

The musical theories of Farabi had a great influence over the writings of 
the West. The 'De Divisione Philosophiae', written by Gundislaves has a section 
on music, much of which has been reproduced from Farabi's 'De Scienties' and 
'De Ortusveintiarum'. In the musical treatise entitled 'De Musica' and the 
'Speculum Doctrinale of Vicent de Beauvais (d. 1 264), Farabi has been frequently 
quoted along with other theorists. 

A number of well-known Western writers like Robert Kilwardley (d. 1279), 
Raimundo Lull (d. 1315). Simon Tunstedo (1300-69), and Adam de Fuldo 
were influenced by Farabi. Even up to the end of the 17th century, his theories 
on music continued to influence the Western writers which may be ascertained 
from the "De Expetendis et Fugiendis Rebus", written by George Valla (1497— 
1501) the Margarita Philosophica ' (1508) of George Reish and the republication 
of 'De Scientus' hy Camerarius in 1638. 

The influence of Farabi on the later writers and thought was tremendous. 
AU philosophers coming after Farabi were influenced by this great thinker. He 
is the foremost encyclopaedist of Islam who is credited with the evolution of 
Islamic logic. "His rational philosophy", says a Western orientalist, "had made 
him the forerunner of the German Philosopher Kant ; his theory of the great man 
and the little savant of the Englishman Spencer. By saying that knowledge is not 
acquired only by intellectual effort but it flows from a superior soul to men, he 
was the precursor of the theory of philosophic intuition of the Frenchman 
Bergson. He, thus introduced the theory of social contract of Rousseau, by 
stating that social union comes about through the will of the individual". Among 
the orientals his influence may be traced in the works of such eminent thinkers 
as Avicenna, Averroes, Ibn Khaldun, Fakharuddin Razi, Ibn Haytham, Ibn 
Miskawayh, Jalaluddin Rumi and Al-Ghazali. 

After paying glowing tribute to his achievements, AUama Ibn Khalikan, 
the celebrated historian says: "No Muslim ever reached in the philosophical 
sciences the same rank as al-Farabi, and it was by the study of his writings and 
by the imitation of his style that Ibn Sina attained the proficiency and rendered 
his own work so useful". 


Muslims aiid music are generally considered poles apart. Few people know 
the part played by Muslims in the development of fine arts, specially music. The 
contribution of Muslims to the development of theoretical as well as practical 
music is indeed great and a number of songs and musical instruments adopted by 
various countries of the world owe their origin to the genius of Muslim musicians. 
The 'Mausiqi-al-Kabir' written by Abu Nasr Farabi, is according to H. G. Farmer, 
one of the greatest books ever written on music. The influence of this book on 
Western music has been overwhelming. The Arabian music, according to Farmer, 
entered Europe via Spain and reached China through Baghdad. The Muslim 
world can boast of such great musicians as Farabi, Momin, Ishaq Mosli, Zalzal 
and Ziryab who have left ineffaceable marks on the pages of musical history of 
the world. One of these master articts was Amir Khusrou, a versatile genius who 
has made lasting coiitributiorj to the domains of poetry, music and mysticism. 

The enlightened West has co!.?:idered all people inhabiting the vast Indo- 
Pakistan subcontinent as Hindus-henue 'ndian music has wrongly been taken 
to be entirely a speciality of the Hindus. Unfortunately, the Western historians 
being inspired by their Hindu counterparts have not only ignored the cultural, 
political and artistic enterprises and achievements of MusUm India, but also 
formed a biased opinion in favour of Hindus. Notwithstanding their stupendous 
efforts in under-rating the cultural achievements of MusUms, well-known 
historians and critics such as Sir WilUam James, Lt.-Col James Tod, Augustus, 
W. Hunter, Surendra Mohan Tagore, Anand Kumar Swami and Prof. Ranade, 
had to admit, though half heartedly, the valuable part played by Muslims in the 
development of Indian music. The MusUms since the time of Amir Khusrou who 
Uve in the reign of Alauddin Khilji, formed the vanguard of all cultural move- 
ments in India and weie pioneers in the domains of music. The Musli.r rulers of 
India had always been the great patrons of art and culture. Besides Amir 
Khusrou, who flourished during the days of Khiljis and Tugldaqs, Tan Sen 
adorned the Court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Jahangir, the cultured Mughal 
Emperor, had an exceptionally fme taste for music. IXiringhis reign, all cultural 
movements recorded phenomenal advancement. Writing in "Ghubar-i-Khatir' 
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad says: "The first dynasty which patronised and 
cultivated music as an art was the Sharqi dynasty of Jaunpore. It was during 
their reign that 'KhiyaV became very popular and replaced 'Dhurpad'. Round 
about this time, the Nizam Shahi dynasty and the Adil Shahi of Bijapur exhibited 


Hundred Great Muslims 269 

a fine taste for music. "Ibrahim Adil Shah", according to Zahoori, "was a master 
musician, whos>e patronage had lighted the lamp of music in each and every 
house of Bijapur. The romantic land of Malwa during the reign of Baz Bahadur 
had become the cradle of theoretical as well as practical music". 

Amir Khusrou, born in 1253 A.D. at Patiali near Kanauj (U.P.) was a 
master musician— a man possessing extraordinary abilities and versatile taste. His 
father, Saifuddin Mahmood, who was among the nobles of BaDth, migrated to 
India due to devastations wrought by Chengiz Khan in Turkistan. Farishta and 
Daulat Shah have corroborated the above statement. According to Abul Fazal, 
the celebrated author of Aeen-i-Akbari and the historian Badayuni, Patiali where 
Khusrou was born, was a small town on the bank of the Ganges which was also 
called Mominabad. When Khusrou was born, his father carried his infant son to 
a 'Darvesh' (saint) who blessed him, saying that he would, one day, outmatch 
Khakani. The father died when Khusrou was oiJy seven. He had a natural taste 
for music and poetry and had acquired a thorough knowledge of different 
branches of learning before he was fifteen years old. He died at a ripe age of 
71 in 1324 A.C., and lived to enjoy the favour of the five successive ICings of 

Amir Khusrou was a disciple of Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia, the 
famous saint of Delhi. Hazrat Khwaja had conferred on him thj title of 'Tarkat 
Allah'. The society of Khwaja Nizamuddin had brought a revolutionary change 
in the life of Khusrou, who dedicated himself to the service of his great teacher. 
Once a darvesh begged something from Hazrat Khwaja, who had at the moment 
nothing to give him. He bade him to see him the next day. That day, too, he had 
nothing to give him. However he presented him his shoes. Accidentally, the 
darvesh came across Khusrou outside the city. He enquired the welfare of his 
master from the darvesh, saying, "I find a token of my saint with you, would 
you like to sell it?" The darvesh consented to sell the shoes to Khusrou at half 
a million Tankas, which he had been awarded for a poem by the king. Placing 
the shoes upon his head he appeared before Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin and 
said, "The darvesh was contented with the price paid to him for the shoes, 
otherwise if he had demanded my entire property and even my life, I would have 
readily given him". 

Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin, too, deeply loved Khusrou. He used to say, 
"If God would enquire on the Day of Judgement as to what I have brought, I 
would present Khusrou". 

Khusrou was in Bengal, when Hazrat Khwaja died in Delhi. On hearing 
the sad news, he distributed his entire wealth among the poor and hurried to 
Delhi. Seeing the grave of his teacher he cried out convulsively, "O God! 
The Sun has gone down the earth and Khusrou is still alive." Thereafter, he 
became a recluse and died within six months of the passing away of his spiritual 

270 Hundred Great Muslims 

Khusrou was a great intellectual wizard— the greatest intellectual luminary 
that had shone so resplendently on the literary firmament of Muslim India. He 
has left behind him immortal achievements in the fields of poetry and music, 
mysticism and politics. 

In 686 A.H., Sultan Balban died and contrary to his will, his drunkard 
grandson Kaikobad, was installed on the throne of Delhi. A clash between 
Kaikobad and his father Bughara Khan which seemed imminent was averted at 
the last moment. Khusrou described the whole incident in a long poem called 
Qaranus Sadain. The Slave dynasty was soon replaced by the Khiljis. Jalaluddin 
Khilji who was a well-known patron of learned men, selected PChusrou as one of 
his trusted companions. PChusrou had given poetic form to Jalaluddin's conquests 
and named it as Tajul Futuh. Alauddin Khilji who succeeded his uncle was one 
of the greatest rulers that MusUm India has produced. He conquered almost 
the whole of Southern India. He held Khusrou in great esteem. The poet 
described the military exploits of Alauddin Khilji in his well-known work 
Khazain ul Futuh (The Treasure of Conquests). When Khusrou's mother and 
brother Hissamuddin passed away in 698 A.H., he wrote a touching elegy 
entitled Laila Majnoon. A Mathnavi (long poem) which he wrote in 701 A.H. 
was Hasht Bahisht (The eight paradises). He was awarded an elephant load of 
silver coins by King Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah for his Mathnavi Neh Sipahr (Nine 
skies) which he completed in 718 A.H. The weak and lingering Khilji dynasty 
was replaced by the Tughlaqs. Ghyasuddin Tughlaq, the first king of this 
dynasty, was a great admirer of Khusrou, who in his Tughlaq Nama wrote an 
elaborate history of the period. 

Jami in his Nafhat ul Uns has given a list of 92 books written by Khusrou. 
According to the poet's own statement, he composed about half a million verses. 
Ohdi in his Urfat writes that Khusrou has left behind more verses in Hindi than 
in Persian, in his celebrated work Matla-e Anwar he has dealt with the intricacies 
of mysticism. His Aejaz-i-Khusravi in three volumes deals with the principles of 
prose writing. The detailed history of Delhi is found in his Manaqib Hind. 

As a poet, Khusrou occupies a high place in the galaxy of Persian poets. He 
is master of different forms of Persian poetry. Usually certain poets have attained 
the height of fame in particular forms of Persian poetry, Firdausi and Nizami are 
on the top in Mathnavi, Anwari and Khaqani are known for their panegyrics, 
Hafiz and Saadi are famous for their lyrics— but Khusrou has scaled considerable 
heights in all these forms of Persian poetry. He was enormously productive. 
Daulat Shah credits him with nearly half a million verses. Of these, Mirza 
Baysunqur after ceaseless efforts, succeeded in collecting 120,000, but having 
subsequently discovered 2,000 more from his lyrics; he concluded that it would 
be very difficult for him to collect the complete work of the poet, and gave up 
the idea for ever. 

Amir Khusrou was conversant with several languages, including Persian, 
Turkish, Arabic, Hindi and Sanskrit and has left his works in most of these 

Hundred Creai Muslims 271 

languages. His verses in Hindustani language except those found in Khaliq Ban 
are non-extant. This subcontinent has hardly produced such a versatile genius as 

Khusrou, was, undoubtedly, the greatest musician that mediaeval India 
produced. He won the title of Nayak which none could get after him during 
the last 629 years. He wrote enchanting songs and composed many new ones in 
place of dhurpad which acquired great popularity even during his lifetime. He 
also invented a new type oisitar. He enriched Indian music through his composi- 
tions and innovations of Khival, Kaul Kalbaiia, Zclf, Ghaza, Kedar and Tarana. 
Sazgiri and Khiyal composed by him formed the culmination of his achieve- 
ments which have earned an outstanding- place in the domain of Indian music. 
Professor Ranade, writes in his book Indian Music: "At the close of the 13th 
century when Muslims conquered Deccan by overthrowing the Devagiri Ruler, 
Islamic music began to influence the Indian Music. The originator of new trends 
in the North Indian music was Amir Khusrou whose keen sense enabled him 
to raise it to a high degree of perfection." According to the latest historical 
researches, too, the originator of the new type of music in Northern India was 
Amir Khusrou, who, not only found new avenues but also developed it to 
a high standard. Even after a lapse of more than 600 years, he is considered an 
authority on diverse branches of theoretical and practical music. 

During his time, there was one Nayak Gopal who had 1,200 disciples, 
and who carried their master seated on a wooden chair from place to place on 
their shoulders. The fame of Nayak Gopal reached Sultan Alauddin Khilji. He 
was summoned by the King. The Nayak gave, display of his music in six different 
meetings. In the seventh, Khusrou too, participated. Nayak was also aware of 
the greatness of Khusrou in Indian music. He requested the Amir to give the 
performance of his vocal music. The Amir repUed that since he was a Turk, he 
was not much conversant with the Indian music. When Nayak sang a song. 
Khusrou said that he himself was the composer of that song and he sang it in a 
far better way emphasising all its peculiarities. Whatever Gopal sang, Khusrou 
repeated it in a much better manner. In the end Khusrou added whatever 
performance of vocal music was given by Gopal was of ordinary class. Thereafter 
he gave performance of his typical songs, which simply charmed Nayak Gopal 
and he became a disciple of Khusrou. Khusrou who being master of both Persian 
and Hindustani music, had created a pleasant mixture by intermingling both. 

Muhammad Husain Azad writes in Abi Hayat: "Amir Khusrou possessed 
much originality of approach. He had a special aptitude for music. He invented 
Khiyal, Kaul and Kalbana which easily replaced Dhurpad and became exceedingly 
popular throughout India. 

Writing in Ghubar-i-Khatir Maulana Abul Kalaam Azad says : "The birth 
of such a great musician as Amir Khusrou in India during the 7th century A.H. 
proved beyond doubt that Muslims acquired a hold over Indian music. The 
innovation of such immortal songs as Sazgiri, Uljan and Khiyal by Amir Khusrou 
has earned for him an outstanding place in the history of Indian classical music". 

2 12 Hundred Grea t Muslims 

According to the celebrated musician Hakim Muhammad Akram Khan, 
the author of Maadan Mausiqi (The Treasure of Music), "Amir Khus'ou was 
considered Nayak of his time. He invented seventeen tunes of Dholak, and is 
looked upon as the originator of Purbi Rag (Eastern Tune) which was the 
favourite of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia". 

Writing in his well-known book, The Life and Works of Amir Khusrou, 
Mirza Mahmood Ahmed says: "The natural inclination which Amir had for 
music pervades all his writings. The originahty inherent in his nature revolted 
against the dogmatism of traditional school of Indian music. There had not been 
a greater artist in the history of classical music of India". 

Herbert A. Poplay pays glowing tribute to the genius of Amir Khusrou 
when he acknowledges in his celebrated work, Music of India that Amir Khusrou 
was not only a renowned poet and musician but also a great soldier and statesman. 

The following few anecdotes pertaining to Amir Khusrou will be found of 
great interest : 

Once Amir Khusrou called on a Sufi Saint. At the door he was stopped by 
the durban (doorman) who would not let him in without the permission of the 
Saint. This very much offended and angered Amir Khusrou who, on the spur of 
the moment, wrote on a scrap of paper the following hemistich extemporaneously : 

M! Jlj) \j ifZ»J» J) 
A dervish requires no doorman. 

The doorman dehvered it to the Saint who instantaneously added to it the 
following hemistich : 

(There should be (posted) one, so that no worldly dog may intrude). 

This evoked a sardonic chuckle from Amir Khusrou and, at the same time, 
amused him. He was forthwith admitted to the presence of the Saint. 

It is said that on one occasion a few guests who came to dine with Amir 
Khusrou, were not inclined to leave long after the dinner was over. He began 
to be bored by their prolonged presence and wanted them to quit. Meanwhile 
the kettle-drum sounded the near midnight hour. Thereupon, satirically address- 
ing the guests, he asked if they knew what it implied and before anyone of 
them could reply, he laughingly observed that the kettle-drum said it was time 
for them to depart. Simultaneously, he recited the following couplet composed 
impromptu in Persian chiming with the number of hours struck by the kettle- 

Hundred Great Muslims 273 

Since you have done with supping, you (had better) 

Leave for home, now, leave for home. 

Leave for home, leave for home, leave for home,— 

I haven't mortgaged to you my house, 

I haven't mortgaged to you my house, 

I haven't mortgaged to you my house. 


Akbar, the Great Mughal, was a great patron of art and learning. He had 
drawn to his Court some of the greatest intellectual and artistic luminaries of the 
age. Being a contemporary of Sulaiman, the Magnificent of Turkey and Queen 
Elizabeth of England, his brilliant rule was distinguished for internal peace and 
prosperity— qualities which are greatly instrumental in preparing the ground for 
the development of arts and sciences. Tan Sen, the celebrated vocal musician, 
whose name has become a household word in the realm of music, was one of the 
brightest gems that adorned the Durber of Akbar, the Great. The stately edifice 
of modern Indo-Pakistani music has been raised on the foundations laid by the 
genius of Tan Sen. 

Abul Fazal, the author of the well-known Aeen-e-Akbari, pays glowing 
tribute to the matchless art of Tan Sen when he says : "A singer like him had not 
appeared in India for the last thousand years-such a genius in music might not 
be bom again". 

Tan Sen was born in a Brahmin family of Benares in 1506 A.C. His father 
Mukundaram, himself a good singer, led an unhappy Ufe in spite of being 
extermely rich. Several sons were born to him, but none had survived. Mukun- 
daram had learnt of a Muslim Saint Hazrat Muhammad Ghaus residing at Gwalior, 
whose fame as a spiritualist had reached the distant comers of the subcontinent. 
Mukundaram went to pay homage to the celebrated Saint who gave him an 
amulet for his wife intimating him that all rites being strictly observed, he would 
be blessed with a gifted son. The words of the Saint bore fruit and shortly after 
a son was born to him who was named Ramtanu. 

Ramtanu had no charm for academic pursuits and possessed a romantic 
nature. He was blessed with a wonderful natural gift of possessing a perfect voice 
and in his childhood he could successfully imitate the voices of animals and birds. 
By a strange coincidence, he came into contact with his professional Gum, 
Swami Haridas, a hermit of Bindraban, who was on his way to Benares along 
with his disciples. All of a sudden the companions of the hermit were terrified 
by the roar of a nearby lion. But he was satisfied that no lion was found in those 
parts of the country, and a search led to the discovery of Ramtanu, who was 
roaming about in the suburbs of the Holy city. Ramtanu was taken as a disciple 
of Swami Haridas and taken to Bindraban, where he developed his art of vocal 


Hundred Great Muslims 275 

music to such a high degree, where none could reach during the last thousand 
years or more. Just like Plato, the teacher of Aristotle, Haridas will go down in 
musical history of the world as the teacher of inimitable Tan Sen. 

The Sen remained in Bindraban for about ten years. Therefrom he went to 
Gwalior to fulfil the last wish of his dead father who had instructed him to 
devote his life to the service of his spiritual 'Guru', Hazrat Muhammad Ghaus. 
Tan Sen had an access to the Court of Maharaja Man Singh of Gwalior and his 
talented Queen Mriganayani. There he feU in love with Husaini Brahmani (a 
Muslim convert) and embraced Islam having been named Ata Ali Khan. After the 
death of Hazrat Muhammad Ghaus, Ata Ali Khan (Tan Sen) again migrated to 
Bindraban and completed his course in music. 

By this time, the fame of Tan Sen as a vocal and classical musician had 
reached the distant corners of India. Maharaja Raja Ram of Rewa, invited him 
to join his Court as his Court musician. Emperor Akbar who once visited Rewa 
had an opportunity of listening to the matchless songs of Tan Sen and was 
charmed by the melodies of the immaculate artiste. The Maharaja of Rewa 
grasped the opportunity of winning the favour of the Emperor by offering his 
celebrated Tan Sen to Akbar in 1556 A.C. and thus opened the most glorious 
chapter in the life of the famous musician. The Durbar of Akbar was adorned, 
besides his nine gems, with experts of arts and learning. Out of a host of vocal 
and instrumental musicians, who warmed the meetings of the Emperor, Mian 
Tan Sen and his four sons, namely, Surat Sen, Sarat Sen, Taranga Sen and Bilas 
Khan, won a high reputation in the world of music. 

Hazrat Amir Khusrou, the most talented and versatile genius that Muslim 
India has produced had the distinction of being the originator of a new style in 
Indian music which was a sweet fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements. He was 
the master artist who is known in the annals of Indian Music as the inventor of 
Khiyal, Kaul and Qalbana. Tan Sen, comig later on, popularised and improved 
upon the innovations of the earlier master, opening new vista for Indian music. 
His innovations in vocal music are known as Mian Ka Rag (The Song of Mian 
Tan Sen). Of his direct descendants and disciples, his son Bilas Khan and his son- 
in-law Misri Singhi, kept aloft the high reputation of their immortal teacher. 
Bilas Khan is known as the originator of Bilas Khan Todi-a song which acquired 
immense popularity throughout the subcontinent. One of his descendants, 
brought about beneficial changes in the Sitar by increasing its strings. Niyamat 
Khan Siah Sadarang a descendant of Misri Singhi, living in the reign of the last 
Mughal Emperor, improved upon the Khiyal songs. 

Mian Tan Sfcn had become a legendary figure in the realm of music and 
many interesting stories are current in this subcontinent about his musical 
performances— which though apparently incredulous cannot be lightly brushed 
aside and, on the other hand, bear ample testimony to the hold of music over 
the elements of nature. like all great men. Tan Sen, too, had his enemies who 
were jealous of his unique success. They conspired against his life by instipting 

27(> Hundred Great Muslims 

the Mughal Emperor to persuade Tan Sen to give a performance ofDipak song, 
which the Emperor had not listened so far. Tan Sen contended that the singing 
of such a song would endanger his life, but this plea only added to the curiosity 
of the Emperor who struck to his order. Tan Sen was obliged to consent to and 
requested for 1 5 days time in order to make necessary preparations. Within this 
period he taught his talented daughter the art of Megh Raga. The appointed day 
at last came and the Emperor along with his Courtiers waited impatiently for the 
commencement of the fateful song. Tan San began singing the Dipak Raga. His 
eyes became blood shot and at the end of the fourth song, the entire hall was lit 
and afire. The audience ran helter skelter and Tan Sen himself hurried home 
crying with burning sensations. His daughter started her Megha Raga. Suddenly 
the sky was overcast with clouds and rain began to pour down in tonents. The 
cool breeze and the refreshing rain soothed the burning sensations caused by the 
Dipak Raga in the body of Tan Sen. The injurious effects of the Dipak song did 
not disappear completely and Tan Sen was confined to bed for more than a 
quarter year. 

Tan Sen, having grown too old, was permitted by Emperor to lead a 
retired life at GwaUor on a pension of Rs. 2,000/- a month. His four sons were 
taken as Court musicians by Akbar on handsome salaries. He died at a mature 
age of 80 years in 1585 A.C. and in compliance with his last wish was buried by 
the side of his spiritual teacher Hazrat Muhammad Ghaus in Gwalior. A tamarind 
tree casts its shade over his grave and it is said that chews the leaves of this tree 
is blessed with a melodious voice. 


Muslims are known as the greatest builders in history. Some of the finest 
and most splendid buildings in the world including the Alhamra and the Mosque 
of Cordova in Spain; the Taj Mahal of Agra and the Jami Mosque of Delhi; 
the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo; the Friday Mosque of Isfahan and the 
Sulaimaniya and Salimiya Mosques of Istanbul, have been built by Muslims. A 
large number of magnificent palaces buUt by Muslims in Cordova, Cairo, 
Baghdad, Istanbul and Samarkand, have perished due to the ravages of time, or 
razed to the ground by the later invaders. 

The history of architecture is full of the achievements of Muslim architects 
who raised splendid monuments in different parts of the world. But the greatest 
among the Muslim architects was Sinan who is credited with erecting 343 
magnificent buildings throughout the Ottoman Empire. 

Sinan, usually called 'Khudai-Memar Sinan', is universally recognised as 
the greatest architect of his time and of the Ottoman Empire. He was bom on 
April 15, 1489, in Kaisariya (Anatolia). He was the son of Abdal-Maiman. 
He became a Janissary in Istanbul. As a Janissary in the Ottoman army, he 
distinguished himself for bravery in the campaigns against Belgrade in 1521 and 
Rhodes in 1 522. Later he was promoted to the post of Chief Fire-work Operator 
in the Ottoman army. 

During the Persian war, fought by the Ottomans in 1534 A.C., he devised 
ferries for crossing Lake Van which were very effective and led to the victory of 
the Turks. 

When the Ottoman Sultan Salim I, advanced on Wallachia, Sinail hastily 
built a bridge across the River Danube which laid the foundation of his rising 

Henceforward, he was assigned the task which suited his genius. He was 
extensively engaged in erecting monumental buUdings on orders from the Sultan 
and the grandees of the great Ottoman Empire. 

After the death of Salim I, he built the Salimiya Mosque on the top of 
a hill overlooking Istanbul. 


278 Hundred Great Muslims 

Sulaiman, the magnificent, the successor of Sultan Salim I, is credited 
with raising some of the best monuments throughout the vast Ottoman Empire. 
These monuments were built by Sinan under orders of Sulaiman. 

These include the Mosque of Roxelana (Khasseki Khurram) built in 
1539, the Princes' Mosque built in 1548, the Sulaimaniya Mosque built in 
1550-56, and the Salimiya Mosque of Adrianople built on the orders of Salim II. 
These are considered to be his best efforts. 

In addition to these, Sinan is credited with erecting numerous mosques, 
palaces, schools, bridges and baths, etc. His biographer, poet Mustafa Sai, gives a 
list of 81 mosques, 50 chapels, 55 schools, 7 Quran Schools, 16 kitchens for the 
poor, 3 infirmaries, 7 aqueducts, 8 bridges, 34 palaces, 13 rest houses, 3 store 
houses, 33 baths, 19 domed tombs, totalling 343 buildings built by the famous 
architect, Sinan, during a period of thre: quarters of a century in a region 
extending from Bosnia to Makkah. 

Sinan displayed an incomparable lightness of touch in his construction 
of domes. "On a square, hexagonal octagonal base he developed his interiors, 
always striving at the effect of a great ceremonial hall, a uniform architecture 
enclosing the worshipping rulers and their hosts". 

Sinan is mostly concerned with the interior of his buildings, sometimes 
at the cost of their exterior. "But everywhere", says Gurlitt, "appears the 
peculiarity of Turkish character. Everywhere he creates models which are as 
little Byzantine as they are Persian, as little Syrian as they are Saljuk, but all the 
more Turkish". He had a large number of pupils who attained great fame as 
architects. These included Ahmad Agha Kamal al Din, Daud Agha, Yatim Baba 
Ali, Yusuf and Sinan, the junior. Yusuf, his favourite pupil, is reputed to be the 
architect of the palaces at Delhi, Lahore and Agra built by Akbar. 

This great Muslim architect, Sinan, breathed his last on July 17, 1578 at 
the age of 90 years and was buried under the shadow of his masterpiece, 
Sulaimaniya Mosque of Istanbul. 


The Mongols who rose from Central Asia and swept over most parts of 
Eurasia, razing cities, destroying civilizations and massacring a large number of 
people, later became well-known patrons of art and culture. Samarkand and 
Bukhara became great centres of art and learning. The Maragha observatory set 
up by Hulaku Khan, the Mongol, under the guidance of the Encyclopaedist 
Nasir al-Din Toosi, did much useful researches in astronomy and other branches 
of science. 

The Mongol influence found its way in different branches of Persian art 
and culture, particularly in painting. The Mongols not only took keen interest 
in promoting art in the Muslim countries but also brought it into contact with 
the highly developed painting of the Far East and directed it towards new 
subjects, thus enlarging the painters' outlook. The main tendency was now the 
pictorial reproduction of historic events, specially the great national epic of 
Firdausi and similar poems of Nizami and Kirmani as well as the sentimental 
lines from Shirin-Farhad, Laila-Majnoon. The captions were no longer Arabic but 
Persian. The acquaintance of Persian painters with, the work of the Chinese 
masters resulted in enhancing the feeling of landscape among them. 

The enthusiasm which the Persian painters displayed for the pictorial 
reproductions of important events in their national history and the beauty of 
their native countryside, gave the Persian painting of the Mongol period a 
romantic pattern. In this period, the harmony between picture and text reached 
the highest degree of prefection. 

But, "an undeniable weakness of Perso-Mongol painting lies in the 
diagrammatical conventionalising of figures, the spiritless treatment of the heads 
and the absence of expression in the movement", observes the Encyclopaedia 
Britannica. Strangely enough, no progress in this respect was observed in the 
development of Persian art and a revolutionary personality was needed to make 
up this deficiency and set things right. This personality was found in the genius 
of Kamaluddin Behzad who rose to be the greatest master of Persian painting. 
Behzad was the greatest miniaturist in Persia who reached the summit of his 
glory and was universally recognised as the greatest master of Persian painting 
during his lifetime. 


280 Hundred Great Muslims 

Kamaluddin Behzad was born in Herat before 1450 A.C., and died after 
1520 A.C. He is said to be a disciple of Amir RuhuUah alias Mir Naqqash of 
Herat. According to another version, Behzad, who had lost his father in his 
childhood, was a disciple of Pir Syed Ahmad Tabrizi. First of all, he was 
employed with Mir Ali Sher, Minister of Sultan Husain Mirza. Later he got 
employment with Sultan Husain Mirza, the last of the Timurid monarchs who, 
himself possessing versatile taste, was a great patron of artists and scholars. He 
was made Head of the Herat Academy. 

When Tabriz was taken over by Shah Ismail, he invited Behzad to Tabriz 
and employed him. The Shah was very kind to him, appointed him his Chief 
Librarian in 1522 and covered him with honours. He was equally honoured 
during the reign of Shah Tahmasp, successor of Shah Ismail. 

He died in Tabriz in 154647 and was buried there. 

Behzad who represents the zenith of the Mongol and the beginning of the 
Safawid period in Persian painting was a reformer in treatment of landscapes 
which are more real and natural in his works. In the choice of subjects, too, he 
is more realistic than his predecessors. He "understood, how, even in the most 
populous compositions, to differentiate every single figure in countenance and 
bearing; his palette was extraordinarily rich, especially in warm, full tones, 
and this enabled him to individualise his portraits by the employment of 
numerous colours— nuances for costumes and even for flesh" (Encyclopaedia 
Britannica). He revolted against the dictates of the calligraphers and admitted 
no text at all. At times he has given only a few lines of verse at one comer of 
the illustrated pages. 

His works also contain exquisitely drawn double-page miniatures. Accord- 
ing to Khan Damir, Behzad possessed great refinement, minute perfection and 
power of life-like representation. Kazi Ahmad marks his sense of proportion and 
mentions the excellence of his bird images and avers that he was fluent in 
charcoal drawings. 

Behzad was universally acclaimed as the greatest master of Persian art 
during his lifetime. He was a great miniaturist. He excels in drawing living 
figures. He has illustrated many masterpieces of Persian poetry, including that 
of Nizami. According to the Mughal Emperor Babar, Behzad's art was excep- 
tionally fine. He excelled in drawing bearded faces but not the beardless ones 
as he exaggerates the length of double chin. (Babar Narrut). 

The Mughal Emperors of India were great admirers of Behzad's art. They 
had adorned their libraries and palaces with Behzad's works. They paid Rs. 3 ,000 
to Rs. 5,000 for each picture drawn by Behzad. Emperor Jahangir particularly 
has great liking for Behzad's art, specially those depicting battle scenes. He adds 
that Behzad's creations are full of life and his battle scenes are extremely vivid 
and lively. 

Hundred Great Muslims 281 

Behzad is known for his colour sense and has exquisitely used fine and 
deep colours in his pictures. He has generally preferred cool colours, namely 
green and blue particularly in interior scenes but these are always balanced by 
comparatively warm colours, specially a bright orange. He superbly completes 
each unit of the design in their proper and natural setting, which fit into a 
decoratively conceived all-over picture, which is perfectly executed. The branches 
of trees in bloom, the richly decorated title patterns and the designs on the 
carpet reveal in particular the artist's decorative sense and the delicacy of his 
work. Its realism distinguishes it from paintings of previous period. 

Behzad has, thus, very faithfully followed natoiie, giving imaginative 
touches here and there. He has mostly used green and blue which are nature's 
colours. He, no doubt, balances these at times, with mar(»on and orange colours. 
In the reproduction of human and other figures, be tries to be as natural as 
possible. But he is not a blind imitator of nature and uses his imagination to 
make his figures more effective and lively. Kazi Ahmad ranks him above Mani. 

His works have mostly been lost. Among his few undisputedly extant 
works are the History of Taimur, illustrated by him in 1 467, which was formerly 
in Schulz collections but later taken to America; an edition of Saadi's Boston, 
dated 1478 is in the Cairo library and his illustrations of Leila and Majniin are 
kept in the Leningrad Library. 

Behzad deeply influenced the realm of painting, particularly in Persia. He 
had a large number of disciples, both in Herat and Tabriz who carried his style 
in Persia, Western Turkistan and India. During the 16th century, his fame had 
travelled far and wide. His art was imitated by all and even the pages of most 
various origins were furnished with his signature to enhance their value. 

Behzad was undoubtedly a genius whose art reached the summit of glory 
which will continue to inspire generations to come. 


The absence of figural representation in Islamic art led to an unprece- 
dented development of calligraphy as a decorative art throughout the world of 
Islam. In almost all periods of Muslim rule, calligraphy has been the favourite 
art, which has been developed in numerous patterns and floral designs. 

The Muslim Rulers and Emperors have taken keen interest in the develop- 
ment of calligraphy, which, besides being used in writing books, has been a 
favourite art of decoration, especially of architectural monuments. Such monu- 
ments, particularly mosques and mausoleums, built throughout the Muslim 
world, bear exquisite calligraphic inscriptions and floral designs. 

Two of the well-known Muslim Rulers of India, Nasiruddin Mahmud 
(1246-1266 A.C.) and Aurangzeb Alamgir (1656-1705 A.C.), were good calli- 
graphists who used to transcribe the Holy Quran for their livelihood. 

The Mughal rule is particularly known for the development of calligraphic 
art in India. Almost all the splendid monuments erected by the great Mughals, 
including the world famous Taj Mahal, the famous Juma Mosque of Delhi, the 
Pearl Mosque in the Delhi Fort, the Badshahi Mosque of Lahore, the tombs of 
Mughal Emperors Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, bear exquisite 
patterns of calligraphic art. 

The history of calligraphy in the Muslim world dates back to earliest 
period of Islamic era when Arabic was written in Kufic script. Kufic character 
originated two centuries before Islam and was used in oldest Arabic documents, 
coins and inscriptions. For nearly five centuries, the Kufic script was popular, 
though it was artificial as well as awkward. The Holy Quran of early period has 
been written in Kufic script which continued up to the 10th century A.C. 

From the beginning of the Uth century, Naskh, a rounded script of 
rather level ductus with orthographic marks was introduced in transcribing the 
Holy Quran. This script received the final shape by the beginning of the 10th 
century and was perfected a hundred years later. By and by it was developed to 
such a degree of perfection that it outclassed and later replaced the Kufic 


Hundred Great Muslims 283 

The third and the most popular script Nastaleeq, was developed by the 
Iranian calligraphers during the 13th century A.C. It was used mostly for writing 
Persian works. The Nastaleeq script, was developed in Persia with rounded circles 
and a more formal and correct symmetry. The Nastaleeq style was beautiful and 
fluent, but the scribes needed much time and patience to give full shape and 
form to circular letters. 

It, therefore, gave birth to another variation called 'Shikasta' which is 
broken in style and later on to another form, Shafia, named after the scribe of 
that name. Shikasta was also called Khatt-i-Diwani (Civic script) in India. Urdu 
adopted the Nastaleeq and Sindhi the Naskh script. These attained great 
popularity during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, whose Court 
calligrapher Nlirza Muhammad Husain won great fame in it and has left 
behind many masterpieces. 

Almost all ruling Muslim dynasties had their own calUgraphers but the 
greatest among them has been Ibn al-Bawwab, Ahmad Suhrawardy and Yaqut 
al Mustasimi whose works are recognised as marvels of this art. 

Abul Hasan Aladin Ali ibn Hilal, better known as Ibn al-Bawwab, the 
celebrated Arab calligrapher was a porter's son of the Audience Hall of Baghdad. 
He was also called Al-Sitri and died in 1022 A.C. 

He was buried beside the tomb of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. 

Ibn al-Bawwab is recognised as one of the greatest Arab calligraphers, 
whose works are viewed with great admiration and considered marvels of the 
Calligraphic Art. 

He had wide knowledge of Islamic law, had learnt the Holy Quran by 
heart and wrote out 64 copies of the Holy Book. One of these copies, he wrote 
in Kihani script which is preserved in the Laleli Mosque of Constantinople 
(Intanbul). It was presented to this mosque by the Ottoman Sultan Salim I. 

The Diwan of the pre-Islamic Poet Salma ibn Jandal, copied by him, is 
extant in the Library of Aya Sofia (Istanbul). 

Ibn al-Bawwab haa invented the Kihani and Muhakkik scripts. He founded 
a School of Calligraphy in Baghdad which survived to the time of Yaqut 
al-Mustasimi, another great Arab calligrapher, who died in 1298 A.C. 


The spacious hall of the Muir Central College of Allahabad University 
was packed to its capacity. Musicians as well as listeners from all parts of the 
subcontinent had assembled to participate in the All-India Music Conference 
held in 1935. The stage was occupied by a galaxy of outstanding musicians 
(Ustads and Kavis) including Faiyyaz Khan, the Sun of Indian Music, Abdul 
Karim Khan, Mushtaq Husain and Bare Ghulam Ali Khan, the star singers and 
Alauddin Khan, the talented Sitar player. Ustad Faiyyaz Khan had finished a 
solo recital of vocal music and the atmosphere in the Hall was tense with excite- 
ment. Meanwhile, an unimpressive, frail-bodied musician with a small wooden 
instrument hung across his shoulders, was seen climbing up the platform. He 
squatted on the carpet and started tuning his small stringed instrument. Those 
who did not know him, laughed at his coming after Faiyyaz Khan, the Star 
musician of the subcontinent. He started playing on his Sarangi (a stringed 
wooden instrument) in low tones, steadily raising it, till he reached the zenith of 
his performance. His hand holding the bow moved with mechanical rapidity 
and the instrument began to emit fire all around. The entire audience seemed to 
be spell bound. The old enchantment hovered over the stage casting a mesmeric 
spell over the Usteners, who were brought to their senses only when the perform- 
ance came to an end. This instrumentalist was Ustad Bundoo Khan, whose 
solo performance of Sarangi thrilled the audience and according to Wordsworth: 

"The music in my heart 1 bore 
Long after it was heard no more." 

It was Bundoo Khan's unique performance long remembered by the 
listeners' as Shelley has righly observed : 

"Music when soft voices die? 
Vibrates in the Memory ! 

Among the luminaries in the realm of classical music in the subcontinent 
during the present century who could draw and keep huge audiences spell bound 
for hours together, Ustad Bundoo JChan occupies an eminent place. From a 
gifted Sarangi player living in penury once, he became one of the most talented 
instrumentahsts of the subcontinent. Bundoo Khan's is a dramatic life story. 
Endowed with many attributes essential for a successful musician, he combined 


Hundred Great Muslims 285 

in him the rare qualities of musical lineage, inherent taste, intelligence, musician- 
ship, devotion and determination, which enabled him to rise to the great heights 
of professional ability and popularity. 

The classical music in the subcontinent is passing through a transitional 
stage. The era of the great legendary Ustads, the princely patronage and of 
marathon recitals lasting for hours, is giving place to concerts and film music. 
But this vanishing era is of colour and romance in which the musicians brought 
to the art of music a dedication and a great deal of gracefulness. It is hard to 
forget the performances of tihe late Abdul Aziz Khan of Patiala, the great 
vichitra-veena player, of Inayat Khan Sitaria of Faiyyaz Khan, the vocalist and 
above all of Bundoo Khan, the veteran Sarangi player. They gave the vocation 
of music a heroic mould and trailed clouds of glory wherever they went. 

Born in a family of traditional musicians of Delhi in 1882, Bundoo Khan 
got his early training in music from his father Ali Jan Khan, a well-known 
Sarangi player. But the man who was mainly instrumental in raising Bundoo 
Khan to such great heights of instrumental music was his maternal uncle and 
later father-in-law, Mamman Khan, the veteran Sarangi and Sursagar player. 

The story of the musical training of Bundoo Khan is a story of devotion, 
perseverance and endurance for the sake of art. He made pilgrimages throughout 
the country learning the art wherever available. A glance at his life shows his 
mastery by a rare combination of talent and perseverance. Starting his training 
at an early age of 8, his musical gifts were evident at an amazingly early age. 
According to his maternal uncle Mamman Khan, the musical training in his 
family started from the day a child was born. Their family house used to be a 
conservatory of music wherein one corner a vocalist was seen singing and in 
another an instrumentalist was found practising on his musical instrument. 
This practice continued throughout the day and these strange sounds reached 
the ears of the newly -born child, who developed a taste for music from his 
very infancy. 

Bundoo Khan started his training in music at an early age of 8 and 
completed it at the age of 20. He states: "I practised hard day and night at the 
cost of my sleep. Music became the sole aim of my Ufe. All my miseries and joys 
were engrossed in music". 

The young Bundoo Khan once demonstrated his skill before a selected 
gathering of family members. Flushed with success, the young musician 
expected praise from his ustad (master), but Mamman Khan remained unmoved. 
This non-appreciation disheartened him momentarily, but soon led him to 
greater efforts towards perfection of his art. He practised hard and a few months 
after, when he gave a solo performance of instrumental music before a special 
audience, he thrilled his master beyond imagination. Mamman Khan embraced 
the young musician with joy saying, "My son ! now you have learnt the intricacies 
of this art. Music requires refinement of taste. However expensive a dish may be, 
unless it is tasty, it is useles^'. Bundoo Khan was hardly 13 at the time. 

286 Hundred Great Muslims 

Bundoo Khan attached to the princely Court of Indore and remained 
there for 27 years. He studied Sanskrit in order to have access to classical music 
of ancient India. His devotion to music had impaired his health. The only 
thought which haunted him consistently was— How to attain perfection in his 
art. He had lost his sleep. Whenever he passed through the streets of Delhi, he 
had his Sarangi hung across his shoulders hidden under a sheet worn by him. 
In the way he continuously moved his thin fingers over the strings of the little 

Bundoo Khan was a maestro, universally respected by all classes of musi- 
cians. He accompanied all the great singers of his time, including Aladiya Khan, 
Allabande Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Bare Ghulam Ali Khan and Faiyyaz Khan. 
They considered it a privilege to be accompanied by him. He would never let 
a soloist down. If was a pleasure to watch him playing on his instrument. A 
stream of music seeming to emanate from his little instrument flowed into the 
hearts of the listeners, transporting them to a state of ecstasy in which they lost 
all sense of time and space. He seemed to be so much absorbed in his art that 
in moments of deep exultation, he partially closed his eyes and instinctively 
sung with the instrument. His dreamy eyes together with the enchanting music 
cast a spell over the listeners. 

Music demonstrates diverse moods— sorrow or delight, fury of serenity, 
exultation or ecstasy. An experienced musician demonstrates these diversities 
to his advantage at different moments. Bundoo Khan knew this secret of success, 
hence his demonstration was never boring. Every time he played the same tune 
in a different way, which gave freshness to his art. Once questioned about the 
secret of his success, he said : "Each rag mirrors a different feeling. If it is a good 
piece of music, do not expect it to mean the same thing to you each time 
you listen to it". The change of his tunes was at times deceptive, involving 
among other intricacies the sudden switching from slow ones to incredibly fast 

He introduced many musical innovations. He introduced what is known 
as 'Meendh soot ki Sargam ', in which the musician in the midst of recurring 
moledy shifts from one note to another with bewUdering alacrity. 

Bundoo Khan was a mobile encyclopaedia of music. He had mastered 
more than 500 rags (tunes), with their intricacies and differences, while hardly 
any oriental musician could master more than 50 rags. Bundoo Khan's achieve- 
ment in this sphere of musical art looks extraordinary. He possessed a brilliant 
memory and explained the differences of the rags in special musical demons- 

But the greatest achievement of the maestro lay in his making an insignifi- 
cant instrument like Sarangi into Sau-rangi (hundred tuned instrument) a power- 
ful musical instrument which could produce diverse tunes. This wonderful 
instrument in which he combined different musical instruments and could 

Hundred Great Muslims 287 

produce all sorts of tunes, bear the unmistakable stamp of his genius. Like 
harmonium and piano, he introduced tapping in this new instrument. He used an 
incredibly small Sarangi with steel strings instead of gut. Once questioned by a 
Hindu vocalist about the usefulness of the insignificant instrument carried by 
him, Bundoo Khan retorted, "I can make any piece of wood speak, if I so desire". 

There was hardly a musical form he did not attempt on his little 
instrument whose tune was smooth and silvery, which cast a hypnotic spell over 
the listeners. "His name will always be associated with the Sarangi", says a 
well-known writer on classical music, "as the name of Casals is associated that of 
cello, of Segovia with the guitar, of Wande Landowska with harpsichard, of 
Lionel Tertis with the viola". Each one of the abovementioned musicians was 
responsible for the emancipation of his instrument. Bundoo Khan, too, raised 
the insignificant Sarangi from a position of subservience to human voice into an 
important solo instrument. Throughout his life his dear Sarangi rarely left him. 
At home in his daily outings and even during his sleep this little instrument was 
always found beside him. Even during the closing years of his long life he 
devoted a major part of his leisure time in practising on sarangi. 

Bundoo Khan was also a musical theorist. His book, Jauhar-i-Mausiqi 
known in Hindi as Sangeet Vivek Darpan, was published both in Urdu and 
Hindi languages in June 1934. Dealing with classical music of the subcontinent, 
it elicited high appreciation from all classes of classical musicians. 

As a man, Bundoo Khan was gentle, amicable and unassuming. He was 
simple like a child and humble like a saint. He was generous to a fault. Unlike 
most of the assuming orthodox musicians who are reluctant to part with the 
secrets of their art, Bundoo Khan gave out his art and his mind freely. Through- 
out his life he never missed an engagement. 

He was a man of sterling qualities. Unlike other artists of his class, he 
never cared for worldly wealth and prosperity. Despite the persuasions of the 
late Sardar Patel, Home Minister of India, and the offer of Rs. 1,200 a month 
made by the All-India Radio, he preferred a life of poverty in Pakistan, the land 
of his dreams, living as a refugee in a small house in Lalu Khet, Karachi, till his 
death on January 13, 1955. With him snapped another link with the past. His 
death created a void in the classical music of liie subcontinent which would 
hardly be filled in the near future. 



The Durbar Hall of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir was packed to its 
capacity. The Emperor was seated on his golden throne studded with precious 
stones, placed on a raised marble platform, attended by his Ministers and 
Courtiers flanking the passage leading to the Throne. All eyes were directed 
impatiently towards the entrance. The Emperor had summoned to his presence 
a person known as a dangerous religious reformer. At the appointed hour a sUm 
and lanky person in the attire of a dervish advanced in measured steps towards 
the Throne. All eyes turned towards him till he reached the Throne and did 
not make the customary obeisance of kissing the floor before the Emperor, 
whereupon the Vizier standing beside the Emperor cried out : 

"Make obeisance and kiss the floor. You are in the august presence of 
Emperor Jahangir." 

"No", replied the visitor firmly. "This head which bows before Almighty 
God can never bow before any mortal." 

A wave of resentment swept the audience and after a few cross question- 
ings, the Emperor ordered the visitor who was no other than the Saint of Sirhind 
himself to be thrown into the Gawalior prison. 

Sheikh Ahmad Farooqi of Sirhind, better known as Mujaddid Alif-i-Sani, 
also styled as Imam Rabbani, Uved at a time when Islam faced the greatest 
threat to its existence in India due to the irreligious practices of the Mughal 
Emperor Akbar who, with his grotesque religious innovations, including the 
introduction of "Deen-i-Elahi", had considerably weakened Islam, thus striking 
at its very foundation. In such an atmosphere was born Sheikh Ahmad who 
boldly faced the mighty Emperor and his misguided associates, and restored 
Islam to its pristine glory. His courageous stand for the purification of Islam by 
ruthless and fearless campaigning against the irreUgious practices introduced by 
Akbar, set an example to the future generations of Muslims to fight against any 
encroachment on their great religion. 

Sheikh Ahmad Farooqi, Reformer of the Second millenium of the Hejira 
Era and universally acclaimed as the Saint of Sirhind, was born in 1564 at 
Sirhind, a town in East Punjab. His family originally belonged to Madina and 


292 Hundred Great Muslims 

his great ancestor was Hazrat Abdullah ibn Umar Faiooq. From Madina his 
ancestors migrated to Kabul and thence to Samana in the Patiala State. His 
father Sheikh Abdul Ahad was reputed for his high learning and religious 
background. Sheikh Ahmad was his fourth son. After receiving his early education 
from his father, he proceeded to Lahore and Sialkot for higher education. At 
Sifllkot he obtained religious education from such reputed scholars as Maulana 
Kamaluddin Kashmiri and Maulana Yaqub Kashmiri. Another well-known 
scholar of the time, Qazi Bahlol Badakhshani taught him jurisprudence. Sirat 
and history. 

Having been well versed in worldly education at an early age of 17, Sheikh 
Ahmad diverted his attention towards spiritual education. He was initiated into 
the Qadiriya System by his father and later by Shah Sikandar> On his fathra's 
death in 1007 A.H. he became the disciple of Khwaja Baqi Billah, a great mystic 
saint of Delhi, who appointed him his lieutenant in Sirhind. 

In one of his letters, the Saint writes about Sheikh Ahmad : "In Sirhind is 
a person Sheikh Ahmad by name whose knowledge is extensive and whose will 
power is immense. For a few days he was with me. I chanced to observe very 
strange things from the way he behaved and passed his days. I hope he would 
prove such a shining light as would illumine the entire world. He is sure to 
attain perfection in mysticism and spiritualism which further leads me to 
confirm what I have said above". 

Sheikh Ahmad, too, had great regard for his illustrious teacher. In one of 
his works, the Mabda wa Ma'ad, he writes: "It is my conviction that the 
company like that of Khwaja Baqi Billah and a training and guidance like the 
one imparted to us during the time of the Holy Prophet, has not been possible. 
This is a fit occasion of thankgjving. Although it has not been my good fortune 
to have been present in the days of the Prophet, yet I have not been deprived 
of the company of Khwaja Baqi Billah". 

Later, Sheikh Ahmad went to Akbarabad (Agra), the seat of the Mughal 
Empire, where he came into close contact with Faizi and Abul Fazal, the two 
intellectual luminaries of the Imperial Court, who were highly impressed by his 
deep knowledge. It is said that once Faizi got stuck up and could not find 
suitable words for certain Quranic verses in connection with his Swati-al-Ilham, 
the dotless commentary of the Holy Quran. His further progress in this 
connection had come to a standstill when perchance the Sheikh happened to 
arrive there and solved the problem without much difficulty. Abul Fazal in his 
momentous work, Aeen-e-Akbari, considers Sheikh Ahmad as one of the 
intellectual giants of the age. Once Abul Fazal, in his discussion with the Sheikh, 
used disrespectful language about Imam GhazaU. The Sheikh lost his temper and 
openly rebuked the powerful Prime Minister for using objectionable remarks 
against such a well-known Savant and until Abul Fazal apologised for his 
conduct, the Sheikh did not visit him. 

Hundred Great Muslims 293 

The frequent contacts of the Sheikh with the two talented brothers 
enabled him to acquire first-hand knowledge of the scepticism and irreligiosity 
pervading the Mughal Court and the two brothers, too, realised the high 
intellect and indomitable courage of the Sheikh. During his stay at Agra, he 
wrote several treatises in Arabic and Persian including, Mabda wa Ma'ad and 

He married the daughter of Sheikh Sultan, a nobleman of Thanesar. He 
built a Stately Mosque out of the Dowry brought by his wife. He had seven sons 
from his wife. 

He died on December 10, 1624 and was buried in the small town of 
Sir hind. 

During the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Islam in India was at its 
lowest ebb and its tenets were openly violated. People were encouraged to adopt 
anti-Islamic ways. The Emperor himself, surrounded by irreligious courtiers, was 
more inclined towards Hinduism and had promulgated Deen-e-Elahi as the state 
religion which was the negation of some of the basic principles of Islam. The 
celebrated historian Badayuni in his well-known historical work Muntakhabat- 
Twarikh throws ample light on the un-Islamic activities of Akbar and some of 
his courtiers. He says : "Public prayers and the Azan which was called five times 
a day for prayer in the state hall, were stopped. Names like Ahmad, Muhammad 
and Mustafa, etc. were offensive to His Majesty, who thereby wished to please 
the infidels outside and the princesses (Hindu women) inside the harem till 
after sometime those Courtiers who bore such names changed them; and names 
like Yar Muhammad, Muhammad Khan were altered to Rahmat. (Muntakhabat- 
Twarikh by Abdul Qadir Badayuni, Vol. II, page 314). Badayuni further states: 
"During the Nauroz festivities most of the Ulema, pious men and Qazis were 
forced to participate in carousals .... A separate quarter was built for this 
legalised adultery in a land of Islam and was named Shaitanpura. He appointed 
a Keeper, a Deputy and a Secretary for the quarter so that anyone wishing to 
associate with those wenches or take them home or hire, may do so with the 

full knowledge of the government officials The killing of animals 

on the first day of the week was strictly prohibited, because this day was sacred 
to the Sun (Vol. II, page 322). A second order was issued by the Emperor that 
the Sun should be worshipped four times a day. A thousand names of the Sun 
were diligently collected and Akbar devoutly read them over standing with his 

face towards the Sun The accursed Birbal tried to persuade the Emperor 

that since the Sun gives light to all and ripens grains and fruits as well as supports 
human life, therefore this heavenly body should be the object of worship and 
veneration, that face should be turned towards the rising and not towards the 
setting Sun, i.e. the West as the Muslims do. He was further told to venerate 
fire, stones and trees and all other objects of nature even down to the cows and 
their dung, so sacred to the Hindus . . . . He smeared his forehead with the 
Hindu marks of tilak at noon and at midnight". 

It would be seen that Akbar's policies and way of life were extremely 

294 Hundred Great Muslims 

detrimental to the healthy growth of a society based on Islamic principles. 
Islam met its greatest threat from within during his reign. Its basic principles 
were not only defied but ridiculed. All opposition was suppressed either by 
money or by force. This was the proper occasion for the appearance of a reformer 
who could have the courage to face the onslaughts of a degenerated Imperial 
system aimed at wiping out all traces of Islamic culture and religion from India. 
The great reformer who appeared on the scene was Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi. He 
boldly faced Akbar. With his indomitable will and incessant efforts, he once 
more firmly implanted Islam on the Indian soil and established a society based 
on equality, fraternity and justice preached by Islam. It was primarily due to the 
great moral and religious influence which Sheikh Ahmad wielded during his 
lifetime and thereafter, that the Mughal Emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and 
Aurangzeb and the ruling class as a whole came closer and closer to Islam. 

The early period of the reign of Jahangir was troublesome for the Sheikh. 
His increasing popularity in the army and high personages -alarmed the Emperor, 
who was systematically prejudiced against the Sheikh by interested persons. 
A showdown looked imminent. The Emperor was advised to summon the Sheikh 
and question him about his views, which, according to the informers, were 
slowly sowing the germs of revolution and indiscipline in the Imperial army. 
Accordingly, the Sheikh was summoned by Jahangir who, not being satisfied 
with the explanation offered by the Sheikh, cast him into Gwalior prison. 
Earlier, Shah Jahan, a sincere disciple of the Sheikh, had advised him through his 
associates to perform the customary obeisance before the Emperor, but the 
dauntless Sheikh flatly refused to do so, saying that such a bow was permitted 
for Almighty only. 

Sheikh Ahmad remained in the Gwalior prison for a year. His exemplary 
character and teachings revolutionised the life of the criminals who came into 
contact with him in the jail and became pious Muslims. Sir Thomas Arnold 
says: "In the reign of Emperior Jahangir (1605-1628), Sheikh Ahmad Mujaddid 
who was kept in prison converted to Islam several hundred idolators who were 
his companions in the same prison" (Preaching of Islam). 

This solitary confinement of the Sheikh was, according to his own 
confessions in a letter to one Mir Muhammad Noman, a blessing in disguise 
which gave him time for meditation and cultivation of other spiritual as well as 
moral virtues. The haughty Mughal Emperor, at last realized his mistake, set the 
Sheikh free and bestowed all honours on him. Writing in his Memoirs on the 
15th anniversary of his accession, Jahangir says: "1 called to my presence Sheikh 
Ahmad who had spent sometime in the prison and set him free. I gave him a 
Khilaat (Robe) and one thousand rupees, with the option to stay at the Court 
or return to his home. He was fair enough to admit that the chastisement had 
done him good". 

Jahangir abolished the Deen-i-Elahi of Akbar and restored the practice 
of Shariat Law throughout his realm. Henceforward, Sheikh Ahmad was adviser 
of the State in all religious matters and was free to preach his Islamic principles 
among all classes of people including the Imperial forces. His moral teachings 
had greatly influenced the army and the nobles, who now came closer to the 
true spirit of Islam. 

Hundred Great Muslims 295 

Jahangir, the Mughal Emperor, had himself requested the Sheikh to 
remain with the Imperial army. The Sheikh complied and preached true Islam 
among the troops which greatly contributed to enhancing the morale of armed 
forces as well as prepared them for their duties towards Islam and the State. 

Sheikh Ahmad, the Saint of Sirhind, was an outstanding religious reformer, 
who amended and rectified some of the wrong doctrines as well as practices 
introduced among Muslims by sufis. His father had succeeded Abdul Quddus 
Gangohi as the Chief of the Chishtiya Sect, an office which later on devolved 
on Sheikh Ahmad. But the austere Saint did not participate in Soma practised 
by this sect. He was all-in-all for the strict enforcement of Islamic Shariat. As 
regards mysticism, he strongly repudiated, Wahdat-ul-Wajud (the unity of 
existence), the doctrine of mystical unity advanced by Ibn-al-Arabi, the 
celebrated mystic of Spain. 

This doctrine propounded by Ibn al-Arabi was extremely popular among 
mystics, but it failed to win the approval of orthodox religious teachers as it 
conflicted with the Shariat of Islam. Being an orthodox Muslim, Sheikh Ahmad 
was against the doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wajud and was in search of a preceptor 
who could guide him in the matter. This he got in the person of Hazrat Khwaja 
Baqi Billah, a Naqshbandi Saint of Delhi. Sheikh Ahmad acquired highest 
spiritual teaching and experience from Hazrat Baqi Billah. Sheikh Ahmad 
discarded the doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wajud and instead adopted the doctrine of 
Wahdat us Shuhud and developed it with exceptional thoroughness and daring. 
"According to Sheikh Ahmad", says Dr. Iqbal, "the Alam-i-Amr or the world 
of directive energy, must be passed through before one reaches that unique 
experience which symbolises the purely objective". 

Imam Rabbani Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi, strove throughout his 
life to restore Islamic Shariat in all its purity among the Indian Muslims who 
were led astray in the anti-Islamic regime of Akbar and Jahangir. His new doctrine 
stirred the MusUm masses and narrowed down the gulf between the Ulema and 
the Sufis (mystics). He boldly practised what he preached and lived up to his 
convictions when he refused to kiss the ground before the Mughal Emperor 

Sheikh Ahmad was a zealous missionary and a revolutionary religious 
reformer. He wrote epistles to Muslim nobles exhorting them to undo the evil 
effects of anti-Islamic activities carried on during the regime of Akbar. He 
campaigned for the full-blooded enforcement of Shariat Laws through epistles 
to nobles, lectures and discourses to the common man. His epistles exist in three 
volumes, namely (I) Durul Maarifat (containing 313 epistles), (2) Durul Khalaiq 
(containing 97 lengthy epistles, and (3) Maarifat ul Haqaiq (containing 124 

The first volume consists of epistles addressed to his teacher Hazrat Baqi 
Billah and Muslim nobles containing dissertations on religious and intellectual 
subjects. The second volume contains epistles dealing with tenets of Islam and 
mysticism. The third volume, compiled after his death contains an epistle 
addressed to Mughal Emperor Jahangir. His epistles fully bring out not only 
his spiritual and intellectual abilities but also his courageous stand against a 

296 Hundred Great Muslims 

despotic power countenancing irreligious activities. His epistles (Maktubaat) 
fully expose the irreligiosity of the majority of Ulema and their adherence to 
un-Islamic practices. 

In one of his epistles he writes : "In the days gone by, the infidels being 
in power dominated the Muslims and openly ordered them to observe Hindu 
customs and injunctions. The Muslims could not practise their faith and if they 
attempted to do so, they had to pay with their lives. What a pity ! Woe betide 
the followers of the Prophet, the chosen and most favoured of God, are these 
days humiliated while the disbelievers are honoured and exalted. Not only this 
but also the infidels jeer at them, adding insult to injury". 

In another epistle he writes: "The infidels are demolishing mosques and 
converting them into temples and godowns. At Thanesar, a mosque and the 
shrine of a Muslim saint have been razed to the ground. A large temple has 
replaced both. The infidels enjoy complete freedom in the observance of their 
religious rites; the Muslims are inhibited and helpless in the same measure". 
Such was the state of affairs in the reign of Akbar the Great, who, in the lust 
for Hindu women, had forsaken all morality, decency and propriety. Jahangir, 
in his later days, changed his mind, and under the influence of Sheikh Ahmad 
enforced Shariat Law throughout his vast Empire. He came to cherish great 
regard for the pious Sheikh, who, in one of his epistles, pays tribute to his love 
for Islam. 

Sheikh Ahmad continued to wield great influence long after his death. 
His teachings as well as his courageous stand against the Mughal power continues 
to inspire the freedom fighters and his Urs (death anniversary) is celebrated 
with great pomp at Sirhind. Every year the pilgrims flock from all parts of the 
subcontinent to his shrine at Sirhind to pay homage to one who stood like a 
rock in the most critical period of the history of MusUm India. 

His descendants continued his noble mission. Emperor Aurangzeb is said 
to have become a disciple of his son, Khwaja Muhammad Masoom. 

The great Saint was the founder of Mujaddidiya sub-order which has made 
invaluable contribution to the enforcement of Shariat (Islamic Law). In his 
Kalemaat-e-Tayyaba; 'Imamul Hind Shah Waliullah of Delhi pays him high 
tributes, as the leveller of inequalities in Islamic thought, a paragon of spiritual 
guidance and a revealer of many special realities.' 

Mama Iqbal, the greatest Poet-Philosopher of Islam, pays appropriate 
tributes to the Saint of Sirhind when he says : 

"Gardan na jhuki jiski Jahangir ke aage, 
Jis ke nafas-i-garm se hai garmi-e-Ahrar 
Woh Hind men sarmaya-e-millat ka nigahban 
Allah ne bar waqt kia jis ko khabardar." 

(Whose neck did not bend before Jahangir and whose breath warms the 
hearts of fighters for freedom. He was the protector of Islamic faith in 
India and one who was alarmed by God at the right moment.) 


Dr. Iqbal, the poet of the East, has characterized the celebrated Mughal 
Emperor Aurangzeb as " (J^ t^ji*\j^ u(7' ^'^ '^^^ arrow in the 

quiver of Muslim power in indiaj. The anli-lslamic forces which had raised their 
head during the reign of the irreligious Emperor Akbar and later found their 
champions in Jahangjr and Dara Shikoh were, to a great extent, checked by 
Aurangzeb, the most honest, conscientious and able Muslim monarch that 
ascended the throne of Delhi. 

With his passing away in 1707 A.C. started the political chaos which later 
culminated in the disintegration of the Muslim power in the subcontinent. This 
political disintegration which was the result of spiritual confusion encompassed 
the socio-economic spheres also. Aurangzeb's successors were too weak and 
incapable of facing the rebellious forces emerging on all hands. At such a critical 
period of Muslim history was born Shah Waliullah, the greatest religious thinker 
produced by Muslim India who has contributed immensely to the reintegration 
of the structure of Islam. 

Shah Waliullah was born in 1703 A.C. four years before the death of 
Aurangzeb. His grandfather, Sheikh Wajihuddin, was an important officer in the 
army of Shah Jahan who supported Prince Aurangzeb in the war of succession. 
His father. Shah Abdur Rahim, a sufl and an eminent scholar assisted in the 
compilation of Fatwa-i-Alamgiri— the voluminous code of Islamic law. He, 
however, refused an invitation to visit the Emperor and devoted his energies to 
the organisation and teaching at 'Madrassa Rahimia— a Theological College which 
he had established and which, later, played an important part in the religious 
emancipation of Muslim India and became the breeding ground of religious 
reformers and 'Mujahids' ]jke Shah WaliuUah, Shah Abdul Aziz, Syed Ahmad of 
Bareli, Maulvi Abdul Haiy and Shah Ismail Shaheed. Writing about the teachings 
of Shah Abdur Rahim and his brother, Maulana Ubaidullah Sir Jhi observes : 

"The essence of the teaching of the two brothers was the effort to discover 
a path which could be traversed together by the Muslim philosophers (the 
Sufis and iheMutakallim) and the Muslim Jurists (Faqih)". 

Shah Waliullah received his early education from his illustrious father, who 
was his teacher as well as his spiritunl guide. Being a precocious child with a 


298 Hundred Great Muslims 

retentive memory he committed the Holy Quran to memory at an early age of 7 
years. On the death of his father in 113 1 A.H. when he was hardly 17 years old 
he started teaching in his father's Madrassa Rahimiya and carried on the work 
for 1 2 years when he left for Arabia for higher studies. He was a brilliant scholar ; 
during fourteen months' stay in Makkah and Madina he came into contact with 
the outstanding teachers of Hejaz. His favourite teacher was Sheikh Abu Tahir 
bin Ibrahim of Madina, from whom he obtained his Sanad (Degree) in Hadis 
(Tradition). The Sheikh was an erudite scholar, possessing encyclopaedic 
knowledge ; Shah Waliullah benefited much from him too and speaks highly of 
his piety, independence of judgement and scholarly talents. 

During his stay at Makkah, Shah Waliullah had a dream in which the Holy 
Prophet commanded him to work for the organisation and emancipation of the 
Muslim community in the subcontinent. He, therefore, returned to Delhi on 
July 9, 1732 and started his work in real earnest. His was an uphill task in a 
period when Muslim India was passing through the most critical phase of its 
history and its entire social, political, economic and spiritual fabric was torn to 
pieces. On his arrival in Delhi, he started training pupils in diverse branches of 
Islamic learning and entrusted them with the missionary work of enlightening 
people with the true nature of Islam. He embarked upon the task of producing 
standard works on Islamic learning and, before his death in 1762, completed a 
large number of outstanding works on Islam. 

He rose to be a great scholar of Islamic studies, endowed with saintly 
qualities. So great was his dedication to work that, according to his talented son 
Shah Abdul Aziz, "he was rarely ill and once he sat down to work after 'Jshraq' 
(post-sunrise prayers) he would not change his posture, till midday". He was a 
real genius, an intellectual giant who set himself to the mission of educating the 
misguided Muslim masses with the true spirit of Islam. His was the task of the 
revival of Islam in the subcontinent which had been clouded with mystic 
philosophy and to bring it out in its pristine glory. He was a humble devotee to 
his cause, who resisted all temptations of personal glory. 

His activities were not confined to spiritual and intellectual spheres only. 
He lived in troubled times and witnessed during his lifetime about a dozen rulers 
occupying the throne of Delhi. Endowed with a keen political insight, he observed 
with deep anguish the breaking up of Muslim power in the subcontinent and 
wrote to leading political dignitaries like Ahmad Shah Abdali, Nizam ul Mulk 
and Najibuddaula to stop the rot which had set in the political life of Muslim 
India. It was on account of his call that Ahmad Shah Abdali appeared on the 
field of Panipat in 1 76 1 and put an end to the Marhatta dream of dominating 
the subcontinent. 

Shah Waliullah was a prolific writer. It is in the realm of Islamic learning 
that he made a lasting contribution and within a period of 30 years produced 
more than 50 works of outstanding merit, both in Arabic and Persian languages. 
Some of these are still unsurpassed in the whole domain of Islamic literature. 

Hundred Great Muslims 299 

His most valuable service to the cause of Islamic learning was that he codified 
the vast store of Islamic teachings under separate heads. Both in thought and 
prediction, his works occupy an outstanding place. As a reformer and as a 
propounder of theories dealing with socialism, he may be considered as the 
forerunner of Karl Marx. 

His works may be classified into six categories. The first deals with the 
Holy Quran. It includes his translation of the Holy Book into Persian, the 
literary languages of the subcontinent of those times. According to him, the 
object of studying the Holy Book is "to reform human nature and correct the 
wrong beliefs, and injurious actions". The second category deals with Hadis 
(Traditions) in which he has left behind several works including an Arabic and 
Persian Commentaries on Muwatta, the well-known collection of the Traditions 
of the Holy Prophet compiled by Imam Malik. He attached great importance to 
this collection of Traditions by Imam Malik, even greater than those of Imam 
Bukhari and Imam MusUm. He is an outstanding Muhaddis (Traditionist) and 
links of all modern scholars of Hadis in the subcontinent may be traced to him. 
Foremost among these modern Traditionahsts were his son and successor Shah 
Abdul Aziz and Syed Murtaza Bilgrami. Shah WaliuUah wrote a number of books 
and pamphlets dealing with Hadis. The third category deals with 'Fiqh' or 
Islamic Jurisprudence, which includes Insaf-fi-bayan-i-Sahab-al-Ikhtilaf which is 
brief but a very interesting and informative history of the Islamic Jurisprudence 
of the last five centuries. The fourth category deals with his works based on 
mysticism. The fifth category pertains to his works on MusUm philosophy and 
Ilm-al-Kalam. He also wrote a pamphlet on the principles of 'ijtihad ' (indepen- 
dent interpretation) and taqlid (conformity). In his principles of ijtihad he 
clarifies whether it is obligatory for a Muslim to adhere to one of the four 
recognised schools of Islamic Jurisprudence or whether he can exercise his own 
judgement. In the opinion of Shah WaliuUah, a layman should rigidly follow his 
own Imam but a person well versed in Islamic law can exercise his own judge- 
ment which should be in conformity with the practice'of the Holy Prophet. But 
the most outstanding of all his works is Hujjat-Ullah-il-Balighah which deals with 
such aspects of Islam that are common among all Muslim countries. In its 
introduction he observes : "Some people think that there is no usefulness involved 
in the injunctions of Islamic law and that in actions and rewards as prescribed by 
God there is no beneficial purpose. They think that the commandments of 
Islamic law are similar to a master ordering his servant to lift a stone or touch a 
tree in order to test his obedience and that in this there is no purpose except to 
impose a test so that if the servant obeys, he is rewarded, and if he disobeys, he 
is punished. This view is completely incorrect. The Traditions of the Holy 
Prophet and the consensus of opinion of those ages, contradict this view". 

The sixth category deals with his works on Shia-Sunni problem which had 
become somewhat acute in those days. His writings on this subject have done 
a great deal in simplifying this problem. His theories pertaining to economics 
and socialism are of revolutionary nature and he may be considered as the 
precurser of Karl Marx. Writing about his works in the History of the Freedom 

300 Hundred Great Muslims 

Movement, Sheikh Muhammad Dcrain states: "Shah Waliullah wrote learned 
works and initiated powerful and beneficial movements, but perhaps no less 
important are the invisible qualities of approach and outlook, which he 
bequeathed to Muslim religious thought in the Indo— Pakistan subcontinent. His 
work is characterized by knowledge, insight, moderation and tolerance, but the 
quality on which he laid the greatest emphasis, in theory and in practice, 
was Adl or Adalat (justice, fairness, balance). His works and views bear ample 
testimony to the ways he observed this principle in practice and he lost few 
opportunities of emphasising in theory its role in maintaining the social fabric" . 

Shah Waliullah introduced several reforms in religious and economic 
spheres. He was first to translate the Holy Quran in a popular language, a 
practice which was later usefully followed by others. His own son. Shah Abdul 
Aziz, translated the Holy Book into Urdu, the language of Muslim masses in 
India. There had been a conflict between orthodox Islam revived under 
Mujaddid-Alif-Sani, championed by Aurangzeb and heterodoxy introduced by 
Akbar and championed by Dara Shikoh. The reign of orthodox Aurangzeb had 
created aversion to Sufism and had led to the advent of extreme puritanism. 
Shah Waliullah struck a mean between the two extremes and retained the virtues 
of both. 

He was bom in an atmosphere deeply imbued with the spirit of Sufism. 
His father was a well-known Sufi. In his early age, he came under the influence 
of Ibn Taimiya, a great religious reformer. During his stay in Hejaz, he came into 
contact with scholars who were influenced by Wahabism. This provided a check 
to his blind following of Sufism. But unlike Wahabis, he did not totally discard 
Sufism. He was aware of the services rendered by Sufis in popularising Islam in 
the subcontinent and the spiritual self developed by the truly Islamic from of 
Sufism. But he was highly critical of the decadent and traditional form of Sufism 
which borders on the verge of asceticism and is, therefore, averse to true Islam. 
In his Wasiyat Noma (Will) he observes: "And the next advice (Wasiyat) is that 
one should not entrust one's affairs to and become a disciple of the Saints of this 
period who are given to a number of irregularities". Shah Saheb had urged for 
the reform and discipline of Sufism and not its rejection. He wrote several 
pamphlets on this subject in which he analysed the evils and virtues of Sufism. 
"With these books", writes Maulana Manazir Ahsan, "the disputes between the 
Sufis and the Ulema, provided one is just, come to an end. By giving an Islamic 
interpretation to the Sufi doctrines. Shah Waliullah removed the distaste which 
the Ulema had felt for Sufism and the Sufis". Shah Waliullah had, therefore, not 
only bridged the gulf between the Sufis and Ulema but also harmonised the 
differences prevalent among different sects of Sufis. His principles on the subject 
were put into practice in the great Theological College of Deoband, which had 
among its patrons such well-known Sufis like Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi 
and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. 

Shah Waliullah set upon the mission of reforming the social and political 
order of his day. Being a realist, he diagonised the ills which had entered into the 

Hundred Great Muslims 301 

body politic of Muslim society and suggested remedies. He criticised the 
un-Islamic customs which had crept into Muslim society due to its contact with 
Hinduism. He was particularly against excessive extravagance in marriages, 
festivals and other ceremonies. He advocated the remarriage of widows. He care- 
fully analysed the factors responsible for the economic degeneration of Muslim 
society during his time and proposed radical changes in the economy of Muslim 
society. He advocated wider distribution of wealth on socialistic lines and in this 
way became the forerunner of Karl Marx. In an illuminating chapter of Hujjat- 
Ullah-il-Baligah, he outlined the evils of capitalism which brought about the fall 
of the Roman and Sassanid Empires. He is highly critical of the economic 
exploitation of the poor, which, in the past, had brought about many revolutions 
and is the root cause of all troubles and unrest in the world. He even criticised 
the Mughal rulers and nobility for their indolence and luxury. Addressing the 
rapacious nobiUty of his time he observes: ''^Oh Amirs! Do you not fear God? 
(How is it that) you have so completely thrown yourself into the pursuit of 
momentary pleasures and have neglected those people who have been committed 

to your care! The result is that the strong are devouring the (weak) people 

All your mental faculties are directed towards providing yourself with sumptuous 
food and soft-skinned women for enjoyment and pleasure. You do not turn 
your attention to anything except good clothes and magnificent palaces". 

Shah WaliuUah was of the opinion that intellectual revolution should 
precede political change. He did not contemplate a change with political or 
social set-up through a bloody revolution, He wanted to bring revolutionary 
change in the society through peaceful means. In his well-known book, Izalat-al- 
Khifa, he discusses the ideology of political revolution which he envisaged. 

No scholar of Mediaeval India had understood the various aspects of civics 
as had been done by Shah WaliuUah. He considered "selfconsciousness" as a 
prerequisite of "political consciousness". He has dealt in detail the factors which 
contribute towards the growth of civil consciousness in his immortal work 
Hujjat- Ullah-il-Baligah. 

Shah WaliuUah was, perhaps, the only Muslim scholar of Mediaeval India 
who realised the importance of economics in a social and political set-up. He 
advocated the maintenance of economic equihbrium in the society and strongly 
criticised the accumulation of wealth which leads to all sorts of evils in the 
world. He had visualised a social order based on economic equality, fraternity 
and brotherhood which are the principles governing Islamic socialistic practices 
during the time of the pious Caliphs. 

Born in an age of decadence and chaos. Shah WaliuUah strove for a world 
of peace and prosperity. He has made a singular contribution to the socio- 
economic thought of Mediaevel India and visualised a Muslim society in which 
the individual enjoyed the fuUest freedom, consistent with the maximimi good 
of aU. In such an ideal Islamic state, the ruler was to be governed by the Holy 
Quran and Sunnah. No economic exploitation was to be tolerated in such a 
state and the individual was free to earn his living by fair means. 

302 Hundred Great Muslims 

His seminary, Madrassa RaMmiya became the centre of Islamic Renaissance 
in the subcontinent, where scholars flocked from the four comers of the country 
and after being trained, became the torch bearers of freedom movement in 
the subcontinent. The "Madrasa" in fact, had become the nucleus of the 
revolutionary movement for the reconstruction of religious thought in Islam. It 
produced many zealous workers who carried on their preacher's mission with a 
missionary zeal. Among these were Maulana Muhammad Ashiq of Phulat, 
Maulana NooruUah of Budhana, Maulana Amin Kashmiri, Shah Abu Saeed of 
Rai Bareli and his own son, Shah Abdul Aziz who was initiated into the religious 
and political philosophy of his father. 

Shah Waliullah played a vital role in the Indian poUtics of his times. He 
was greatly instrumental in forging a united Muslim front against the rising 
Marhatta power which was threatening the last vestige of the Muslim power in 
northern India. It was he who wrote to Najibuddaula, and Nizam ul-Mulk and 
finally invited Ahmad Shah Abdali who inflicted a crushing defeat on the 
Marhattas in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. His letter to Ahmad Shah 
Abdali inviting him to take up arms against the menacing Marhatta power in 
India is one of the most important historical documents of the 18th century. 
It surveys the political situation in the subcontinent and the dangers which 
Muslim India faced from different quarters. He had chosen the most vivid, 
capable and disciplined Muslim leaders of his time for combating the Marhattas. 
Among these were Najibuddaula, the leader of the redoubtable Rohilas and 
Ahmad Shah Abdali, the ruler of the brave Pathans. His efforts towards forging a 
united front against the Marhattas were successful and the defeat of Marhattas in 
the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 provided a turning point in the history of 
the subcontinent. 

Shah Waliullah visualised an ideal State of the days of Pious Caliphs and 
strove to revive it. Analysing his political thought, Iqbal states : 

"The prophetic method of teaching, according to Shah Waliullah, is that, 
generally speaking, the law revealed by a prophet takes especial notice of 
the habits, ways and peculiarities of the people to whom he is specifically 
sent. The Prophet who aims at all-embracing principles, however, can 
neither reveal different peoples nor leave them to work out their own rules 
of conduct. His method is to train one particular people and to use it as a 
nucleus for the build up of a universal 'Shariat '. In doing so he accentuates 
the principles underlying the social life of all mankind and applies them to 
concrete cases in the light of the specific habits of the people immediately 
before him". (Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam). 

The movement of political as well as spiritual regeneration of Muslim India 
did not die with Shah Waliullah. His talented son. Shah Abdul Aziz, and his 
worthy disciples and successors, strove for the realisation of his mission. The 
torch of Islamic revival kindled by Shah Waliullah was kept aloft by his worthy 
successors. The echo of the Third Battle of Panipat was heard in the Battle of 

Hundred Great Muslims 303 

Balakot. Both form the landmarks of the same struggle. His followers and 
successors carried on the mission of their master with missionary zeal, both in 
political and intellectual spheres. 

Shah WaliuUah possessed a many-sided and versatile personality. His 
real greatness lies in the cumulative effect produced by his writings, by the 
contribution of persons trained by him and by the achievements of the school of 
thought founded by him. In religious matters he struck a mean between 
extremes, in social affairs he strove to introduce in the Muslim society the 
simplicity and purity of early Islam ; in the sphere of economics he advocated 
the revolutionary Islamic socialism and in the political field he forged a united 
Muslim front against the non-Muslim forces which were threatening to storm 
Muslim India. 


The passing away of the Khilafat-e-Rashida (the Caliphate of Pious Caliphs), 
the glorious democratic rule in the history of Islam, provided a serious setback 
to the spiritual growth of Islam. The material advancement, no doubt, continued 
and boundaries of the Muslim states expanded on all directions bringing new 
realms within their fold, but the spirit which guided the actions of Pious Caliphs 
was gone. The spiritual glory was replaced by material progress. 

The advent of Omayyads, provided a death blow to the spiritual democratic 
rule witnessed during Khilafat-e-Rashida. Instead, a hereditary despotic monarchy 
in the name of Khilafat-e-Banu Umayya was introduced by the Umayyads in 
which Baitul-Mal (Public Treasury) was at the mercy of the rulers who used it as 
they wanted in furthering their nefarious ends and in maintaining their pomp 
and show. The nobility of Islam perished in their encounters with Umayyads, 
like Yezid ibn Ziyad and above aU Hajjaj bin Yusuf, one of the greatest tyrants 
of all ages, on whose death the Saint of Basra, Hasan Basri, thanked God for 
relieving Muslims of such a 'Scourge'. 

The Abbasides who succeeded Omayyads attained an unprecedented 
standard of pomp and glory. They were, no doubt, responsible for an unparalleled 
advancement of learning and culture, science and arts during the Mediaeval Ages, 
but they were much influenced by the Persian culture which had crept into the 
diverse walks of life of the Abbaside Metropolis, Baghdad. The introduction of 
Persian culture among the Arabs gave birth to many evils, including the advance- 
ment of mysticism of the Platonic type, which popularised the worshipping of 
Saints and their graves by the Muslims. The dynamic worldly life led side by side 
with the spiritual devotion as preached and practised by the Holy Prophet of 
Islam and his worthy Companions was replaced by the pessimism and negative 
spirituahsm of Mystics who laid all emphasis on the world hereafter. 

This pollution of Islamic spirit and thought reached a high pitch in a 
number of Muslim states, including India, where all sorts of irreligious and super- 
stitious Hindu practices were adopted by the MusUms. The illiterate Mughal 
Emperor Akbar, who has been acclaimed as "Akbar, the Great" by the non- 
Muslim historians, had adopted many Hindu rituals and practices in his State and 
had introduced a new religion, 'Deen-e-Elahi', which could hardly fetch more 
than a few followers, including the Faizi brothers, and met its natural death on 
the passing away of its sponsor. 


Hundred Great Muslims 305 

Arabia, the birth place of Islam, was languishing in a neglected state since 
the downfall of the Abbasides. The Arabs, torn by strife and tribal rivalries, had 
lost their spiritual as well as material progress. In such a gloomy atmosphere was 
born in 1703 A.C. in Najd, a great Muslim visionary and reformer, Sheikh 
Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, who later became the pioneer of Muslim puritan 
movement, aimed at restoring Islam to its pristine glory. The Wahhabi Movement 
aimed at purifying Islam of the unhealthy and superstitious practices which had 
crept into it due to its contacts with non-Mamie influences. 

Abd al-Wahhab, belonging to Banu Sinan, a branch of Tamim was born in 
1703 A.C. at Uyaina, a place now in ruins. He studied at Madina under Sulaiman 
al-Kurdi and Muhammad Hayat al-Sindi, both of whom detected in this promising 
young man, the signs of 'litihad'. Later, he spent many years in travels, four 
years in Basra and five years in Baghdad, one year in Kurdistan, two years in 
Hamdan and four years in Isfahan, where he studied the Mystic and Ishrakiya 
philosophy. Returning to Uyaina, he spent about a year in speculation. There- 
after, he publicly preached his doctrines as set forth in his Kitab al-Tauhid. 
Initially, he met with some success but much opposition, mostly from his own 
relations, including his brother, Sulaiman, and his cousin Abdullah bin Husain. 
His views attracted attention outside Uyaina. He left alongwith his family his 
ancestral place and was received at Dariya, where the Chieftain Muhammad 
bin Saud accepted his doctrine and undertook its propagation. 

Within a year of his arrival at Dariya, Abd al-Wahhab won the assent of 
almost all the inhabitants of the town. He built a simple mosque there with a 
floor of uncarpeted gravel. His doctrine won more and more of adherents. His 
patron, the Saud family, was involved in a war with other chieftains lasting for 
28 years. Ehiring this period Ibn Saud and his son Abd al-Aziz, a capable General, 
were steadily winning ground. In 1765, Ibn Saud died and was succeeded by his 
son, Abd al-Aziz, who retained Abd al-Wahhab as his spiritual guide. 

The Wahhabi Theology is mainly based on the teachings of Ibn Taimiya 
and its jurisprudence on the Hanbali Fiqh. Its fundamental principles are: 

(1) Absolute Oneness of God, hence its followers call themselves Mowahhidin; 

(2) Return to the original teachings of Islam as incorporated in Holy Quran and 
Traditions; (3) Inseparability of faith from action like prayers, alms-giving; (4) 
Belief that Quran was imcreated; (5) Literal belief in Quran and Traditions ; (6) 
Belief in predestination ; (7) Condemnation of all non-orthodox views and act ; 
and (8) Establishment of the Muslim State on Islamic Law exclusively. 

The Wahhabis are distinguished from all other Muslims by their emphasis 
on oneness of God and their practice of admonishing Muslims to do good and 
avoid evil. 

The name of Wahhabi was given to this community by its opponents 
which was later used by Europeans. In fact, they call themselves Mowahhidin, 
or ututarians and their system as "Tarika Muhammadi". Their theology was 

306 Hundred Great Muslims 

based on the teachings of Ibn Taimiya who criticised the cult of saints and 
condemned the visits to tombs. The aim of Abd al-Wahhab was to do away with 
all the innovations (Bida) that weie adopted by Muslims latei than the Third 
century A.H. This community acknowledges the authority of four Sunni Schools 
of Fiqh and the six books of Traditions. The Wahhabis are against the cult of 
saints as exhibited in the building of mausoleums, their use as mosques and their 
visitations. They beUeve that aU the objects of worship other than that of AUah 
are false. According to them, it is polytheism to seek intercession from any 
person except AUah. The Wahhabis mosques were built with great simplicity 
without ornamentation. They destroyed tombs and graves, even at Jannat 
ul-Baqi, lest these maybe worshipped by the non-orthodox and ignorant MusUms. 

The Mowahhidin (Wahhabi) movement soon spread to other parts of 
Islamic world, where it had won many adherents. The House of Ibn Saud, 
exponent of Wahhabi movement, soon conquered almost the entire Arabian 
peninsula, including the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina. The movement 
started by Sheikh Abd al-Wahhab found its great champion in the Saudi ruling 
family and his disciple Sheikh Muhammad Abduh of Egypt rose to be one of 
the leading intellectuals of the Islamic world. It created a stir throughout the 
world and was greatly instrumental in uniting the striferidden Arabia under 
the ruling Saudi family. 

In India, the doctrine was introduced by Syed Ahmed Barelvi, who had 
adopted its puritan views during his pilgrimage to Holy cities in 1822. He 
established a centre at Patna and acquired a large following. He undertook Jihad 
(Holy war) against the tyraimy of Sikhs on the Muslims in the Frontier provinces 
and liberated most of the province from the Sikh Yoke but ultimately he was 
killed through a conspiracy of his own men who led the Sikh army through a 
secret route behind the Muslim lines at Balakot in 1831 . His disciple Titoo Mir, 
started the Mowahhid movement in lower Bengal. 

The Mowahhid movement had been a threat to British rule in the Frontier 
and Western Punjab till 1871, when the British Goverrunent conspired to get 
Fatwa of the Barelvi Ulema to treat Wahhabis as infidels (kafir). A work of 
Muhammad Ismail known as Simt al-Mustaqim is said to be the Quran of 
Wahhabis in India. 

In India, the well-known Madrassa of Islamic Learning at Deoband, became 
the centre of Mowahhid (Wahhabi) movement in the subcontinent, which 
produced some of the leading reUgious scholars of the present century in the 
subcontinent. The great Muslim visionary Sheikh Abd al-Wahhab died in 1787 
A.C. and was buried at Dariya. His mission was carried on by his disciples, which 
became a powerful Muslim reformist movement during 18—20 century A.C. 


The 18th century was a period of extreme decadence of Muslim power in 
India. On the death of the great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, had 
started the disintegration of his vast dominions embracing the whole of the 
Indian subcontinent. His successors were too weak to arrest the process of 
decadence and disruption besetting it. Not only the Muslim political power had 
rapidly declined and was soon at its lowest ebb but also their economic, religious 
and cultural life showed signs of extreme degeneration. The central power which 
held together the opposing groups and shielded their weakness was itself breaking 
up. The social contacts with the Hindus gave vogue to many whimsical and 
un-lslamic customs which struck at the root of the fundamentals of Islam and 
slowly weakened its hold in India. In such a disruptive and gloomy atmosphere 
was bom Shah WaliuUah, a great intellectual reformer, whose teachings paved 
the way for the renaissance of Islam in India, both in religious and political 
spheres. Shah WaUuUah was followed in his noble mission by his son Shah Abdul 
Aziz of Delhi and his disciple Syed Ahmad Barelvi, assisted by his associates. 

Syed Ahmad was bom in a famous Syed family of Rai Bareli, known for 
its learning and saintlihood. His great grandfather, Maulvi Ilmullah Saheb was 
highly respected for his deep erudition, purity of life and devotion to God and 
His last Prophet. He refused to accept any gift even from a puritan like Emperor 
Aurangzeb and preferred a life of poverty and abstinence. He was very particular 
about foUowing the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet of Islam. 

Syed Ahmad, who was born on the 1st of Muharram 1201 A.H. (October 
24, 1786), had little inclination towards education during his childhood. He was, 
however, very fond of manly exercises and passed his time in learning and 
practising the use of arms. 

When fully grown up, Syed Ahmad, along with six companions, proceeded 
to Lucknow in search of employment. Lucknow, in those days, was the Capital 
of the Kingdom of Oudh and a great centre of leaming and culture in Northem 
India. But, he did not stay there for long and set out on foot to Delhi in quest of 
knowledge. After a strenuous journey, he called on Shah Abdul Aziz, a well- 
known divine of Delhi, who, on being informed of family connections, entrusted 
him to the care of his brother Shah Abdul Qadir. Syed Ahmad stayed at the 


308 Hundred Great Muslims 

Akbarabadi Mosque of Delhi and studied Quran and Tradition. His spiritual 
guide Shah Abdul Aziz, initiated him into the Chistiya, Qadirya and Naqsh- 
bandiya orders of Sufism. 

After two years' stay at Delhi, which proved a turning point in his Ufe, 
Syed Ahmad returned home, Rai BareU, where he was hailed by the people as a 
divine, known for his exemplary character and simple, pious life. 

His stay at Rai Bareli lasted hardly two years, when, at the age of 24, he 
set out for Tonk to enter the service of Amir Khan. Then followed several years 
of hazardous life and his participation in several campaigns fought by the Amir, 
prepared him for his ultimate struggle for the faith which he was destined to 
lead. His exemplary life and spiritual gifts brought about a transformation 
among the soldiers of Amir Khan. He was respected by all and had become a 
trusted Counseller of Amir Khan. When the latter became subservient to the 
British by accepting the state of Tonk, Syed Ahmad left for Delhi. His freedom- 
loving spirit could not reconcile itself to the service of a Ruler who was 
subordinate to an alien power. 

In 1815, he again arrived at Delhi. His period of preparation was over. 
Now he was a matured man of experience possessing rare spiritual gifts. The two 
outstanding luminaries of Shah Abdul Aziz's family-Shah Ismail, his nephew, 
and Maulana Abdul Haiy, his son-in-law, -accepted Syed Ahmad as their spiritual 
guide. His enrolment as a spiritual disciple of these luminaries of the House of 
Shah Waliullah, enhanced Syed Ahmad's prestige, with the result that people 
began to flock around him in large numbers for spiritual guidance. His proclaimed 
objective was to restore Islam to its pristine purity and to cleanse it of all 
oriental and Hindu influences. 

Syed Ahmad did not confine his beneficial activities to Delhi alone. He 
visited a number of places in Northern India, including Saharanpur, Muzaffar- 
nagar, Deoband, Rampur, Bareli and Shahjahanpur. His two principal lieutenants, 
Shah Ismail Shaheed and Maulvi Abdul Haiy, known for their eloquence and 
learning, popularised his mission with exceptional success. The reform movement 
was in full swing. The tongue of Shah Ismail, the pen of Maulvi Abdul Haiy 
and the magnetic personality of Syed Ahmad, created a stir throughout Northern 
India. Their righteous Ufe and spiritual stature and noble mission brought many 
adherents within its fold. Syed Ahmad, now headed a country-wide organization. 
Many "^vils which had crept into the Muslim society were eradicated. Syed 
Ahmad liimself married a widow, which was considered a very obnoxious 
act, not only by Muslims in general but also by his own family. 

During his stay in Rampur, Syed Ahmad came into contact with certain 
Afghans coming from Kabul, who related to him stories of Sikh atrocities 
committed on Muslims of North-Western India. The Sikhs had extingui^ed the 
religious freedom of Muslims inhabiting that region. They were prohibited from 
calling 'Azan ' and offering prayers in congregation. Enraged at the brutalities 

Hundred Great Muslims 309 

of Sikhs, he resolved to wage Jihad against them after his return from the holy 
pilgrimage to Makkah, whither he proceeded in 1821, accompanied by a large 

His journey through Allahabad, Benares, Ghazipur, Azimabad (Patna), 
Monghyr, Bhagalpur, Murshidabad, terminating at Calcutta, was marked with 
unprecedented enthusiasm and reception. People came in large numbers to 
have a glimpse of the great Reformer and many became his devoted followers. 

From Calcutta, Syed Ahmad and his entourage proceeded to Jedda by sea. 
His stay in the Holy land lasted for more than one and half years. During this 
period he came into contact with many renowned Muslim scholars and learnt 
about many reformatory and revivalist movements in the world of Islam, 
including Wahhabism. 

On his return from the holy pilgrimage, he started preparations for the 
most important task of his Mt, Jihad, which ultimately ended in his martyrdom 
at Balakot in 1831. He sent Shah Ismail and Maulvi Abdul Haiy to different 
parts of the country to inform the people of his intentions to wage a holy war 
against the Sikhs, in whose territories the Ufe, honour and reUgion of Muslims, 
had been gravely threatened. His appeal received an overwhelming response and 
a large number of persons volunteered themselves for the holy war. Finally, on 
January 16, 1826, he left home on an arduous journey, never to return. He was 
accompanied by five to six thousand companions, all prepared to die for delivering 
their brethren from the tyrarmical Sikh rule. The party left for North-Western 
India by a circuitous route and arrived at their destination at Naushehra after 
passing through Tonk, Rajputana, Sind, Baluchistan, Qandhar, Kabul, Khyber 
Pass and Peshawar. This long arduous journey and the hardships of the way-the 
oppressive heat of Rajputana and Sind, the hazards of brigands and the difficult 
climbs of the barren hills of Baluchistan, did not diminish their crusading spirit. 
Wherever they went, they were given thundering ovation by the people, but the 
Muslim rulers of these areas were hesitant in giving him active support and thus 
antagonising the Sikhs who formed the most powerful state in Western India. 

Syed Ahmad arrived in Naushehra and made it his headquarters in 
December, 1826. 

The stage was now set for the Jihad. According to Islamic practice, a 
proclamation was addressed to the Sikh Ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who did 
not pay any heed to it. The Syed, now got ready for an attack on the Sikh forces 
stationed at Akora and led by Budh Singh, a cousin of Ranjit Singh. The assault 
took place on December 21, 1826, in which the Sikhs, despite their numerical 
superiority in men and arms, were completely routed. They retired leaving 700 
dead on the battlefield. 

But jealousy and rivalry among the tribal chieftains and their irresistible 
lust for loot hindered Syed Ahmad from accomplishing his mission. Despite 

31 Hundred Great Muslims 

the overwhelming superiority of the Sikh army which was disciplined and led 
by experienced foreign solidiers and was equipped with the latest weapons of 
war, the "mujahideen' inflicted on them defeats in several encounters. At one 
stage Ranjit Singh even sued for peace, but his terms were not acceptable to 
Syed Ahmad. He, therefore, adopted other tactics. He sowed dissensions among 
the Pathan supporters of the Syed through bribery and intrigue. He made secret 
approaches to some of the influential tribal chiefs supporting the Syed, including 
Yar Muhammad, the Chief of Peshawar, asking them to withdraw their support 
on promise of concessions. He even warned them that the Syed's victory in the 
area would mean the domination of the Indian Muslims over the Pathans. Thus, 
a task which could not be achieved by Sikh arms, was accomplished through 
the treachery of Muslims themselves. 

On the eve of the fateful battle at Saidu Sharif, fought in March 1827, the 
virtuous Syed was poisoned by the servants of Yar Muhammad. But, the Syed 
ordered his men to take him to the battlefied. Accordingly, the next morning 
he was carried to the battlefied in a subconscious state. The battle went on for 
four days, and despite the enemy's superiority in manpower and equipment, the 
Mujahideen were in a commanding position At a time when victory was in sight, 
Yar Muhammad, along with his men, deserted the Muslim ranks. This caused a 
great confusion and consternation among the Muslims. Their victory turned into 
a rout in which several thousand Muslims lost their lives. 

This revealed the organisational weaknesses among the Mujahideen. The 
top leaders of the force resolved to enforce more rigid discipline among the rank 
and file, who were to be controlled by a central authority responsible for 
enforcing the Shariat rule among them. Syed Ahmad was selected as Ameer-ul- 
Momineen. The treacheries and hostilities of some of the tribal chiefs led to 
several skirmishes with the Mujahideen, in which Yar Muhammad Khan, the 
Chief of Peshawar, and Khadi Khan, the Chief of Hund, were killed. The 
Mujahideen occupied Peshawar in 1830. But, instead of removing Sultan Khan, 
brother of the treacherous Yar Muhanmiad Khan, the Syed retained him as the 
Governor of the city. He enforced the Shariat law throughout the conquered 
territory. Maulvi Syed Mazhar Ali of Azimabad was appointed as Qazi of 

Sultan Khan, Governor of Peshawar, who had been pardoned, was secretly 
plaiming to avenge the death of his brother, Yar Muhammad Khan. He organised 
the mass killing of Mujahideen. One night, when the latter were offering their 
prayers, they were killed by hired assassins. The flower of Muslim chivalry and 
learning in the subcontinent perished in one night by the conspiracy of a brother 
Muslim and by the hands of Muslims themselves. This caused great 
dismay and grief in the Syed's camp. All that had been won was lost in a single 

Syed Ahmad and his followers, being greatly disappointed with the 
treachery and hostility of the people inhabiting the Peshawar area, decided to go 

Hundred Grea t Muslims 31 1 

northward and concentrate their efforts against the Sikhs in Hazara and Kashmir. 
Arriving at Balakot, a small town in the Kaghan valley, surrounded on three sides 
by high mountains, he set up his Headquarters there, considering it safe for the 

Here, too, the local Muslims spied for the Sikhs and led them through a 
secret route in close proximity of the Mujahideens ' camps. Here was fought the 
last decisive battle in the beginning of May, 1831. The Sikh army far superior 
in numbers and arms won the day. More than six thousand Muslims perished in 
the battlefield. The leader of the movement, Syed Ahmad, along with his chief 
lieutenant, Shah Ismail, died fighting till the end. 

Syed Ahmad Shaheed was a great reformer, subscribing to the Shah Wah- 
ullah School. He kept aloft the candle of religious reformation lit by Shah 
Waliullah. Though he was not an accomplished scholar like his spiritual teacher 
Shah Abdul km. and his spiritual disciples Shah Ismail Shaheed and Maulvi 
Abdul Haiy, yet he was a man of action and his simple life and purity of heart 
inspired awe and respect among his followers. Whoever came into contact with 
him, was greatly influenced by his magnetic personality. He showed great 
zeal in denouncing all innovations in Islam, of which the most hated were those 
associated with the name andDivinity of Almighty God. Inhis Sirat-ul-Mushtaqim 
he classified such iimovations into three categories: those which have sprung 
through association with corrupt Sufis, those of heretical origin and those which 
have come through Hindu influences. He exhorted the Muslims not to follow 
anyone except the Quran and the Hadis. 

The marriage of widows had begun to be considered obnoxious among 
Muslims like those of Hindus. Syed Ahmad himself married a widow quite 
contrary to his family traditions. Lavish expenditures on the occasion of marriage, 
birth and death, was condemned by him. He denounced tomb-worship, a practice 
which was a negation of the Islamic doctrine of monotheism. He did not like 
the Sufis, who led a life of meditation and abhorred social contacts. Instead of 
making life worth Uving, such Sufis had prsferred to withdraw from it. 

Syed Ahmad was himself a Sufi, but not in conformity with its common 
concept. Instead of passing a life of renunciation, he passed a life of action. His 
insistence on Jihad distinguished him from an average Sufi, who usually believes 
in a life of meditation and inactivity. He laid greater emphasis on the importance 
of following the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. According to him, one cannot 
attain a high spiritual status without strictly following the Shariat. He, therefore, 
accepted the teaching of 'Mujaddid-Alif Sani' in preference to those of 
Muhiyuddin Ibn-i-Arabi. 

Syed Ahmad Shaheed was an ideahst, a dreamer of dreams. With his simple 
straightforward maimers, he raised a group of fanatical devouts who were ready 
to sacrifice their lives for Islam. Among his notable disciples were Shah Ismail 

312 Hundred Great Muslims 

Shaheed, Maulvi Abdul Haiy, Maulvi Wilyat Ali Azimabadi and Maulvi Karamat 
All Jaunpuri. The last named had the distinction of being the greatest Muslim 
reformer and missionary in Bengal. 

Syed Ahmad Shaheed possessed a magnetic personality. Whoever came 
into contact with him, became his devoted follower. He was the spiritual guide 
of more than four million followers, among whom were some of the well-known 
scholars, religious leaders and Sufis of the time. 

He was the first popular political leader of the subcontinent, who created 
a political organisation for furthering his noble mission. 


During the last thirteen centuries whenever the world of Islam was plunged 
in the darkness of decadence, an outstanding personality emerged out of it, who, 
by his illuminating achievements, dispelled the gloom encompassing it. One such 
personality was Jamaluddin Afghani, the harbinger of Muslim Renaissance in 
the 19th century A.C. Being a wandering missionary, a versatile genius, an 
intellectual and orator of the highest calibre, he brought about a universal 
awakening throughout the world of Islam. He moved about in the capitals of 
Muslim countries-lecturing, discussing and wrtinw about his mission to bring 
about the unity of Muslims, leaving behind him a band of zealous workers, who 
continued his work even after his death. Several movements of religious revival 
and social reform owe their origin to Afghani and were started by his disciples 
who were deeply influenced by him. In fact, no other person has influenced 
the 19th century Islam more profoundly than he. Another great thinker of the 
East, Dr. Iqbal, pays glowing tributes to Jamaluddin Afghani when he says : 

"A pefect master of nearly all the Muslim languages of the world and 
endowed with the most winning eloquence, his restless soul migrated from 
one Muslim country to another, influencing some of the most prominent 
men in Iran, Egypt and Turkey. Some of the greatest theologians of our 
time, such as Mufti Muhammad Abduh of Egypt, were his disciples. He 
wrote little, spoke much and thereby transformed into miniature Jamal- 
uddins all those who came into contact with him" 

"He never claimed to be a prophet or a renewer; yet no man in our time 
has stirred the soul of Islam more deeply than he. His spirit is still working 
in the world of Islam and no one knows where it will end" 

Syed Jamaluddin was born in 1838 at Asadabad (Afghanistan). His father 
Syed Safdar, a descendant of Syed Ali Al-Tirmizi, later migrated and settled in 
Kabul. Even at the early age of eight years, Jamaluddin exhibited extraordinary 
intelligence. Before he was 18, he was well versed in almost all the branches of 
Islamic learning, including philosophy, jurisprudence, history, metaphysics, 
mathematics, medicine, sciences, mysticism, astronomy and astrology. His 
learning was encyclopaedic and his genius was versatile. 

Having equipped himself thoroughly in diverse branches of Western and 

31 4 Hundred Great Muslims 

oriental learning, he set out on his sacred mission of bringing about an awaken- 
ing in the decaying world of Islam. He entered India, when he was hardly 18 and 
roamed about in this country for more than a year, influencing those who came 
into contact with him. At this time, India was passing through a critical period 
of its history. It was a lull before the storm. The fire of native hatred against 
the tyraimical alien rule which had installed itsef as the supreme power in the 
country through intrigues and conspiracies, was smouldering slowly and at last 
burst forth in May, 1857, in the form of the First War of Independence, in 
which the Indians made a united effort to throw off the alien yoke. At this time 
when the storm of revolt had engulfed northern India, Jamaluddin Afghani was 
in Makkah, where he had gone for pUgrimage. 

After performing Hajj (Pilgrimage in Makkah), he went to Kabul, Here 
he was welcomed by the Afghan Ruler, Dost Muhammad, who bestowed upon 
him an exalted position in his Govenmient. He wielded much influence both 
among the Afghan intelligentsia and the masses. On the death of his patron, 
the throne of Kabul was occupied by Sher All who did not like the progressive 
ideas of Jamaluddin. He was, therefore, obliged to leave Kabul. 

Leaving Kabul, he proceeded again to Hejaz to perform the Holy Pilgrimage. 
He was not allowed to take overland route via Persia. He had to travel through 
India. In 1869, when he entered India for the second time, he was honourably 
received by its Government. But he was not allowed to meet the Indian leaders, 
except under the strict eyes of the Government of India. The ahen Government 
which had a bitter taste of the national upheaval in 1857 was afraid of his 
revolutionary progressive ideas, and soon he was despatched in a Government 
ship to Suez. He anived in Cairo. Here he came into contact with the professors 
and students of Al-Azhar, who were much impressed by his deep erudition and 
high scholarship. He left an abiding impression of his progressive ideas on the 
intelligentsia of Egypt which, later appeared in the person of Muhammad Abduh. 
Instead of proceeding to Makkah he went to Constantinople (Istanbul), the 
Capital of the Ottoman Empire. His learned discourses soon made him extremely 
popular among the Turkish intelligentsia. During one of his lectures at the 
Constantinople University, the Sheikhul Islam, who had become jealous of his 
popularity raised a storm of objections against certain parts of his speech. This 
inspired agitation gained momentum and the Ottoman Government had to order 
him to leave the Capital for sometime. He, therefore, proceeded to Cairo, 
where he arrived for the second time in March, 1871. 

During his stay in the Egyptian Capital, Jamaluddin Afghani soon 
commanded great popularity and respect among the educated class. His learned 
discourses on Muslim philosophy, jurisprudence, religion and sciences couched 
in an impressive language and bearing a progressive outlook were listened to with 
rapt attention by his ever-increasing audience. His contacts and discourses fired 
and a number of young progressive writers and scholars in Egypt with a 
missionary zeal. 

Hundred Great Muslims 315 

In the increasing popularity of his progressive ideas aimed at the unity 
of the Muslim world, the British, who happened to wield much political 
influence in Egypt at that time, smelled a danger for their divide and rule policy. 
Their interest lay in the division of the Muslim world and not in its unity-in 
the narrow-minded nationalism rather than in the pan-Islamism preached 
by Afghani. The British saw a danger to their evil game. They instigated the 
orthodox and out-of-date theologians, who raised a storm of agitation against 
him. This furnished an excuse to the British Governor-General who, it is learnt, 
advised the Egyptian Government to order the expulsion of Syed Jamaluddin 
from Egypt. 

After a stay of about eight years in Egypt, Jamaluddin Afghani left Cairo 
in March, 1879, and arrived in Hyderabad Deccan (India). Here he wrote his 
famous treatise, Refutation of the Materialists, which created a stir in the 
materiaUstic world. 

During this period a nationalist revolt broke out in Egypt in 1882 and the 
Syed was suspected to have a hand in it. He was summoned to Calcutta by the 
Government of India and interned there. He was, however, released when the 
nationalist struggle subsided in Egypt. 

He left India and arrived in London, where after staying for a few days 
only he proceeded to Paris. There he met his life-long associate and disciple. 
Mufti Muhammad Abduh, who was exiled from Egypt. 

The two outstanding celebrities of the Muslim World started their famous 
Arabic Journal Al Urwat-ul-Wuthqa, from Paris. It was an anti-British organ, 
whose scathing criticisms and fiery articles created a furore in the Imperialist 
circles and its entry was banned in India. Its expositions of the Imperialist 
designs in the Muslim East terrified the Western Imperialists who viewed with 
alarm its growing popularity in the Arabic speaking world. 

His activities were not confined to Paris only. He moved about in the 
continent, contacting important personalities and impressing them with the 
progressive outlook of Islam. He even went to London and had prolonged 
discussion on international relations with Lord Salisbury, a high dignitary of 
Britain. Wherever he went and whomsoever he met, he left a deep impression of 
his magnetic personality and winning eloquence. 

Leaving London, he proceeded to Russia, visited Moscow and St. 
Petersburg and remained in that country for about four years. He wielded much 
influence in the intellectual circles of Czarist Russia and enjoyed the confidence 
of the Czar. 

It was through his influence that the Muslims in Russia were permitted 
to print the Holy Quran and other religious books, whose publications were 
earlier barmed in Czarist Russia. Here, in St. Petersburg, he met Shah Nasiruddin 

31 6 Hundred Great Muslims 

Qachar, the ruler of Persia. A little later, the Shah met Syed Jamaluddin in 
Munich, Gernnany, for the second time. He was so much impressed with his 
dynamic personality that he offered him the exalted position of Prime Minister- 
ship of Persia. The Syed hesitated, but yielded due to the extreme persuasion 
of the Shah. 

He arrived in Persia along with the Shah. Soon he began to enjoy great 
esteem of the Persian masses. His growing popularity among the intelligentsia 
created apprehension in the mind of the Ruler. The Syed, being an extremely 
sensitive person, smeUed this apprehension and sought permission to leave the 
country. But he was not allowed to do so. 

Now there was hardly any course left to him. He openly criticised Shah 
Nasiruddin Qachar and his reign of terror. His vehement denunciation of the 
autocratic rule in Persia won around him many disciples. He was arrested and 
deported from Persia. But the fire which he had kindled in Persia could not be 
put out and culminated in the assassination of Shah Qachar on May 1, 1895. 

Syed Jamaluddin Afghani roamed about in Europe, until he arrived in 
London in 1891. In 1892, he proceeded to Constantinople where he was warmly 
received by the Ottoman Caliph. He was granted a monthly pension of X 775 
and a free /furnished residence. He continued to expose the tyrannical rule in 
Persia through the press and the platform until the Persian Government appealed 
to the Ottoman ruler to put a stop to this ceaseless venomous propaganda. The 
Syed discontinued his scathing criticism of the Persian monarchy on a personal 
request of the Ottoman Caliph. But the words of Jamaluddin Afghani had done 
their work and, as stated earlier, the autocratic Ruler of Persian was assassinated 
on May I, 1895. The Persian Government demanded four persons from the 
Ottoman Government, whom they suspected of the conspiracy leading to the 
assassination of the Ruler. One of them was Jamaluddin Afghani. The Ottoman 
Government surrendered the remaining three, but refused to surrender the Syed. 

But Jamaluddin Afghani was not destined to live long. He had an attack 
of cancer of the jaw in 1896 and died on March 9, 1897. He was buried with 
great honour in the Sheikh's cemetry near Nishan Tash. 

Thus ended one of the most dynamic personalities of the age— one who 
made the kings tremble. 

Jamaluddin Afghani was a great Muslim revolutionary and reformer who 
aimed at the unity of Muslim people all over the world. He wanted to make 
Islam a great force in the world. The imperialists, whose interest lay in the 
division of the world of Islam, were always conspiring against him and did not 
allow him the peaceful propagation of his mission. But the magnetic personality 
of Jamaluddin Afghani, his versatile genius, his sincerity and eloquence, deeply 
stirred those who came into contact with him and gave birth to nationalist and 
progressive movements in several Muslim countries. 

Hundred Great Muslims 31 7 

Jamaluddin Afghani was a linguist. He knew Arabic, Persian, Turkish, 
Pushto, French, English and Russian. His extremely busy and turbulent hfe 
did not give him respite to settle down to the writing of books. But he wrote 
a number of pamphlets on diverse subjects in different languages. In fact, he 
stirred the spirit of Muslim intelligentsia all over the world and directed their 
hitherto dormant energies towards constructive channels. The East has much 
profited from the writings of his disciples. 

As a man, Jamaluddin was humble, courteous, laborious and amicable. He 
slept little, working for more than 18 hours a day. "He received those who came 
to visit him with great courtesy", writes Edward G. Browne, author of the well- 
known work, "A Literary History of Persia", "the humblest as much as the most 
distinguished, but was very chary of paying visits, especially to persons of high 
ranks. In speech he was eloquent, always expressing himself in choice language, 
and avoiding colloquial and vulgar idioms, but carefully adopting his words to 
the capacity of his hearers. As a public speaker he had hardly a rival in the 

Regarding his other qualities Browne states : 

"He was abstemious in his life, caring little for the things of this world, 
bold and fearless in face of danger, frank and genial but hot tempered, 
affable towards all but independent in his dealings with the great. His 
intellectual powers and his quick insight and discernment were equally 
remarkable, so that he seemed able to read men's thought before they had 

About his versatility Browne writes : 

"His knowledge was extensive, and he was specially versed in ancient 
philosophy, the philosophy of history, the history and civilization of 
Islam, and learned French in three months without a master, sufficiently 
well to read and translate". 

"He knew the Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Afghan languages together with 
a little English and Russian. He was a voracious reader of Arabic and 
Persian books. He appears never to have married, and was indifferent to 
female charms." 

His influence throughout the East and specially in the world of Islam was 
indeed overwhelming. He was, to a great extent, responsible for the awakening 
of Muslims during the 19th century. 

The contemporary high personalities of the East and the West vied with 
each other to win his favour. He was loved and respected by Muslim intelli- 
gentsia all over the world, but feared by the Imperialist powers, who were 
afraid of his mission and growing influence. "He raised up a living spirit in the 

318 Hundred Great Muslims 

hearts of his friends and disciples which stirred their energies and sharpened 
their pens, and the East has profited and will profit by their labours". 

He was responsible directly or indirectly for the organisation of several 
progressive and reformist movements all over the Islamic world, including the 
nationalist and modernist movement in Egypt, movement of Union and Progress 
in Turkey, reform movement in Persia, Modernist and KhUafat movements of 
Muslim India. "It was really wonderful", writes Browne, 

"that a wandering scholar, with no material resources save only an eloquent 
tongue and a pen, literally made kings tremble on their thrones and 
defeated the well-laid plans of statesmen by setting in motion forces which 
he knew how to evoke and with which secular politicians, both European 
and Asiatic, had utterly failed to reckon." 


A revolt had broken out against the alien rulers of India in 1857. A wave 
of resentment swept through some of the principal towns of northern India 
against them. It was the first major uprising against European domination in 
India. The fire which had broken out in Delhi and Lucknow, and had swallowed 
up some iimocent members of the ruling family, soon spread to the neighbouring 
districts. The rebels of Delhi reached Bijnore, where Syed Ahmad Khan was 
posted as a Sub- Judge. The local Europeans were naturally perturbed over the 
happenings and took refuge in the Collector's bungalow. Soon after a big mob, 
headed by Nawab Mahmud Khan, collected round the Collector's bungalow and 
threatened the Europeans. The situation had grown extremely grim. Syed 
Ahmad Khan risked his Ufe, faced the unruly mob and persuaded their leader 
to spare the innocent Europeans, who were ultimately evacuated from the 
dangerous area and safely escorted to Meerut in the dead of night. 

The British Government, soon re-estabUshed itself in northern India. The 
services rendered by Syed Ahmad Khan in the stormy days of 1857 were 
acknowledged and a big confiscated landed property of a Muslim landlord was 
offered to him but he refused to accept this award. 

Born in 1817, Syed Ahmad Khan was destined to fill the big void created 
in the Muslim community with the disappearance of the Muslim Rule in India 
and provided the necessary link between the mediaeval and the modern Islam 
in India. He played a vital role in the awakening of Indian Muslims and introduced 
them to Western liberal ideas, thus shaping their destinies in a modem world. 

Syed Ahmad's forefathers came from Persia and some of his ancestors 
known for their chivalry had won laurels on the battlefield. His grandfather 
held a military command and his father, Mir Muttaqi, a religious recluse wielded 
considerable spiritual influence in the Court of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar 
Shah II. Declining the service of the Mughal Emperor, Mir Muttaqi passed much 
of his time in the company of Shah Ghulam Ali, a Mujaddidi saint of his time. 
The young Syed Ahmad owes his deep devotion to Islam, to the teaching of 
Shah Ghulam Ah. He was trained in statecraft and introduced to Westem 
civilization by his maternal grandfather, Khwaja Fariduddin, who, for eight 
years, had served as Prime Minister of Mughal Emperor Akbar II. 


320 Hundred Great Muslims 

His wise mother was mainly responsible for his grounding in education 
and also for his love of learning he developed in his early life which, in his later 
years, enabled him to become the political, social and intellectual leader of his 

His father died in 1836 and early next year he joined the British service 
as a Serishtedar (Reader) in the Court. Bahadur Shah, the last titular Mughal 
Emperor, conferred on him the titles of his grandfather and would have also 
given him some position in his Court, but forestalling the doom of the Mughals, 
Syed preferred the British service. His good work soon won recognition and 
after four years' service he was appointed as Munsif, a judicial officer, in 1841 
and was posted at the historic town of Fatehpur Sikri. 

In 1846, when his elder brother died and there was rone to look after his 
family, he got himself transferred to Delhi, the great Metropolis of the dwindling 
Mughal Empire and the centre of Muslim education and culture. Delhi still 
possessed some of the greatest intellectual luminaries, including poets like 
Ghalib, Momin and Zauq; administrators like Nawab Ahmad Bakhsh and Nawab 
Aminuddin of Loharu and philanthropists like Hakim Mahmud Khan and 
Nawab Mustafa Khan. 

Syed Ahmad Khan was a distinguished member of the talented society 
of Delhi patronised by Bahadur Shah, Syed Ahmad devoted his leisure time to 
private study and research and in 1847 his Research bore fruit in the publication 
of 'Asar-ul-Sanadid' or 'the Traces of the Great'. This book gives an interesting 
account of the ruins of old Delhi and some of the outstanding literary and 
saintly personalities of his time. This book became very popular and has gone 
through several editions. It was translated into Franch by M. Garcin de Tassy 
in 1861. It also attracted much notice outside India with the result that 
Syed Ahmad was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society 
in 1864. 

He was transferred to Bijnore in 1855. Here too, he continued his literary 
activities and edited the well-known Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazal. He also edited 
the Memoirs of Jahangir and the famous history of Ziauddin Barni. 

His long life, lasting for about 80 years may be divided into four equal 
periods. The first twenty years were devoted to education. The next twenty 
years (1837—57) were marked for his success as Judicial Officer in the United 
Provinces. It was during this period that the uprising of 1857 broke out and he 
saved the lives of a number of EngUshmen and women. The next twenty years 
(1857—77) were noted for his interest in public welfare activities, specially the 
education of Muslim community. He also made a trip to England in order to 
have first hand knowledge of Western education and the working of British 
educational institutions. The fourth period (1877—98) was the most important 
period of his life in which he established his reputation as the greatest political 
leader and educationist of Muslim India during the 19th century. He made a 

Hundred Great Muslims 321 

lasting contribution to the educational progress of his country by founding the 
Anglo-Mohammadan Oriental College, Aligarh, the Scientific Society and the 
All-India Muslim Educational Conference. 

During the uprising of 1857, Syed Ahmad was posted at Bijnore. He was 
then 40 and had acquired a high reputation as a just, competent and diligent 
Judicial Officer. During these troubled days he saved the lives of local Europeans 
of Bijnore and safely transported them to Meerut. After the re-occupation of 
Delhi by the British, Syed Ahmad visited his own home there and found a 
number of his family members slain and his ovm mother in a miserable plight. 
The awful scenes oT torture and persecution, plunder and arson at the hands 
of British conquerors witnessed by him in Delhi, left a deep impression on his 
mind and considerably influenced his outlook towards life. The celebrities of 
Delhi, the flower of Muslim society, described in his Aasar-ul-Sanadid, were 
either killed or had gone underground. The best part of the city extending from 
the Red Fort to Shah Jahan Mosque, was razed to the ground and ploughed up. 
The mosque itself was occupied by British troops. The sufferings of his mother 
at Delhi undermined her health and she died soon after reaching Meerut. Being a 
painful witness of the ghastly tragedy of 1857, he wrote a book entitled Asbab-i- 
Baghawat-i-Hind (Causes of the Indian Revolt), which was translated into 
English by Sir Auckland Colin, with the assistance of Col. Graham, an admirer 
of Syed Ahmad Khan. According to his analysis, the Britishers were themselves 
responsible for the so-called Indian Mutiny. The main causes of the Mutiny as 
given in the book were: (1) Absence of Indian representation in the adminis- 
tration of the country. (2) Official interference in religion. (3) Social segregation 
between the ruler and the ruled. In this book, which is considered as the Charter 
of Indian freedom, Syed Ahmad had very boldly and fearlessly criticized the 
attitude of the Britishers towards the mutineers and patriotic Indians. The 
book laid the foundation of future reforms in India and led to the reorientation 
of British policy towards Indian administration. Allan Octavian Himie, the 
founder of the Indian National Congress once told Sahibzada Aftab Khan: 
'It was after reading this book on the causes of the Mutiny that I first felt the 
need of having a forum of public opinion in India, and eventually the Indian 
National Congress came into existence". Syed Ahmad Khan strongly criticised 
British policy in India at a time when the major part of the country was under 
martial law, the Anglo-Indian Press was advocating a firm line and public opinion 
in England was stirred up and advocated stronger measures against mutineers 
and their supporters. He wrote: "In the pre-Mutiny period, Government could 
never know the inadvisibility of the laws and regulations which it passed. It 
could never hear, as it ought to have heard, the voice of the people on such a 
subject. The people had no means of protesting against what they might feel 
to be a foolish measure, or of giving public expression to their own wishes .... 
Now the English Government has been in existence upwards by a century, and 
up to the present hour it has not secured the affections of the people" (Quoted 
in Graham's Life of Syed Ahmad Khan). 

In 1862, Syed Ahmad Khan was transferred to Ghazipur, where his 

322 Hundred Great Muslims 

associations with his later biographer Colonel Graham, led to the establishment 
of a Scientific Society for translating Western books on sciences and arts into 
the Urdu language. In an informal meeting convened for the purpose, Syed 
Ahmad Khan, in an eloquent speech, stressed the need of acquainting the 
Indians with the scientific development of the West. This society received 
further impetus when Syed Ahmad Khan was transferred to Aligarh, a city 
which became the centre of his reformatory and educational activities and later 
developed to be the highest seat of Muslim Education in the subcontinent. 
Here, his associations with cultured aristocracy, who sympathised with his 
reformatory ideas procured the most congenial atmosphere for the growth of 
the new movement, which was meeting a stiff opposition from the conservative 
Muslim quarters all over India. Syed Ahmad was even denounced as a 'Kafir' 
(infidel) and 'nachuri ' by religious heads in the country. Any other person would 
have succumbed to the wave of resentment which swept over the country 
against this group, but Syed Ahmad Khan, a man of indomitable withstood 
like a rock and carried on his beneficial activities despite severe opposition. 
He, along with hs capable associates, relentlessly worked for reorientating 
Muslim outlook towards the West which earned him the title of Maker of 
Modem Muslim India. His efforts were at last crowned with success and led to 
the establishment of Muhammadan— Anglo Oriental College, Aligarh, which later 
became the famous Muslim University of Aligarh. 

In 1876, Syed Ahmad retired from government service and settled down 
at Aligarh. ftere he started his work with his characteristic energy and devotion. 
On January 8, 1877, the foundation stone of the Muhammadan— Anglo Oriental 
College, Aligarh, was laid by Lord Lytton, the Viceroy of India. 

His associations with Western writers and thinkers as well as his trip to 
England where he visited universities of Oxford and Cambridge gave him an 
insight into the working of western educational institutions, which he ultimately 
introduced into his college at Aligarh. 

One of the secrets of Syed Ahmad's success was that he gathered around 
him a galaxy of well-known writers and administrators who carried on his 
mission with unabated zeal. He was a born leader of men, who held sway over 
the destiny of Muslim India for over two decades and influenced as well as 
brought to the forefront a greater number of capable men, than has been 
done by any Muslim leader in modem India. Among these men were Hali, the 
originator of Modern Urdu Poetry; Shibli, a versatile literary genius; Nazir 
Ahmad, the celebrated Urdu novelist, humourist and stylist; Nawab Mohsinul 
Mulk, the well-known orator and administrator and Maulvi Chiragh Ali, a versatile 
writer and organiser. For his Muhammadan- Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh he 
was fortunate to have secured the services of three well-known literary figures 
and educationists of England, namely Theodore Beck, Morison and Amold, who 
were greatly instrumental in making the Aligarh College a model institution in 
the East, in which Western Sciences were taught side by side with oriental learn- 
ing. Arnold learned Arabic and wrote an outstanding book. 

Hundred Great Muslims 323 

Syed Ahmad was a great patriot and a fearless advocate of the Indian 
cause in the Viceroy's Council to which he was nominated in 1878 by Lord 
Lytton and renominated in 1880 for two years by Lord Ripon. In this respect 
he was the forerunner of the great Indian leaders who came after him. He was 
the first powerful advocate of the Indian rights, who paved the way for the later 
struggle for Indian freedom. 

Like Maulana Muhammad Ali, Maulana Hasrat Mohaniand Mr. Muhammad 
Ali Jiimah, Syed Ahmad too started his political career as an Indian patriot who 
fearlessly, though with some moderation, championed the Indian cause through 
the press and the platform. But, the later political developments in the country, 
specially the rival Hindi movement started at Banares, obliged him to change 
his \iews. The stark realities of the political front disillusioned him and, being 
a realist, he could prophesy that Hindus and Muslims, having different cultures 
could not unite together. Thus, he may be called a forerunner of the Pakistan 
Movement. Hali, his celebrated biographer writes: "In 1867, some Hindu leaders 
of Banares resolved that, as far as possible, the use of Urdu language, written 
in Persian script, should be discontinued in Government courts and should be 
replaced by Hindi language, written in Devanagri script. Sir Syed used to say 
that this was the first occasion, when he felt that it was now impossible for the 
Hindus and Muslims to progress as a single nation and for anyone to work for 
both of them simultaneousy. His words were : 

"During these days, when Hindi— Urdu controversy was going on in 
Banares, one day I met Mr. Shakespeare who was posted there as Divisional 
Commissioner. I was saying something about the education of the Muslims,, 
and Mr. Shakespeare was listening with an expression of amazement, when 
at length, he said, 'This is the first occasion, when I have heard you speak 
about the progress of the Muslims alone. Before this you were always keen 
about the welfare of your countrymen in general'. I said: 'Now I am 
convinced that both these communities will not join whole-heartedly in 
anything. At present, there is no open hostility between the two 
communities, but on account of the so-called educated people, it will 
increase immensely in future. He who lives, will see. Mr. Shakespeare 
thereupon, said, 'I would be sorry if your prophecies were to be true'. I 
said, 'I am also extremely sorry, but I am confident about the accuracy of 
this prophecy." 

Maulana Muhammad Ali, a great Indian patriot, said from the Presidential 
chair of the Indian National Congress ; 

"Reviewing the actions of a bygone generation, today, when it is easier 
to be wise after the event, I still think that the attitude of Syed Ahmad 
Khan was eminently wise, and much as I wish that something which he 
had said should have been left unsaid, I am constrained to admit that no 
well-wisher of Mussalmans, nor of India, as a whole, could have followed a 
different course in leading the Mussalmans." 

324 Hundred Great Muslims 

Syed Ahmad occupies an eminent place among the Indian reformers. 
After retirement from Government service he devoted all his time and energy 
to social and educational work. He originated the movement of independent 
religious thought among Indian Muslims, and introduced rationalism in religious 
thinking. He analysed the causes of the decline of Muslims and found it due to 
their apathy towards Western education. His magnetic personality and his 
inexhaustible energy, his indomitable will and his keen insight, enabled him to 
surmount all obstacles and finally succeed in his difficult mission. 

As a writer of Urdu. Syed Ahmad occupies a high place. He was a versatile 
and prolific writer, who has left behind no less than 25 valuable works both in 
Urdu and Persian, on history, archeology, politics, religion and philosophy. He 
edited Abdul Fazal's, Ain-i-Akban and Tozak-e-Jahangiri, the autobiography 
of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. His Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind (Causes of Indian 
Revolt), translated into English by Sir Auckland Colin was the first outspoken 
book on ihe subject. \^s Aasar-ul-Sanadid or the Antiquities of Delhi, translated 
into French by M. Garcin de Tassy in 1861, won him the fellowship of the 
Royal Asiatic Society of London. After returning from London, he started his 
Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq, an Urdu Journal in 1870. Through this journal he propagated 
his reformative doctrines regarding society and religion, which offended the 
religious hierarchy who denounced him as a 'Kafir' (Infidal). During his stay in 
London he arranged the publication of his voluminous Essays on Muhammad, 
in which he met a number of objections on the life of the Prophet raised by 
Western writers. He also wrote a Tafsir (Commentary on the Quran) in 7 
volumes, in which he tried to give a rational explanation of religious doctrines 
embodied in the Quran. 

Syed Ahmad is universally acknowledged as one of the pioneers of Urdu 
Prose. Like Ghali*^, he possesses a simple and lucid style in Urdu prose, devoid 
of all decorative ornamentations. He preferred matter over form. He was the 
first to write business-like Urdu prose, which was later adopted by all the 
succeeding writers like Hali, Shibli, Nazir Ahmad, Sharar, Sarshar and Maulvi 
Zakaullah. In this way he is correctly called as the 'Father of Modem Urdu 

The greatest contribution of Syed Ahmad was in the educational sphere. 
His greatest achievements were the establishment of Muhammadan Anglo- 
Oriental College, Aligarh, and the Scientific Society of Aligarh. He was 
undoubtedly the Father of Muslim Education in Modern India. He had realised 
that Muslims could not progress without modem education, hence he established 
English Schools, first at Muradabad, then at Ghazipur and finally an Oriental 
College at Aligarh. Had he not taken the initiative, the social and educational 
development of Muslim India would have receded into background. Graham, his 
biographer writes: "Syed Ahinad's Motto was "Educate, Educate, Educate". 
'All the socio-economic ills in India, he once said to me, may be cured with this 
treatment'. Cure the root and the tree will flourish". The Scientific Society, 
which, in reality, was an organisation for translating scientific and other useful 

Hundred Great Muslims 325 

literature from the Western languages into Urdu was established by Syed Ahmad 
at Ghazipur in January, 1864. It was managed by his life long frieijd, Raja Jai 
Kishan Das. 

It was later shifted to Aiigarh, where it developed into a great organi- 
sation, which with its organ, the Aiigarh Institute Gazette, did very useful work 
in popularising Western learning among the Muslims. He founded in 1886, 
the Mohanmiadan Educational Conference, which held meetings in all Indian 
major cities and spread the message of Aiigarh to all parts of the country. 

Syed Ahmad lived a long life of more than 80 years. Of these, he spent 
60 years in hard work in diverse spheres of life. During his last days, when he 
needed rest he worked 18 hours a day. At last he died on March 27 1898, at a 
ripe age of 8 1 . His death was deeply mourned throughout the country. 

Syed Ahmad was undoubtedly the greatest figure in the transitional period 
of Indian history. His was a many-sided personality. His greatness lay in the fact 
that he was a true leader of men, who had attracted around him some of the 
ablest intellects of his age and provided an enlightened leadership at a crucial 
period of Indian history. 


The Sultan of Turkey on whom the West had conferred the sobriquet 
"Sickman of Europe", was in an extremely difficult position. Turkish armies in 
Iraq and Syria were gravely threatened during the First Great War of 1914-18. 
Her principal ally Germany was not in a position to help her. 

Meanwhile, the Allies had opened another front in Turkey. They wanted 
to capture Constantinople, the Turkish Capital, by forcing the Dardanelles. 
A crack army of Anzacs (Australians and Newzealanders) was landed on the 
Gallipoli peninsula on April 25, 1915. The German Supreme Commander of 
the Turkish forces. General Von Sanders, saw no immediate threat in the small 
force brought by the enemy. But the young Mustafa Kamal, serving as one of 
his Commanders, rightly took it as the spearhead of the formidable Allied 
attack. Ignoring General Von Sanders's orders, he launched, a counter attack, 
for about four months wave after wave of Allied forces comprising Newzealander, 
Australian, British and Indian soldiers, tried to capture the ridge on the beach, 
but each time they were repulsed by a withering fire. The Turks under Mustafa 
Kamal were determined not to give way, though pressed by a force much superior 
in arms and numbers. At last, after a fruitless campaign lasting for months, the 
British were forced to withdraw, losing thousands of men and much equipment. 
Late in August 1915, the furious charge of Kamal at Suvla won back the key 
position of Chunuk Bay, pinned the Allies to the beach and eventually forced 
them to abandon the GallipoU Expedition as an utter failure. 

Mustafa Kamal had won the most glorious victory of the First Great 
War and the British had undoubtedly suffered one of the worst defeats in their 
long history. Kamal was hailed in Constantinople as the Saviour of Dardanelles 
and Turkey. 

Born at Salonika in 1881 A.C., Mustafa Kamal came of a hardy peasant 
family of Macedonian highlands— the abode of fiery revolutionaries in Europe. 
His father, Ali Raza, was a timber merchant, who died when Mustafa was young, 
leaving him to the care of his talented mother Zubaida Khanum. Mustafa, a 
very energetic and talented boy, had a natural aptitude for miUtary education. 
After completing his primary education, he joined the Rushtiye Military School. 
His proficiency in mathematics won for him the nickname of Kanud and hence- 
forward he was called Mustafa Kamal. 


Hundred Great Muslims 32 7 

Mustafa Kamal was exceptionally brilliant among his class-fellows. At 17, 
he left Salonika for the military school at Monastir. After two years at Monastir, 
he was gazetted as a sub-lieutenant and sent to the Imperial Staff College at 
Constantinople. Here he had an early taste of political life. 

Turkey at the time was passing through the worst period of her history. 
Her economic and political life was paralysed and the brave Turkish nation 
was groaning under the despotic rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid. Her Capital had 
become a hot bed of foreign intrigues and the loosening grip of the despotic 
Sultan over his vast territories and in the international field had earned her the 
nickname of "Sickman of Europe". 

A group of young officers of the Imperial Staff College of Constantinople 
formed a secret revolutionary society known as 'Vatan ' (Motherland), with a 
view to ridding Turkey of the Despotic and corrupt rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid. 
Young Kamal became its leader. 

The secret Turkish Police discovered the plot against the Sultan. One night, 
when the meeting was in progress, it forced its entry and hustled away the 
conspirators to the Red Prison. 

It was a sultry evening of 1905. Death by the strangler's noose was the 
fate expected by a young cadet, who paced restlessly in the dark dungeon of 
Constantinople. He was Mustafa Kamal. 

But the Sultan hesitated. His co-prisoners were the future Generals and 
military le^iders of his country. Their execution might cause a revolt in the 
country. The Director-General of the Military Academy was, therefore, ordered 
to keep a watch over their movements and suppress any attempt at revival of 
the 'Vatan. 'Thereafter, the prisoners were set free. 

Mustafa Kamal was particularly warned not to take part in such activities. 
He was posted in a cavalry regiment, south'of Damascus. Here, in collaboration 
with his colleagues he formed a party' called "Vatan wa Huniyat". 

He had been receiving information of a new revolutionary society called 
the "Committee of Union and Progress" formed under the leadership of Enver 
Pasha, a military genius among the Turks. Mustafa had realised that Salonika 
was going to be the place for the uprising' against Sultan Abdul Hamid and 
yearned to join the patriots, who were plotting to overthrow the corrupt 
despotic rule in Turkey. 

At last, his efforts succeeded and in 1908 he was transferred to Salonika 
and appointed on the Staff of the 3rd Army Corps. Mustafa, too, joined the 
Committee of the Union and Progress and he, being a grim and sardonic realist, 
procured a pleasant contrast to the extremely impetuous, virile and idealist 
Enver, but both being military geniuses, played a vital role in saving Turkey from 
total extinction during this century. 

32S Hundred Great Muslims 

In 1908, Niazi, with a few hundred men defied the Turkish Government 
in the mountains of macedonia. The country groaning under poverty and 
tyrannical rule joined the rebels. Enver, at the head of a large mob was about to 
march on Constantinople, when the clever Suhan announced a constitution 
accepting most of the demands of the revolutionaries. 

The history of the brave Turks is full of innumerable campaigns. Being 
one of the most virile and fighting nations in the world, there had hardly been 
a period exceeding 10 years in their long history in which they had not to 
fight a major battle. 

In 1911, the Italian troops invaded Tripoli and massacred a large number 
of local inhabitants. Mustafa Kama! was at once despatched to this North 
African theatre of War and fought bravely at Tobruk and Derni. 

While he was in North Africa, the Balkan Wars broke out in 1912 and the 
Turkish satellite states declared their independence and attacked Turkey. The 
Bulgarians had captured Adrianople and were marching on the Turkish Capital. 

The conspiracy of the Christian States to wipe Turkey out of Europe 
would have succeeded, had the daring Enver not come to her rescue. He forced 
his entry into the Cabinet meeting debating surrender, shot down the War 
Minister and rallied the Government to a successful defence. His recapture of 
Adrianople, the last Turkish stronghold in Europe, against heavy odds from the 
Bulgarians, is a lasting testimony to his military genius. Enver was hailed as the 
saviour of Adrianople and the idol of Turkish people. 

Meanwhile Mustafa Kamal had returned to Turkey and was posted by 
Enver, Minister of War, as the Turkish Military Attache in Sofia. 

In 1914, the declaration of the First Great War found Turkey on the 
side of Germany. Enver was dreaming of regaining the lost Turkish glory, by 
creating a vast Turkish Empire. He appointed General Liman Von Sanders as 
the Supreme Commander of the Turkish forces. In August 1915, Kamal won one 
of the sensational victories of the war at Gallipoli. He was hailed as the Saviour 
of Turkey and recognised as one of the world's greatest Generals. 

The defeat of Germany by the Allies in the First Great War turned the 
tables on Turkey too. The Allied armies were in control of Constantinople. 
Wahiduddin, had become Sultan on the death of his father. The Allies used the 
Sultan of Turkey as a tool in their hand, to further their ends of almost finshing 
Turkey for ever. The Sultan and his Government thought it in their own interest 
to collaborate with the Allies and sign the humiliating Treaty of Sevres. But the 
spirit of the brave Turks was not broken and the entire nation protested, 
refusing to accept the humiliating terms of the Treaty. According to Mustafa 

"The essential thing for the Turkish people was to live with dignity and 

Hundred Great Muslims 329 

honour. This was only possible if they enjoyed complete freedom. How- 
ever, prosperous or rich a nation may be, if it is deprived of its independence, 
it does not merit a place higher than that of a slave in civilised humanity. 
For any nation like the Turkish, it would be better to cease to exist than 
to live in slavery. Consequently, either independence or death". 

The Sultan of Turkey, being a tool in the hands of Allies, Mustafa Kamal 
escaped to Anatolia to keep alive the people's struggle against the enemy. 
For this purpose he convened a National Congress at Sivas, composed of the 
representatives of the provinces. 

The conference was a great success and the valiant Turks swore to carry 
on their resistance till complete freedom was achieved. After ceaseless warfare 
lasting for more than 10 years, they were totally exhausted and their resources 
were paralysed, but their spirit was not broken. Mustafa Kamal took advantage 
of this spirit, mobilised their shattered strength and performed a military feat 
which would go down as a miracle in the history of military warfare. 

The activities of Mustafa Kamal caused an alarm in the Allied Camp in 
Constantinople, The Sultan, a stooage of the Allies, was made to sign the death 
warrant of Kamal and announced a high price on his head. He was denounced 
as a 'Kafir' (Infidel) by the hired Ulema— one who had rebelled against the 
Caliph of Islam. But, undaunted by all these happenings, Kamal continued his 

Meanwhile the well-equipped Greek army invaded Anatolia and occupied 
Smyrna (Izmir). The ambitious Greek Premier was dreaming of carving out a 
Greek Empire out of Turkish Empire. Backed by the moral and material support 
of the Allies, he had assembled a large invading force equipped with most 
modern weapons of war. He had offered to smash the Kamalists in Anatolia, 
who were irregular troops with no artillery. His offer was accepted. 

The beginning of 1921 was a very critical period for the new People's 
Government formed under Mustafa Kamal. Despite the two victories of Turks 
at Inonu on January 14 and April 1 , the Greek army advanced as far as Sakaiya 
and threatened Angora (Ankara). They were sure to wipe out the irregular 

The Greek army advanced towards Eska Shehir and Afion, the former 
being key to Angora and was held by Ismet Pasha, the ablest lieutenant of 

"In a stone house i the village of Chan Kaya', writes a well-known 
European writer, "a few miles from Angora, Mustafa Kamal pored over maps 
and plans, and awaited the Greek onslaught. He had reached the biggest crisis of 
his life. If he failed to withstand the Greeks, both he and Turkey were doomed. 
He had only a few regular troops; the rest of his army consisted of roving bands 

330 Hundred Great Muslims 

of tribesmen. Food and equipment were scarce; he had neither artillery nor 
transport. And facing him was an enemy far superior in numbers, well 
conditioned, and trained and equipped to a high degree of efficiency. 

"In the first week of July, 1921, the Greeks swept forward, took Afion 
and menaced Eska Shehir. The Kamalists were suffering heavy losses in a 
hard fought battle. Kamal decided to fall back two hundred miles to the 
last natural line of defence before Angora-the Sakarya river". 

"And here, on August 24, began one of the bloodiest and most decisive 
battles of modern history. After a heavy artillery bombardment by the 
Greeks, the two armies came to death-grips. Centuries of hatred between 
the Greeks and the Turks, Christians and Infidels, fused into the white-hot 
fury of fourteen days indescribable carnage." 

"When at last the Greeks were driven back from a battlefield that had 
become a shambles, and retreated to Eska Shehir, the Turks were too 
shattered by the victory to pursue them." 

"Nations all over the world swelled the chorus of praise that met Kamal 
on his return to Angora. But the Ghazi (Victorious) knew that his task had 
only begun. He must drive the Greeks back to the sea." 

He exclaimed: "we shall completely vanquish the enemy". He had won 
one of the most memorable victories of living history which had astounded 
friends and foes alike. 

At dawn on August 26, before the Greek position at Afion he ordered 
his troops: "Forward ! your goal is the Mediterranean". 

Amids terrible Greek artillery barrage the Turkish soldiers marched 
forward and cut the Greek army into two. The Greeks broke and fled in 
disorder leaving much military stores for the Turks. They were panicstricken 
and made a dash to the sea to save their lives. Kamal had no ships to pursue 
them on sea. 

Allied forces occupying Constantinople and Dardenelles were now in a 
precarious position. The great military victories of Kamal forced them to revise 
their stand and the Treaty of Lausanne signed on July 23, 1923 recognised the 
Independence of the Turksh People. 

The terrified Sultan Wahiduddin of Turkey escaped on an Allied Warship 
and in his place his nephew Abdul Majid was crowned. But, he too, was 
dethroned a few months later when Turkey was declared a Republic. 

The Independence of Turkey was secured. Having accompUshed this 
difficult task, Mustafa Kamal embarked upon a more difficult task of building 

Hundred Great Muslims 331 

Turkey into a modern state. His achievement in this sector, too, was marvellous 
and projected him a remarkable man of the Twentieth Century— great both in 
war and peace. 

In order to secure an honourable place for Turkey among the comity of 
civilized nations, Mustafa Kamal had to institute far-reaching reforms in the 
political, social, judicial, economic and cultural fields. He adopted revolutionary 
methods in introducing these reforms and the short-lived conservative opposition 
was put down with an iron hand. 

Being a sincere well-wisher of his country-one who had saved Turkey 
from total extinction at the most critical period of her history, the saner 
elements among his people rallied round him even at the time of his seemingly 
unpopular reforms. The advantages of his revolutionary reforms were soon 
apparent, which changed the entire complexion of Turkey and made her a 
powerful modern state in Europe. 

He formed his powerful political party and with the support of a United 
Chamber of Deputies, he proclaimed the Turkish Republic on October 29, 1923, 
and abolished the Caliphate on March 3, 1924. He was unanimously elected as 
the First President of the Turkish RepubUc. 

In 1928, the Clause of the Secularity of the State was included into her 
constitution. This put an end to the age long tradition which had existed in the 

Mustafa Kamal was now an absolute ruler of Turkey. He was not only 
their Saviour and nation builder but, in fact, the father of their people, known 
as Ataturk. He was loved, respected and feared. His aim was to transform the life 
of his people from oriental to modem— 'a colossal task of centuries which he 
was determined to accomplish in a few short years'. 

He introduced a number of revolutionary reforms in the social, political 
and cultural fields of Turkish life. He banned Fez, adopted European dress and 
introduced Latin script in place of Arabic. Latin script was prevalent in the 
modern world and in bringing Turkey in line with the modern world, this reform 
proved very beneficial. It was the most difficult task to make his people write 
their language in the Latin script. Kamal went through the streets himself with 
blackboard and chalk, teaching the Latin script to the crowds. 

His other reforms included the abolition of veil, worn by the Turkish 
women and the introduction of co-education in educational institutions. During 
the Ottoman times, the rights of Turkish women were circumscribed. Mustafa 
Kamal gave greater freedom and rights to Turkish women, which brought them 
at par with men. 

He cleansed the civil service which for over 100 years was the most corrupt 
in Europe. He made bribery a heavily punishable offence and established a 
"Code of Honour" for all State Departments. 

332 Hundred Great Muslims 

He reorganised the Turkish army on modern lines and made it one of the 
most efficient and well-equipped armies in the world. 

Kamal also introduced several agricultural and industrial reforms. He 
rapidly industrialised his country, set up a large number of modern factories 
and carried out a good many national enterprises, including the building of 
modern Turkish Capital, Ankara. 

The far-reaching reforms of Kamal brought about a great change in Turkey 
and immensely added to her economic prosperity and political stability. 

Mustafa Kamal, the hero of hundred's battles, the maker of Modern 
Turkey, died in November, 1938, He was undoubtedly the greatest figure of 
his time— a military genius, an outstanding statesman, a courageous revolu- 
tionary and a hero who saved his shattered country from total extinction and 
rebuilt it on a new and enduring foundation. Modern Turkey is his living 


Addressing the plenary session of the First Round Table Conference in 
London in 1930, Maulana Muhammad Ali said, "I want to go back to my 
country as a freeman. If you cannot accept it, then you will have to give me a 
piece of land for my grave". His prophetic words proved to be true, and he died 
in London a few weeks later. 

Maulana Muhammad Ali,. the renowned Indian Muslim leader, was a prince 
among the patriots. Possessing a dynamic personality, he towered high above his 
contemporary Indian politicians and instilled courage and confidence in the 
hearts of the ignorant masses which awakened them from their deep slumber. 
His fearless leadership and selfless devotion to his mission were greatly 
instrumental in dispelling the inferiority complex, which, the alien rulers had 
enshrined in the hearts of the teeming millions inhabiting this vast subcontinent 
and enabled them to brave the onslaughts of the foreign rule with courage and 
conviction. The policy of co-operation with the British Government, followed 
by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his associates, at last gave place to the revolutionary 
politics of Maulana Muhammad Ali and Abul Kalaam Azad in which the 
attention of the Indian Muslims was diverted towards the rival of the Pan-Islamic 
Movement and the restoration of the Khilafat. 

Born in an aristocratic family of Rampur State (U.P.) in 1878, Muhammad 
Ali was destined to play a glorious role in the Indian politics. His father, Abdul 
Ali Khan, died when he was 2 years old, leaving behind three sons, Zulfiqar, 
Shaukat and Muhammad. His mother, Abadi Bano being an enlightened lady, 
sent his sons to Bareilly and afterwards to Aligarh to receive the best education 
available in the country. At Aligarh University, where Shaukat Ali was the idol 
of cricket fans, Muhammad Ali became the favourite of the literary circles. 
During his stay at the University, he took active interest in its extra-curricular 
activities and earned a high reputation as a student, poet, orator and writer. In. 
1896, at the age of 18, he topped the list of successful B.A. students from the 
Allahabad University, which conducted the degree examinations for the whole 
of the United Provinces. Muhammad Ali exposed the high-handedness of the 
European staff, who dominated the Aligarh University of those days. According 
to Sajjad Haider Yaldaram, who was his associate, the European Principal 
heaved a sigh of relief when Muhammad Ali left the University for U.K., as he 
was very outspoken in his criticism of the European staff. His free expression 


334 Hundred Great Muslims 

of views in the college debates on various national and international issues, 
caused great embarrassment to the European professors. In England, he 
remained for 4 years at the Lincoln College and obtained his B.A. (Hons.) in 
Modem History. He had the distinction of being the first President of the Indian 
Majlis in the Cambridge University. He, however, was fortunate in not being 
selected for Indian Civil Service, which in those days was reserved for a privileged 
few, otherwise India would have been deprived of the most colourful and 
dynamic personality of her modem history. 

On his return from U.K., Muhammad Ali was appointed as Chief Education 
Officer of the Rampur State. But, due to the educational reforms which he 
wanted to enforce in the State, he had differences with the higher authorities. 

He resigned his job and joined the Baroda Civil Service. He served the 
Baroda State for 7 years and his reforms in the State are still remembered with 
gratitude. During his stay in Baroda, he frequently contributed articles to the 
Times of India, and his article "Thoughts on the Present Discontent", was highly 
appreciated. His high intellect and his restless soul could not cope with the 
restrictions of the Civil Service. He was meant for something higher. Nature had 
endowed him with extraordinary abilities of head and heart which should have 
been devoted to better and higher purposes. The extreme poverty and sufferings 
to which the Indian masses were reduced under the alien yoke, only added fuel 
to his fiery temperament. He left the job and hurried to Calcutta to start his 
Weekly Comrade on January 1, 1911. An interesting story is related in this 
connection, which throws Ught on his determination to fight for the cause of the 
people through the Press. He was offered the Chief Ministership of an Indian 
State but he did not open the letter of appointment until the first issue of his 
paper was out. Maulana Muhammad Ali was an ideal journalist, and the high 
standard of professional integrity set by him will serve as a beacon light for the 
coining generations. His paper formed the vanguard of the struggle against 
exploitation and oppression of the alien Government. He was the first to raise 
his voice against the despotic Press laws. He had joined the fourth estate for 
pleading the cause of the downtrodden humanity inhabiting this subcontinent. 
His Comrade had set an example of independent journaUsm and was a class by 
itself. It played a vital role in moulding the political outlook of Modem India. 
Due to its frank views and flawless English, Comrade was very popular in official 
circles too. An ej: -British Finance Member of the Government of India took its 
bound copies with him to England. Writing in the first editorial of Comrade on 
January 1, 1911, he gave out the policy of his paper: "We are aU partisans 
of none, comrades of all. We deeply feel the many hazards of increasing 
controversy between races and races ; creeds and creeds, and eamestly desire a 
better understanding between the contending elements of the body politic of 
India". As the time passed, the national and international developments obliged 
him to be more anti-imperialist in his outlook and more outspoken in his 
criticism against the British Govemment. In 1914 when Turkey was involved in 
the Great War, Maulana Muhammad Ali after a continuous sitting of 36 hours 
wrote his memorable editorial, 'The Choice of the Twrfcs ' a befitting reply to the 

Hundred Great Muslims 335 

insulting article of the London Times under the same caption. The Indian 
Government forfeited its security. He was marked as a dangerous man by the 
authorities and his paper forfeited its security several times. 

The Comrade was transferred to Delhi in 1912, when the Indian Capital 
was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. It played a great part along with 
Al-Hilal of Azad and Zamindar of Lahore in the awakening of the Muslim masses 
and in forming their political outlook. Muhammad Ali started Hamdard, an Urdu 
Daily, from Delhi in 1913. He wrote his autobiography 'My Life a Fragment' 
the only work he has left behind for the future generations. Writing in his 
autobiography he mentions the reasons which impelled him to take up the career 
of journalism, "The reasons which so irresistibly impelled me to take up journalism 
was, that the affairs of my community at the juncture made it the only avenue, 
through which I could prove of any appreciable use— I felt, I should now assist 
my community in taking proper share in the political affairs of the country". 

Maulana Muhammad Ali played a vital part in preparing the Muslims in 
particular and Indians in general for the final struggle of freedom. Thus to a 
great extent he was responsible for shaping their political destiny. Under his 
dynamic leadership, Muslims grew into a virile and self-assertive nation. His 
heart which surged with the love of his countrymen awakened their self-respect. 
Being an ardent anti-imperialist, he virtually dominated the national stage for 
the first quarter of the present century. Along with Mohsinul Mulk and Wiqar- 
ul-Mulk, he was present in Dacca when the Muslim League was founded in 1906. 
On their suggestion, he wrote in his immaculate style an account of this historic 
session in the form of a pamphlet called, "Green Book". He may be counted as 
one of the founders of All-India Muslim League along with Mohsinul Mulk, 
Wiqarul Mulk, Nawab SamiuUah of Dacca and Agha Khan. 

The Balkan War was declared in 1912. The machinations of the European 
powers against Turkey brought him in the arena of active politics. He appealed 
for funds in aid of Turkish victims. A medical mission was despatched to Turkey 
under the leadership of Dr. M. A. Ansari, which included Messrs A. R. Siddiqi 
and Shoaib Qureshi as well. This was the first embassy of practical goodwill sent 
by Muslim India to a foreign country. The mission performed valuable service, 
which is still acknowledged by the Turks with gratitude. The agitation launched 
by him for the assistance of Turks, revived the Pan-Islamic Movement in India. 
He wrote in Comrade: "Pan-Islamism when v/e consider its etymology is a 
meaningless issue of passion and prejudice. If it means anything, it refers to a 
community of sentiment and aspiration among the Mus?-'"ians of the world, as 
brought into existence by their religion. In that case Islam bears exactly the 
same connotation, being the name of a set of beliefs and ideals common to the 
entire Muslim races. Interpreting the world in this sense no Muslim need be 
ashamed of its application. The sympathies of a Muslim are co-extensive with his 
religion, a race and a country lias never captured him to the extent of the utter 
immersion in a narrow patriousm of the ideals which the acceptance of Islam 

336 Hundred Great Muslims 

had made obligatory. Territorial patriotism is not at all compatible with the 
spiritual catholicity of a religion that has declared in a set of common ideals 
the brotherhood of man". 

The brutal firing of MachhU Bazaa., Cawnpore, in 1913, sent a wave of 
resentment throughout the length and breadth of the subcontinent. It was too 
painful an incident for the sensitive Muhammad Ali. It shook his heart and 
made him an active agitator from an armchair politician. He led a deputation 
to England accompanied by Syed Wazir Hasan, Secretary of the Muslim League. 
He canvassed there day and night, lecturing, writing in papers and interviewing 
the high British authorities, for securing an honourable settlement of the Cawn- 
pore episode, but all in vain. He came back to India to find that Great War was 
declared in Europe in 1914, a few months after his return. Turkey was an ally of 
Germany and Muhammad Ali wanted that the British Government should take 
into consideration the feelings of Muslim India. 

His bold and inspiring criticism of the imperialist powers, could not be 
tolerated by the British Government during the war and he was interned for a 
period of about 5 years, ranging from November 23, 1915 to 1919. When he was 
released in 1919, the international scene was totally changed. The Great War had 
come to an end. The Turks were badly pressed in the Treaty of Versailles and 
their very existence was at stake. Turkey was in danger of total extinction and 
Uyod George was contemplating to obliterate her from the map of Europe. 
Political storms were raging on the Indian horizon too. The Indian poMtical 
atmosphere was tense and explosive. Martial Law had been proclaimed in the 
Punjab following the great tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. These political 
developments only served as an incentive for the fiery Muhammad Ali. It was the 
most tumultuous period of his life. He rushed to Amritsar where all Indian 
political parties were holding their sessions. He started the Khilafat Movement 
and joined hands with the Congress in 1919. His association vdth the Congress 
changed its entire complexion. This stormy patriot of Indian politics transformed 
the Indian National Congress from a constitutional body into a revolutionary 
mass organisation. His appeal for Turkish aid fund met with a wonderful 
response. The Muslim ladies parted with their valuables for helping their Turkish 
brethren. The Maulana led a deputation to Europe to muster public support for 
the dwindling Khilafat, but returned disappointed. His joining hands with Mr. 
Gandhi to force the British to change their attitude towards the Turks resulted 
in the ideal Hindu-MusUm Unity during 1920—22. The massacre of Jallianwala 
Bagh and non-restoration of Khilafat led to the adoption of Non-Co-operation 
Resolution at the Nagpur Congress in 1921. Muhammad Ali is mainly credited 
with winning over the influential C. R. Dass Group in the Congress to support 
the move, thus paving the way for the adoption of the Resolution, which 
implied surrender of titles, resignation from government services and boycott 
of educational institutions and courts. He was so sincere in the application of the 
Resolution that when Dr. Ziauddin refused to close the Aligarh Muslim University, 
he founded Jamia MiUia, a parallel institution at Aligarh with the help of Dr. 
M. A. Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Dr. Zakir Husain. The Institution was 

Hundred Great Muslims 33 7 

opened by Maulana Mahmood Hasan of Deoband. The teachers and the taught 
passed a truly Islamic life in this institution, being the very embodiment of 
simple living and high thinking. 

He made extensive tours of the subcontinent during the period extending 
from October, 1920 up to his arrest for Karachi trial on September 1, 1921. This 
period was spent virtually in the Railway compartment. He roused the Indian 
masses from their torpor and infused in them a new political consciousness. He 
never aspired for any position or privilege for himself. The Indian political 
consciousness was the result of his 8 years' untiring efforts— a remarkably short 
period for such a gigantic work. India was echoing with this song:- 

"Bolin Amman Muhammad AH Ki 
Jan Beta Khilafat Pai Dedo " 

(So spoke the mother of Muhammad Ali. My son, lay down your life for the 
sake of Khilafat). 

A resolution was adopted at the Khilafat Conference held at Karachi in 
1921, according to which, it was considered an irreligious act for the Muslims 
to enroll in the British army. This resulted in the Karachi trial which commenced 
in October, 1921 in which Maulanas Muhammad Ali, Shaukat Ali, Husain 
Ahmad Madni, and three others were awarded two years' rigorous imprisonment. 
His imprisonment evoked a country-wide protest. The Resolution for which he 
was prosecuted was adopted and published throughout India. The statement 
given by Muhammad Ali before the court brings out his truly Islamic spirit. He 
acknowledges the supremacy of the Divine Law over the man-made legislations. 
The boldness and daring exhibited by him before the court was amazing. He was 
still in prison when Mustafa Kamal abolished the Khilafat, hence the movement 
in India for its revival also crumbled down. 

Muhammad Ali, when released from jail in 1923, was elected President 
of the Indian National Congress and he delivered his memorable Presidential 
address in the momentous session at Cocanada in 1923. Pandit Nehru was his 
Secretary and he has devoted one full chapter on this session in his autobiography 
"Nehru". Both in thought and diction, this Address is matchless in the long 
history of A.I.C.C. 

In 1923-24, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya who was behind the bars was 
suddenly released following a secret meeting with the Viceroy. He, along with 
Swami Shardhanand, started the Shuddhi— Sanghatan Movement which led to 
communal riots throughout India. It destroyed the strong edifice of Hindu- 
Muslim unity built by the gigantic efforts of the Ali brothers. Mr. Gandhi, 
too, was carried away by the communal cries of Malviya and his henchmen. 
Muhammad Ali struggled hard to stop the riot and arrest the disruptive tendencies. 
He was, however, immensely shocked at the transformation of Gandhi. 

338 Hundred Great Muslims 

The Maulana possessed a restless soul, an undaunted courage and an 
indomitable will. He had the courage to practise what he preached. Being a 
valiant fighter of the hundreds of political battles, he magnificently withstood 
all the trials and temptations that beset his path. He was a true MusUm who had 
implicit faith in his mission and had always lived up to his convictions. In 1926, 
he attended the World Muslim Conference (Motamar Alam-i-hlamj called by 
Sultan ibn Saud at Makkah, in which he boldly laid down his views, when other 
delegates hesitated to speak the bitter truth before the despotic monarch. 

Maulana Muhammad Ali organised several Hindu-Muslim unity 
conferences, but without success. He was instrumental along with Quaid-i-Azam 
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in formulating the Delhi Proposals which demanded 
among other things, the separation of Sind from Bombay Province and the 
Reforms in N.-W.F.P. But, the publication of Nehru Report in 1928, sealed the 
fate of Hindu— Muslim unity for ever, and exposed the Congress as well as the 
Hindu Nationalists in all their nakedness. It proved to be a bitter pill which 
neither the Quaid-i-Azam nor Maulana Muhammad Ali could swallow. They tried 
to modify the Report at the Calcutta All Parties Conference held in December 
1928, but failed due to want of Hindu support. Later, Quaid-i-Azam and 
Maulana Muhammad Ali participated in an All Parties Conference held under the 
Presidentship of Agha Khan in Delhi. Maulana Muhammad Ali, at last had to 
change his course after 16 years' ceaseless efforts for the cause of Indian 
freedom. He had given his best for the sake of Hindu— Muslim unity, but to no 
purpose. He was not destined to live long. His health was shattered, his heart 
broken and he was only a shadow of his former self. 

He started on the final phase of his life journey. Against all medical advice, 
he decided to participate in the Round Table Conference in London and was 
carried on a stretcher. Addressing the plenary session of the first R.T.C., he 
delivered his memorable speech quoted at the top which thrilled his countrymen. 
He breathed his last on January 4, 1931, and was buried near the sacred Aqsa 
Mosque in Jerusalem and thus joined the few immortals. His death cast a gloom 
all over the East and he was mourned by friends and foes alike. He was paid 
eloquent tributes by the great men of the world. Dr. Iqbal, the poet of the East, 

"Soo-e-gardun raft zan rahe ki paighambar guzasht". 

(He proceeded to the Heaven by the same route which was taken by the Prophet 
of Islam). 

H. G. Wells, the celebrated English novelist proclaimed: "Muhammad Ali 
possessed the pen of Macaulay, the tongue of Burke and the heart of Napolean". 

Such was Maulana Muhammad Ali, a person gifted with extraordinary 
qualities— a dynamic leader, a born poet, an eloquent orator, a forceful writer 
and above all a true Muslim. 


It was in May 1951, when Muslim India lost one of its greatest and most 
illustrious sons in Maulana Fazlul Hasan Hasrat Mohani who was the living 
symbol of Iqbal's conception oi Motnin (True Muslim). 

Hasrat was born at Mohan, District Unnao (U.P.) in 1875. He topped the 
list of successful candidates in Urdu Middle Examination of U.P., was admitted 
to Government High School, Fatehpur, and passed High School Examination 
with distinction, obtaining a scholarship. He graduated from Anglo-Muhammadan 
College, Aligarh, in 1903 with distinction. He professed progressive and indepen- 
dent views during his college days and openly opposed British domination over 

He started his celebrated journal 'Urdu-e-Moalla " from Aligarh in 1904 
which was the best literary and political magazine in Urdu of its time in India. 
Prominent literary and poUtical figures of the country, including Maulana 
himself, used to contribute to it. An article entitled: "British Policy in Egypt", 
published in it was legally regarded seditious by the Indian Government. The 
Maulana was asked to disclose the name of the author, but he declined to do so 
and preferred to undergo one year's rigorous imprisonment plus Rs. 500 as fine. 
He raised his solitary voice in favour of freedom of the Press, when people 
shuddered even to utter a word against the Government, and the Congress 
leaders used to pass resolutions in support of British rule in India. 

Maulana Hasrat published 'Urdu-e-Moalla ' firstly from Aligarh and later on 
from Cawnpore where he had migrated and settled down for the rest of his life. 
He greatly contributed to popularising 'Ghalib' by publishing an authentic but 
cheap key of Ghalib's Urdu Diwan. Formerly, reference books on Ghalib like 
Hali's Memoirs of Ghalib and the key written by Taba Tabai, were too voluminous 
and limited to higher circles only. The key written by Maulana became very 
popular. He wrote on the principles of criticism and the art of poetry in his 
magazine "Nukat-i-Sukhan " (Secrets of Verse). He showed the correct attitude 
to budding poets and writers by his enUghtened criticism of literature. He also 
brought out the forgotten poets out of their obscurity, by pubhshing their works 
in this journal. He created a good taste for poetry among the people by 
publishing the selected works of Urdu poets. In this respect he may be termed as 
a prototype of Maulvi Abdul Haq. 


340 Hundred Great Muslims 

The Maulana was perhaps the first political prisoner in British India 
convicted under the Press Laws. He had to undergo rigorous imprisonment and 
was not treated as luxurious "A" Class Prisoner, but like ordinary criminal 
convicts. He was given the following garments for his use in the jail, namely a 
knicker, a shirt, a cap, a piece of jute cloth and a rough dirty blanket for his 
bedding. A big iron cup was supplied for eating and for other necessities. In 
order to realise the fine, the Magistrate confiscated the valuable books and rare 
manuscripts of his library and auctioned them for a paltry sum. These books 
were his only earthly possessions. He was kept in solitary confinement and had 
to grind one maund of wheat per day which is not an easy task and requires 
much physical labour to which the Maulana was totally unaccustomed. He was, 
whipped for any loss of wheat which was sometimes deliberately stolen by his 
wards. His body bore the marks of whipping inflicted in jail. The Maulana wrote 
in his 'Urdu-e-Moalla ' that in the beginning he really felt the rigour of jail life 
and was much distressed by his meagre clothing and lack of proper arrangement 
for ablution which served as great obstacles in offering his prayers. After some- 
times, he was habituated to this sort of life and he realised that bliss lies not in 
multiplicity of wants but in their negation and was thankful to God for all his 
trials and tribulations. He was trained to lead a simple life, free of wants, which 
steeled his character and gave him courage to live up to his convictions and raised 
his voice in support of truth. It was the first trial of Maulana. His very life was a 
struggle against the forces of evil. He propagated the boycott of Italian goods 
during the Tripoli War whereupon his poor (small) press was called upon to 
submit a security of Rs. 3,000/- by the Government of Sir James Meston. He had 
to close his magazine and start another one named "Tazkira-i-Shoara" (History 
of Poets). In 1 9 1 6 he was again sent to jail for two years under the Safety Act. 
He was put to greatest hardships during this term. His pair of spectacles was 
confiscated, none was allowed to see him and he had to grind wheat throughout 
the holy month of Ramazan. During his imprisonment he was unnecessarily 
transferred to dozens of places and at one place he was given very dirty clothes 
to wear. He was taken in chains from one place to another and during his 
journey once he was not paid even one anna per day which was given to ordinary 
convicts on such occasions and he had to content with a handful of rotten gram 
for the whole day. 

Such hardships tended to steel the Maulana's character and taught him to 
lead an abstemious life, caring for and fearing none except God. These were the 
stimulants which brought out the nobler traits of his character and taught him 
to live up to his convictions, leading a life which would serve as beacon light to 
the strugglers for truth and freedom of future generations. His dynamic personality 
awakened the dormant qualities of Indian people and harnessed them for 
purposes of achieving their destiny. 

In the historical session of the AU India National Congress at Ahmadabad 
in 1921, he submitted the Resolution of complete independence for India, but it 
was opposed by no less a person than Mr. Gandhi himself who pleaded for 
Dominion Status within the British Commonwealth. No doubt, the Maulana, to 
some extent, justified the saying that 'genius is eccentric", and he entertained no 

Hundred Great Muslims 341 

some extent, justified the saying that 'genius is eccentric", and he entertained no 
compromise on his convictions. In his character and composition his opponents 
could only see disabilities for the task undertaken by him and no end of logic 
was spared to prove the futility and impossibility of his undertaking. He was in 
the vanguard of freedom movement of India and took a leading part in the Non- 
cooperation Movement launched by the combined efforts of the Congress and 
the Khilafat Movement in 1922-23 and was sent to jail in 1924. He dedicated 
his life to the service of humanity and truth. He was disillusioned on the 
publication of the Nehru Report in 1929 and along with some of the great 
Muslims of those times severed his connection with the Congress. The Nehru 
Report had totally exposed the poUtical aspirations and ambitions of the 
majority community to dominate the minorities in India. 

The Maulana took a leading part along with Quaid-e-Azam and Ali Brothers 
in the welfare and political awakening of the Muslim community in India. He 
presided over the annual session of the All India Khilafat Committee in 1 923 
and was elected President of the All India MusUm League in 1923. He was a 
zealous worker of Muslim League and took a prominent part in its reorganisation 
since 1936 and actively participated in the movement started by Quaid-e-Azam 
to achieve the political emancipation of Indian Muslims and secure an honourable 
place for them in the socio-economic structure of India. He was a loyal soldier in 
the army of Muslim League led by Quaid-e-Azam which ultimately won 
Pakistan. After the birth of Pakistan, he stayed behind in India to face the 
aftermath and to safeguard the interests of Muslims left in India. It was he alone 
who had the courage to face the fanaticism of the Hindu community drunk with 
power. His memorable words challenging Sardar Patel, the iron man of India in 
the Constituent Assembly, will long ring in the memory of future generations: 

"You should not think that Muslims are orphans today. I am here to 
defend their rights against all odds and will fight for them till death". 

He actually lived up to his convictions and professions. A person who had 
withstood the combined onslaught of British Imperiahsm and Hindu fanaticism 
in the early twenties of the present century did not give serious consideration to 
the threats, intimidations and insinuations of post-partition Bharti leaders. He 
stood like a rock against the storm of Hindu communalism which was let loose 
on helpless Muslims after the division of India. The Maulana who had defied the 
authority of British aristocrats and had worked side by side with such Indian 
political giants like Quaid-e-Azam, Ali Brothers, Gandhi, Tilak and C. R. Dass, 
never bothered about the petty challenges of lesser leaders like Nehru, Patel and 
Rajaji. He was conscious of the dangers to Muslims inherent in the Indian society 
after the blood bath of August 1947, but like a true Muslim he stuck to his 
post and resolved to face the calamities with courage and perseverance. He was 
confronted with a dangerous task, but a person like him who had weathered 
great storms that shook the country during the present century, did not shirk to 
face them again. 

342 Hundred Great Muslims 

The exceptional qualities of sincerity, forbearance, fearlessness, perseve- 
rance, patience and contentment which the jail life had developed in his 
character, are profoundly reflected in his poetry. His career as a poet begins 
from 1894, when he was a student of Government High School. Fatehpur. He 
has left behind him ten volumes of poetical works. His individuality as a poet is 
reflected in his poems throughout his career, but the best part of his contribution 
to Urdu Poetry was composed in jail, wherefrom each time when he was released, 
he used to bring out a volume of Urdu poems. Though he was not supplied with 
paper and ink in the jail, he memorised his couplets and released them to the 
press on the expiry of his term of imprisonment. 

He was the founder of the Modern Urdu Lyrics. He revived the lyrics in 
Urdu which had lost its soul and had much degenerated into the hands of the 
Lucknow School of Urdu Poets, namely, Rind, Wazir, Amanat, etc., who laid 
more emphasis on the pun of words rather than on depth of feelings and sincerity 
of thought, with the result that Urdu lyric had become a mixture of unnatural 
and artificial picture of human hfe. The Maulana had, on one hand, such 
predecessors as Amanat and Wazir who believed in the jugglery of words, while, 
on the other, he came into contact with contemporaries like Juraat and Dagh 
who depicted the vulgar and base sentiments of love. Hali had already advanced 
his weighty arguments against Urdu lyrics in his famous book An Introduction 
to Poetry and had propagated either its abolition or reformation. The Maulana 
knew that the lyric was very deep rooted and was the very soul of Urdu poetry. 
So he steered a midway between the two extremes, and brought about the 
renaissance of Urdu lyric. He concentrated mainly on the sincerity of thought 
and simplicity of diction, hence his poems paint the true but dignified senti- 
ments of love and portray the multifarious phases of human passions. In this 
way, though Hasrat may be termed as a conservative lyrist, yet he infused a new 
life in its fast decaying body and after Mir may be classed as the best Urdu lyrist. 
Had there been no Hasrat, Urdu lyric would have had a very dark future. All the 
later lyrists like Asghar, Jigai, Fani and even Iqbal, took inspiration from the 
Maulana's poetry. He has an individuality of his own and was the pupil of Taslim 
in the realm of poetry. He comes in line Momin and Naseem Dehlavi in respect 
of the type of his verses, but he carved out an independent course for giving 
vent to his true sentiments. His main attributes are the purity of thought, 
sublimity of sentiments and simplicity of diction. Like Mir, Hasrat, too, passed 
a life of despair and anxieties, hence there is a spiritual connection between the 
two and the works of both reflect deep pathos. But, in Hasrat, the pathos is 
neither so deep like that of Mir nor so philosophical like that of Ghalib or Fani. 
His poetry, according to Arnold, is the mirror of his life, hence it has been much 
affected by his environments and portrays much variety of subjective phases of 
his many-sided personality. His poetry is mainly subjective and he has tried to 
avoid the objective colour which had crept into the works of Urdu lyrists of 
Lucknow. He has depicted numerous pictures of those turbulent times, giving 
a realistic touch to his poems. 

Hasrat is a lover of Nature. Like Wordsworth, he learns sermons from 

Hundred Great Muslims 343 

stones and books from running brooks. He founded a new School of Urdu Lyrics 
whose aim is to depict true human sentiments and reactions to his environments. 
He is the true product of his time. According to Mathew Arnold, "Literature is 
the mirror of life", and like the celebrated English poet Lord Tennyson, 
Hasrat too has been much affected by his environments. His verses are full of 
revolutionary thought, reactions and national aspirations of a person whose life 
was so stormy and turbulent. In this respect he comes very close to Chakbast, 
the national poet of Urdu, but Chakbast is out and out a national poet, while 
Hasrat simply makes a passing remark on such matters in his lyrics. His lyric 
composed in the Faizabad jail, carrying the following couplet, is a typical 
instance in poiiit : 

(Hasrat is continuing his hobby of composing verses side by side with the grinding 
of wheat. What a peculiar nature does Hasrat possess!) Hasrat also composed a 
poem on Tilak which is very sentimental. Taken together, Hasrat as a poet is 
very close to Robert Burns, the celebrated poet of Scotland, hence he may be 
called the 'Robert Burns of Urdu'. 

Hasrat was a true Muslim. His greatest virtue was that he was a gentleman 
in the real sense of the word. As a man, his chief attributes were simplicity, 
sincerity, truth, fearlessness, straightforwardness, forbearance and contentment. 
Amongst the politicians and poets of our times, he had the rare distinction 
of living up to his convictions. Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, who had been a 
distinguished colleague of Maulana since the Khilafat days, paid rich tributes to 
Hasrat at the time of his death. He said, "Hasrat was a great poet, a great 
politician, a great litterateur but above all he was a great man". 

The Maulana led a life of simplicity and austerity. He was a man who was 
free from worldly desires and wants. He was a selfless but fearless person who 
was afraid of none except God. He passed a saintly hfe and himself did all his 
household work. Even he brought buckets of water from the water tap and 
always gently refused offers to share his household duties with others. He used 
very cheap and tattered clothes and wore a typical Turkish cap. He always 
travelled in a third class compartment and made several pilgrimages to Makkah 
declining the comforts of the first class journey offered to him by shipping 
companies. He even declined the luxurious hospitality of the King of Arabia. 
His total luggage on such long and hazardous pilgrimages was a small bundle 
comprising his bedding and some necessary clothes. Being a true Muslim he was 
never attracted by worldly pleasures or wealth. Whenever he received some 
monetary return for his publications, he distributed it among the needy. For 
days his family suffered starvation for want of food, but he bore all these trials 
with a smiling countenance. He possessed the rare qualities of sincerity, piety, 
straightforwardness, fearlessness and above all the spirit of contentment and 
sacrifice. Whenever he ascended the high pedestal of the Presidentship of All-India 

344 Hundred Great Muslims 

Muslim League or All-India Khilafat Committee, he performed his duties like the 
early Caliphs treading on the footprints of the Holy Prophet. It may be said 
without fear of contradiction that Maulana Hasrat Mohani belonged to the 
Ulustrious tribe of great Muslim heroes of early Islam. 

As a whole he was a versatile genius. He possessed a many-sided personaUty 
who acquired greatness in contradictory traits of character and spheres of life- 
like poetry and politics; literature and religion, which is rather unparalleled in 
the history of Indo-Pak subcontinent. He was the very embodiment of truth 
and sincerity, who in his person, translated into reaUty the following immortal 
couplet of Iqbal— the Poet of the East : 


Pakistan, one of the biggest Muslim States in the world, is a living 
monument of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who, with his untiring 
efforts, indomitable wiU and dauntless courage, united the Indian Muslims under 
the Muslim League banner, and carved out a homeland for them despite stiff 
opposition from the Hindu Congress and the British Government. 

The late Agha Khan acknowledges Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the 
greatest man of this century, when he states: "Of all the statesmen that 1 have 
known in my life— Clemenceau, Uoyd George, Churchill, Curzon, Mussolini, 
Mahatma Gandhi— Jinnah is the most remarkable. None of these men in my view 
outshone him in strength of character and in almost uncanny combination of 
prescience and resolution which is statecraft. It may be argued that he was 
luckier than some— far luckier for example, than Mussolini, who perished 
miserably in utter failure and misery". 

Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, the celebrated Muslim patriot of India, 
is reported to have said, "I learned Islam from Abul Kalam Azad and Iqbal- 
one pulls me in one direction and the other points to the opposite way". But 
certainly during the last days of his life he was drawn to the viewpoint of the 
poet (Iqbal) and considered Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the most promising leader 
of Muslim India. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the one time 'Ambassador of Hindu- 
Muslim Unity' was destined to give a practical shape to the dream of Pakistan, 
visualized by the poet Iqbal in 1930. 

Muhammad Ali Jirmah was born at Karachi on December 25, 1876. His 
father belonged to a prosperous business community of Kathiawar, which had 
settled in Karachi. Reared up in careless affluence, Muhammad Ali Jinnah might 
have easily grown into indolent and ignorant boyhood. But fortunately for 
Indian Muslims, his father decided for his son a career different from the traditions 
of his corrmiunity. He received his early education at the Sind Madrassa and later 
at the Mission School, Karachi. In 1892, on the advice of an English friend of 
the family, he was sent to England for higher studies at the tender age of 16. 
It was in England that Muhammad Ali Jinnah first met Dadabhai Naoroji, who 
was much impressed by the young Jirmah and who, later played an important 
role in shaping his early political career. He returned from England in 1896 after 
qualifying himself for the Bar, and was called to the Bar in 1897. 


346 Hundred Great Muslims 

On his ai rival in India from England young Jinnah had to undergo great 
financial hard- sips as his father had a run of bad luck in his business. Suddenly 
he had to face unexpected poverty, but instead of losing heart, he set himself 
earnestly to carve out a successful independent career for himself. He started 
his legal practice in Bombay in 1 897 and soon earned a respectable place in the 
Bombay Bar. The first three years of his legal career were of severe hardship, but 
shortly afterwards his career became just one continuous record of successive 
triumphs, and he rose to be one of the greatest lawyers and parliamentarians 
that India has produced. His advocacy, legal acumen and impressive way of 
speaking contributed immensely to his building up a roaring legal practice in 
Bombay. He was universally recognised as one of the greatest legal brains of his 
time and one amongst Motilal Nehru, Ali Imam, C. R. Dass, Shah Muhammad 
Sulaiman, Bhulabhai Desai and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah started his political career in 1906 when he attended 
the Calcutta session of the All India National Congress as the Private Secretary 
of the President, Dada Bhai Naoroji. During his early political career he was 
closely associated with Dada Bhai Naoroji and S. N. Banetji and was much 
influenced by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and, according to his own admissions, he 
aspired to become "Muslim Gokhale". G. K. Gokhale was also much impressed 
by the earnestness and abilities of his political disciple and once predicted : "He 
has true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will 
make him the best Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity" (Mrs. Naidu's article— 
Pakistan Standard, 25-12-54). 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah combined in himself the rare gifts of a sincere heart 
and a high intellect. Being an Ambassador of Hindu— Muslim unity, he tried to 
bring Muslim League and Congress closer to one another. His efforts in this 
respect were crowned with success. The session of the All India Muslim League 
held at Bombay in 1915, under the Presidentship of Mr. Mazharul Haq, well- 
known for his pro-Congress views, was the first step towards League— Congress 
rapproachment. A resolution was moved by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in this 
session to appoint a Committee which would negotiate with the major parties of 
India. The resolution was adopted. In 1917, the annual sessions of both the 
Congress and the League were held at Lucknow. The League session, which was 
presided over by Muhammad Ali Jinnah marked the culmination of his efforts 
towards the achievement of Hindu— Muslim unity. A joint scheme for Reforms 
was evolved by the Negnvi-uing Committee which was adopted both by the 
League and the Corgre-i. This is known as the famous Lucknow Pact, which 
marks the greatest .np sure of agreement achieved between the two major parties 
of India. 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, by this time, had become one of the most important 
National Leaders of India. He presided over a function in Bombay at which an 
address was presented to Mr. M. K. Gandhi on his arrival from South Africa. He 
was elected as the Chairman of the Bombay Branch of Home League. Mr. 
Montague, the then Secretary of State for India who saw Mr. Muhammad Ali 

Hundred Great Muslims 347 

Jinnah in 1917, records in his diary: "They were followed by Muhammad Ali 
Jinnah, young, perfectly mannered, impressive looking, armed to the teeth with 
dialectics and insistent upon the whole of his scheme" (The Makers of Pakistan— 
Al-Beruni). Lord Chelmsford has also acknowledged on one occasion that 
"Jinnah is a very clever man, and it is of course an outrage that such a man 
should have no chance of running the affairs of his own country". (The Makers 
of Pakistan). In 1918 he led a powerful agitation against presenting a farewell 
address to Lord Willingdon, the retiring Bombay Governor. It was in reality an 
effective protest against the autocratic regime of Lord Willingdon as the Governor 
of Bombay and marked the beginning of the post-war agitation. Mr. M. Syed in 
his book, 'Muhammad Ali Jinnah', writes that after this incident Jinnah, "was at 
once a hero". Public addresses were presented to him, and garden parties were 
given in his honour. "For the first time in his lonely career, Jinnah was a popular 
figure— a leader of the people. His admirers contributed thirty thousand rupees 
to build a Memorial Hall in his honour and in spite of the ravages of partition, it 
is still called the Jinnah Hall. On the wall is a marble plaque recalling the historic 
triumph of the citizens of Bombay, under the brave and brilliant leadership of 
Muhammad Ali Jinnah" (Hector Bolitho 's Jinnah). 

In 1919, Mr. Jinnah resigned his membership of the Imperial Legislative 
Council as a protest against the adoption of "Rowlatt Act". He vehemently 
criticised the Act during the Calcutta session of All India Muslim League in 
September 1 920. He had also developed differences with Mr. Gandhi and did not 
approve of the Gandhian methods of handling the situation. Moreover, Mr. 
Gandhi had also captured the Presidentship of Home Rule League, changed its 
constitution and named it as Swaraj Sabha. This caused his open opposition to 
Gandhian policies. These differences cluminated in his break with the Congress 
when in the Annual Session of the All India Congress held at Nagpur in 1920, a 
resolution of nonco-operation with the Government was adopted by an over- 
whelming majority. Mr. Jinnah, who opposed such a move, had no option but to 
resign from the All India National Congress. Mr. Kanji Dwarkadass, one of his 
colleagues in the Home League describes this incident. "Once again Jinnah put 
up a bold fight against Gandhi at the Nagpur Session of the Congress during the 
Christmas week in 1920. In the meantime Umar Subhani and Shankarlal Banker 
had left the Home Rule League to join Gandhi and K. M. Munshi later Governor 
of U.P. and I worked as Honorary Secretaries with Jinnah as the President. 
Gandhi not satisfied with having got the control of the Congress, started poaching 
on other political organisations and captured the Home Rule League and changed 
its Constitution. Jinnah and 20 of us resigned our memberships. I have the most 
pleasant recollections of my work with Jinnah during those and subsequent 
years. I found extremely amiable, fairminded and tolerant. He was a judicial 
minded chairman and he never took sides when he was in the Chair" (Article— 
"Jinnah-A Great Political Leader and Great Fighter"). 

Muhammad Ah Jiimah continued his efforts to bring the two major 
communities of India closer, but he was greatly handicapped by the 'Shuddhi 
Sangathan' Movement started by Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya and his associates 

348 Hundred Great Muslims 

which had begun to exercise greater hold over the policies of the All India 
National Congress and to some extent changed the outlook of even the great 
'Mahatma'. This resulted in a wave of communal riots which swept over the 
entire country, undoing all work of Hindu-Muslim unity. In 1924, Jinnah called 
a general meeting of the MusUm League at Lahore and tried to repeat his 
performance of the Lucknow Pact. He had a great hand in formulating the Delhi 
proposals which were opposed by the Punjab Muslim League but endorsed by 
the All India Mushm League. His efforts for bringing the two major communities 
closer did not receive the support it deserved as the two communities had a 
bitter experience of Hindu— Muslim riots all over India. 

The issue of the boycott of the Simon Commission caused a spUt in the 
ranks of Mushm League-Sir Muhammad Shafi and his Punjab followers 
cooperated with the Commission, while Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Maulana 
Muhammad Ali with rest of the Muslim League members, co-operated with the 
Congress in the boycott of the Simon Commission. Shortly after, Muhammad 
Ali Jinnah went to England and during his absence the Nehru Report was 
pubhshed which was severely criticised by all sections of Muslim opinion except 
the Nationalists. This further widened the branch between the two major Indian 
communities and one last effort to narrow down the differences was made when 
a National Convention was called at Calcutta in December 1928 to consider the 
Report. The Convention turned down the amendment moved by Muhammad Ah 
Jinnah both in the subject committee and the open session. The so-called 
Congress Nationalists exhibited no desire for a compromise and Jinnah left a 
sadder but a wiser man. According to Kanji Dwarakadass, "The resolution on 
adult franchise and joint electorate and weightage was about to be passed when 
Jayaker sprang a surprise, made a strong anti-Muslim speech and the resolution 
could not be passed. It is essential that I should say this because it was not 
Jinnah who took up an impossible and obstinate communal attitude to prevent 
the settlement of Hindu— Muslim problem", {kitidt— 'Jinnah- A Great Political 
Leader and a Great Fighter'). This impossible and extremely communal attitude 
of the Hindu leaders of the Congress caused him disillusionment that the Muslims 
could not expect a fair deal at the hands of Hindus in united India. This brought 
about his final parting of ways with the Congress and other Hindu organisations. 
Being a reahst, he found no reason in running after a futile and impractical ideal 
of one and a united nationality for India. 

As a parhamentarian and debater, Mr. Jinnah outshone all his contempo- 
raries in India. During his long record as the member of the Central Legislative 
Assembly of India, starting as early as 1910 and lasting up to 1947, there was 
hardly any important enactment of the Legislature in the shaping of which he 
had not a share. 

Mr. Jinnah was more of a debater than an orator. His great power as a 
debater earned for him the nickname of Parliamentary Juggler . According to 
Mr. O. N. Nambiyar, "it is in debates that Mr. Jinnah creates a great impression. 
Ask him to reply on or to take part in a debate on a highly controversial question : 

Hundred Great Muslims 349 

he likes it and he does it better than any member of any Legislature in India 
today. Mr. Jinnah is one of those few speakers whom an audience is not tired 
of hearing ; in fatt, Mr. Jinnah's audience is never tired because he does not tire 
them". His success as a powerful parliamentary debater lay in his magnetic 
personality, an impressive delivery, his clear cut persuasive arguments and a 
voice which while lacking in volume had an arresting timber. "But though 
occasionally", writes Mrs. S. Naidu, "he has attained a moment of wholly 
unconscious and stirring eloquence, he has the cogent force of a brilliant advocate 
rather than the glowing fervour of a brilliant orator. And it is not 'public 
platform, but at a Round Table Conference that he finds full scope of his 
unusual powers of persuasion, luminous exposition, searching argument and 
impeccable judgement". 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was first elected to the Supreme Legislative Council 
of India in 1910 from the Muslim Constituency of Bombay Presidency. In the 
Legislature he supported all liberal measures involving larger national issues. He 
lent his support to all labour, and social reform legislations that came up before 
the Council. "His attitude towards all problems of India was one of progress and 
reform", writes Kanji Dwarkadass. "He was never a reactionary in politics". 
He supported Gokhale's Elementary Education Bill and Mr. Basu's Special 
Marriage Bill, which had created a violent opposition from conservative India. 
But it was in his successful piloting of Waqf Validating Bill that he rendered a 
singular service to Muslims and earned their gratitude. For sometime "Muslim 
opinion had been clamouring for a measure to counteract the effect of certain 
Privy Council decisions based on an interpretation of Muhammadan Law 
considered to be wrong and injurious. The opinion finally crystallised into the 
Waqf Validating Bill of 1913 to introduce which Jinnah was specially nominated 
for an extra term by the Viceroy Lord Hardinge". {Great Men of India). He 
showed great skill in piloting through such a intricate and controversial measure. 
The passing of this Bill into law earned him the appreciation of his colleagues as 
well as the first recognition of his co-religionists all over India, who now began 
to look to him for political guidance. 

After this, there was a short break of three years in his work as a legis- 
lator, when he proceeded to Europe on a long holiday. In 1916 he was again 
elected to the Imperial Legislative Council from the Bombay Presidency. Till 
1947 he continued to be a member of the Central Legislature of India. His 
association with it all these long years was so intimate that there was hardly any 
important legislative enactment in which he had not taken major share. He 
wielded great influence and respect in the Central Legislature due to his honesty 
and integrity, parliamentary abiUties and independent outlook. He never placed 
himself under the slightest obligation to the Government Benches and in all 
liberal issues sided with the Opposition. He played an important part in sending 
the Shariat Bill to the Statute Book. 

Mr. Muhammad Ah Jiimah was the leader of the Independent Party in the 
Second and Third Central Assemblies of India. He severely criticised the Treasury 

350 Hundred Great Muslims 

Benches and during the Annual Budget Session, his party occasionally moved a 
cut motion and had it carried to censure the Government. But, as the leader of 
the Independent Party in the Fifth Central Assembly, he did not support the 
nefarious tactics of the Congress benches which by this time were totally exposed 
in their anti-Muslim activities. He openly accused the Congress of its designs to 
exploit and terrorise the Indian Muslims for strengthening the Congress. A 
Muslim League Party was formed in the Central Legislative Assembly with Mr. 
Jinnah as its leader. This party challenged the claim of the Congress to represent 
all communities in India. Never before Muslim members of the Assembly had 
worked better as a team. With their capable as well as experienced leader they 
gave a tough fight to the Congress party in the Central Assembly debates. In 
1945, when fresh elections to the Central Assembly of India were held, the 
Muslim League captured all Muslim seats and thus formed a powerful Muslim 
Bloc under the leadership of Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It was this party, 
which, under his able guidance, fought inside the Central Legislature a two front 
battle for the achievement of Pakistan. Writing about it, Mr. 0. N. Nambiyar 
stated: "Mr. Jinnah today is certainly the most prominent member of the 
Assembly. The Government knows that the Congress has no right. Every member 
of the League Party is proud of its leader: a leader who knows how to lead .... 
The part played by Mr. Jinnah is a part which every Indian Muslim may be 
proud of. 

The Gandhian policies which dominated the Congress since 1920 and the 
Shuddhi Sanghatan Movement backed by an influential section of the Congress 
culminating in countrywide communal riots, widened the gulf between the two 
major Indian communities and drove Muhammad Ali Jinnah farther and farther 
away from the Congress. The Nehru Report which exposed the Hindu nationalists 
in all their nakedness brought about the final break. Some of the staunch Muslim 
nationalists like Maulana Muhammad Ali, and Maulana Hasrat Mohani resigned 
from the Congress. Muhammad Ali Jinnah who had resigned from the Congress 
during the Nagpur Session in 1920, continued his unabated efforts for Hindu- 
Muslim unity, but after the publication of the Nehru Report he considered all 
such attempts to be utterly futile. To counter the Nehru Report, Mr. Jinnah 
evolved his famous Fourteen Points some of which related to (1) Effective 
Representation of Minorities in the Provinces; (2) Separate Electorate; (3) No 
Disturbance of the Muslim Majority in the Punjab, Bengal and N.-W.F.P.; 
(4) Religious Liberty, etc. ; (5) Machinery for Enforcing Religious Liberty. 

In 1929 he attended the All Parties Conference for evolving a united stand 
of Muslim political parties held under the presidentship of H. R. H. Agha Khan 
at Delhi. Next year, Muhammad Ali Jinnah sailed to England to attend the First 
Round Table Conference. Dewan Chaman Lai, a Congress leader of Punjab who 
was a fellow traveller wrote : "Jinnah is frankly in a despondent mood. He is one 
of the few men who have no personal motives to nurse or personal aims to advance. 
His integrity is beyond question. And he is the loneliest man". Muhammad Ali 
Jinnah tried to evolve a Hindu— Muslim formulae in the First Round Table 
Conference, but it was vetoed by Dr. Jayaker. Later, Agha Khan tried to come 

Hundred dreaf Muslims 351 

to an understanding with Gandhi on the Hindu-MusUm question which was 
accepted by all other communities of India except caste Hindus. This enabled 
the British Premier to give the Communal Award to the Indian minorities. 
Jiimah opposed a strong Centre, which, in his opinion, would reduce Provincial 
autonomy to a mere farce. 

Even at the Round Table Conference, Muhammad Ali Jinnah supported 
the broader national interest. According to Kanji Dwarkadass, "At the first 
Round Table Conference Jinnah and C. Y. Chintamani were the only two leaders 
who opposed the commercial safeguards which the Britishers wanted for their 
own countrymen in India. A small incident may be mentioned. The late Prime 
Minister, Ramsay Macdonald sent for Jinnah and told him that in the new order 
of things that would come in India, the British Prime Minister would have to 
look for prominent Indian to take up the Governorship of the Provinces, suggesting 
without saying so that Jinnah would have excellent chance if he proved to 
be a good boy. Jinnah asked Macdonald if this was an attempt to bribe him to 
get his support on the British Government's compromise suggestions". Iqbal, 
who was also a Muslim delegate in the Round Table Conference, convinced 
Muhammad Ali Jinnah the desirability of creating a North— Western State ifor 
Muslims in India. This scheme did not find favour, but in the 1935 Act, Sind and 
N.-W.F.P. were made separate Provinces— a measure which proved to be very 
useful for Muslims. 

The years 1928—35 may be considered as a period of his political wilder- 
ness. Being disgusted with the disappointing Indian politics, Mr. Jinnah had 
settled in England and had started practice in the Privy Council. But, with the 
passing away of the magnetic personality of Maulana Muhammad Ali, Indian 
Muslims were left without effective leadership, and Mr. Jirmah was induced to 
come back to India in October 1935. He reorganised the Muslim League and 
made it more democratic. A Central Election Board was set up to fight the 
Provincial Assembly Elections held under the 1935 Act. The Jamiat-al-Ulema-i- 
Hind supported the League. Mr. Jinnah made a countrywide tour and his efforts 
met with some success specially in the Muslim minority provinces. 

The 1937, Provincial Assembly elections produced many surprises. The 
Congress secured absolute majority in seven out of the eleven Provinces. This 
unexpected success of the Congress made their leaders still more cold towards 
non-nationalist Muslim organisations. Its haughty President, Pt. Nehru, proudly 
declared that there were only two parties in India— Congress and the British 
Government. Jinnah accepted this challenge and declared that there was a 
third party, too, and that was the Muslim League. The Congress President Pt. 
Nehru, with the help of Nationalist Muslims and Jamiat-al-Ulema leaders (who 
had now allied themselves with the Congress) started the Muslim mass contact 
movement which proved to be an utter failur. Several bye-elections of Muslim 
seats in the United Provinces, the centre of Congress, ended in crushing defeats 
to the Congress candidates and established the claim of Mr. Jinnah about the 
existence of a Third Party. In 1938, Congress Ministries were formed in eight 

352 Hundred Great Muslims 

out of eleven Indian Provinces, and their professions, when put to practice, 
fell miserably short of public expectations, specially of the Muslims. The utterly 
communal policies practised by the Congress high ups like Patel, Tandon, Shukla, 
Misra and Sanpurnanand, coupled with the narrowminded communal outlook 
of the Hindu masses, exposed the Congress in all its nakedness. Their practice 
procured a strange contrast to their professions which created a stir throughout 
Muslim India and immensely added to the Muslim distrust towards the Congress, 
resulting in rallying of the Muslim masses under the Muslim League banner. The 
anti-Muslim policies of the Congress Ministries had greatly contributed to the 
popularity of the Muslim League in the Muslim minority provinces. A series of 
Hindu— Muslim riots broke out in the Congress administered provinces which 
knew no ending. When the Provincial Ministries resigned in 1939, the Muslims 
and the untouchables celebrated the "Deliverance Day' throughout India. A 
Muslim League Committee was set up earlier to enquire into the atrocities of 
the Congress Regimes in the provinces, and the Pirpur Report was published 
detailing the persecution of Muslims under the Congress Ministries. 

The MusUm League had acquired great popularity among the Muslims due 
to the wise statesmanship of its leader, Mr. Jinnah, and the short-sighted and 
unrealistic policies of the Congress leadership. He secured another victory when, 
in 1937, the Muslim members of Punjab, Bengal and Sind Provincial Assemblies 
came to terms with Mr. Jinnah and agreed to abide by the policy and programmes 
of the All India Muslim League in all-India matters. Muslim India had rallied 
round the Muslim League and Mr. Muhammad All Jinnah. The Annual Session of 
the Muslim League at Lucknow in 1937 provided a turning point in the history 
of Muslim India. 

The atrocities perpetrated by the Congress Provincial Ministries over the 
Muslims had greatly alienated them from the Congress. This treatment was 
taken as a challenge by Muslim India. This unstatesman-like attitude of the 
Congress leadership was criticised by some of the far-sighted non-Muslims 
including Mr. Tairsee, Sardar Sardul Singh Caveesher and Sir Chaman Lai Sitalvad. 

Mr. Jinnah took full advantage of the situation created by the Congress 
leadership. He had now become the sole leader of Muslim India. Except a handful 
of nationalist Muslims, the Muslims recognised him as their Quaid-e-Azam 
(Great Leader). The Congress also realised this but it was unwilling to recognise 
the representative character of the Muslim League. Hence all unity talks between 
Jinnah and Gandhi representing the Muslim League and the Congress, respectively 
broke down on this vital issue. The unrealistic attitude of Mr. Gandhi, who 
insisted that Congress, too, represented the Muslims, marred any solution of 
the Hindu— Muslim problem in India and Mr. Jinnah was by now convinced that 
Indian Muslims should not expect justice from the Congress. 

In the session of All India Muslim League held at Karachi in 1938, it was 
resolved that the entire question of the future Constitution of India should be 
reviewed in a manner of finding out a way'for securing an honourable status for 

Hundred Great Muslims 353 

Muslims in India. The matter was entrusted to a sub-committee, which suggested 
the creation of a separate Muslim state as a safeguard against Hindu domination. 
The Report of the sub-committee was published, but it was ignored by the 
hot-headed Congress High Command. At last the recommendations of the 
sub-committee came out in the form of the famous Pakistan Resolution adopted 
by the All India Muslim League in its historic session at Lahore in March 1940, 
according to which, "the areas, in which the Muslims are numerically in majority, 
as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to 
constitute independent states". The Lahore Resolution demanding a separate 
independent State for Indian Muslims, created a stir throughout non-MusUm 
India and a wave of opposition started from the interested quarters, and backed 
by the powerful Congress and allied press, swept through India. But, according 
to the author of the "Makers of Pakistan", "Little did those who sponsored the 
Delhi Proposals in 1928 or those, who in 1937, treated the Muslims in a rigid, 
dictatorial manner, realise that they were sowing the wind and would reap the 

The course for Mr. Jinnah was now clear. The Muslim League had adopted 
Pakistan as its goal and now it was for its supreme leader to direct all his efforts 
towards its realisation. The goal for Indian Muslims dreamt by Iqbal as back as 
1930 at Allahabad, had begun to take concrete shape and it was finally realised 
on August 14, 1947. 

The critical war situation in South East Asia compelled the British 
Government to strive for a settlement with the principal political parties in 
India. Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in India, talked to the leaders of the principal 
political parties and was prepared to concede the right of self-determination to 
the provinces. But his proposals were ultimately rejected both by the Muslim 
League and the Congress for different reasons. 

Shortly after the departure of the Cripps Mission, the Congress started 
the "Quit India" Movement in 1942 and the prominent leaders of the Congress, 
including Mr. Gandhi were put behind the bars. This caused a short lull on the 
political front of India. 

Lord Wavell, the new Viceroy, made a fresh effort to solve the constitu- 
•tional problem of India through the representatives of different communities 
on the proposed Executive Council of India. A conference of prominent Indian 
leaders was called at Simla in June 1945, which failed to produce any results. 

Meanwhile, with the termination of war in Europe and with the election 
of the Labour Party to power in U. K. the political situation also changed 
in India. The British Labour Party had greater sympathy with the political 
aspirations of the inhabitants of India. Hence the prospects of the Indian 
independence brightened. The British Labour Party sent a Cabinet Mission to 
resolve the constitutional tangle in India. The Congress still insisted upon its 
claim that it represented the entire population of India, including the Muslims, 

354 Hundred Great Muslims 

though the results of the recent elections of the Central as well as Provincial 
Legislatures in which the Muslim League had captured almost all Muslim seats, 
had beUed the Congress claim. The Cabinet Mission after considerable deliberations 
and negotiations with the Indian leaders, came out with a plan, which divided 
India in three zones with Foreign Affairs, Defence and Communications as 
Central subjects. The plan was originally accepted by both the Congress and the 
League. But the Congress leaders started their own interpretations of the Plan 
which envisaged a strong Centre. This interpretation completely changed the 
entire Plan, hence the MusUm League rejected it in its session at Bombay. 

The Labour Government made one more effort to resolve the deadlock. 
In December 1946, four Indian leaders representing the two principal Indian 
parties, including Mr. Jinnah were invited to London to straighten out the issue. 
This effort also failed. The British Premier made a declaration in the House 
of Commons on February 20, 1947 that the British Government would quit 
India by June 1948 and would hand over power to one or more Central 
Governments. This statement alarmed the Congress leadership, which instigated 
violent communal riots in Punjab, Bihar and Western U.P. Having failed in their 
conspiracy to suppress Muslims in Punjab through political intrigues and violence, 
the Congress now demanded the partition of Punjab and Bengal— a strange 
demand from a party which, till lately, had opposed the partition of India. 
Hence the Mountbatten Plan of the Partition of India was announced on June 3, 
1947 and Pakistan was established on August 14, 1947 with Mr. Jinnah as its 
first Governor-General. 

The establishment of Pakistan brought greatest responsibilities on the 
shoulders of Mr. Jinnah, who being the beloved leader as well as the Head of 
Pakistan Government had to build the newly-born State, starting from scratch. 
The holocust in the East Punjab, Delhi, Rajputana State and Western U.P. 
as well as the harassment of Muslims all over the Indian State, drove more than 
eight million Muslims across the border and created an unprecedented refugee 
problem for the newly-born State of Pakistan. In the meantime, the Indian 
forces invaded and occupied the Muslim populated State of Kahmir, whose 
Hindu Maharaja had entered into a secret understanding with the Indian 
Government against the wishes of his people. The Indian Government also 
withheld the Pakistani share of the divided assets. But the indomitable will of 
the Quaid-e-Azam and the administrative ability of his trusted lieutenant 
Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, enabled the new State to 
tide over its initial difficulties. Within a short span of one year, Pakistan had 
displayed to the astonished world its financial as well as administrative stability 
and was marching forward on road to progress. The Quaid-e-Azam laid greatest 
stress on the financial stability of Pakistan. He worked out a sound economic 
policy, established an independent currency and a State Bank for Pakistan. He 
made Karachi, the Federal Capital. His decisions were final as he was the 
undisputed leader of Pakistan, who was respected as well as loved by his people. 

The Quaid-e-Azam was a selfless leader who was the real benefactor of his 

Hundred Great Muslims 355 

people. He had realised that provincialism was the greatest threat to the solidarity 
of his country. He warned his people: "Have you forgotten the lesson that 
was taught to us thirteen hundred years ago. .... so what is the use of saying, 
Ve are Bengalis or Sindhis or Pathans or Punjabis.' No, we are Muslims . . . You 
belong to a nation; you have carved out a territory, vast territory: it is all yours; 
it does not belong to a Punjabi or a Sindhi or a Pathan or a Bengali, it is yours". 
The Quaid was equally uncompromising in favour of making Urdu as the only 
State language of Pakistan. He was on his sick bed, when he learnt that an 
agitation against Urdu was started by interested persons at Dacca. Disregarding 
medical advice, he went all the way to Dacca in March 1948 and advised the 
East Pakistani brethren: "Let us make it very clear to you that the State language 

of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language Therefore 

so far as the State language is concerned, Pakistan's language shall be Urdu. And 
anyone who disrupts this unity and misleads you is really the enemy of Pakistan 

I must warn you to beware of the fifth columnists For official 

use in this Province, the people may choose any language they wish. There can, 
however, be only one Lingua Franca-und that language should be Urdu and 

cannot be any other The State language, therefore, must obviously be 

Urdu, a language that has been nurtured by a hundred million Muslims of this 
subcontinent, a language which is understood throughout the length and breadth 
of Pakistan and, above all, a language which, more than any provincial 
language, embodies the best what is in Islamic culture and Muslim traditions 
and is nearest to the language used in other Islamic countries. It is not without 
significance that Urdu has been driven out of the Indian Union and that the 
official script of Urdu has been disallowed". The Founder of Pakistan had given 
his final verdict on the controversy of the State language of Pakistan but also 
he did not live to see that his followers had forgotten his valuable advice soon 
after his death. 

The Quaid-e-Azam was a great champion of minorities. He guaranteed full 
freedom and equal partnership for the minorities in Pakistan. Addressing the 
Pakistan Constituent Assembly once he said: "You are free; you are free to go 
to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any place of worship 
in fhis State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed— 
that has nothing to do with the fundamental principles, that we are all citizens 
and equal citizens of One State". 

The Quaid-e-Azam did not live long to witness the progress of the State 
which he had founded. His excessive work soon confined him to bed. Disregarding 
medical advice, he devoted much time to his official work which impaired 
his health and after a protracted illness he died on September 11, 1948 at 
Karachi. The entire Nation was plunged into grief on his passing away at a time 
when he was needed most. 

It would not be out of place to give a portrait of Mr. Jinnah, given by 
Mrs. Naidu, the celebrated Congress leader: "Few figures of the Indian 

. ' ft Hundred Grea t Muslims 

renaissance are so striking and so significant to a student of psychology, more 
singularly attractive by the paradox of a rare and complex temperament, of 
strange limitations and subtle possibilities that hides the secret of its own 
greatness like a pearl within a shell. Never was there a nature whose outer 
qualities provided so complete an antithesis of its inner worth". 



On the death of the Umayyad Caliph, Abdul Malik, known as the 
Charlemagne of the Arabs, in 705 A.C., his highly talented son, Waleed, succeeded 
him. In Waleed's reign the Arab rule was extended to its farthest limits which 
included Spain and Southern France in the West, Sind, Baluchistan and 
Southern Punjab in the East and Transoxiana and Turkistan in the North. Three 
of the greatest Muslim conquerors, namely, Taiiq, Qasim and Qutaiba, swept 
away all resistence encountered in these lands. 

Waleed was born in 651 A.C. He was brought up amidst the growing 
luxury and aristocracy of the House of Umayyad. He had developed an artistic 
taste from his childhood which led him to become the greatest builder of the 
Umayyad dynasty that ruled in Damascus. 

Hardly 54 at the time, he brought to his high office the aristocratic 
outlook and religious fervour scarcely known among his predecessors. 

Waleed's reign is known as the golden period of the Umayyad Caliphate 
distinguished for its all round progress. He embarked upon an unprecedented 
career of conquest in three directions which extended the Arab rule to its 
widest limits. He established a wise and firm administration which enabled him 
to devote himself to social and public welfare works. 

Waleed appointed his saintly cousin Umar bin Abdul Aziz, as Governor of 
Hejaz. The new Governor set up a council of jurists and notables of Madina, 
which was consulted on all administrative matters. He beautified Makkah and 
Madina, rebuilt the Mosque of the Prophet, improved roads and tried to erase 
signs of ravages committed in the Holy cities during the time of earlier Umayyad 
rulers. His just and generous administration in the Holy cities attracted many 
people who were groaning under the tyrannical rule of Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the 
Umayyad Viceroy of Iraq. The despot Hajjaj, who has become a legend of 
tyranny in the history of Islam, was an exceptionally capable Administrator 
who established firmly the Umayyad rule among the fickle-minded Iraqis. He 
was annoyed by the migration of a large number of Iraqis to Hejaz. At the 
instance of Hajjaj, Waleed removed Umar bin Abdul Aziz from his post amidst 
universal mourning. 


360 Hundred Great Muslims 

Waleed's fame rests on the marvellous Muslim victories which extended 
the boundaries of the Umayyad Empire from the mountains of Pyrenees in the 
West to the walls of China in the East and from Kashgar in the North to the 
source of the Nile in the South. 

The Modharite Chief Qutaiba bin Muslim Baheli who had been appointed 
as the Deputy Governor of Khurasan was an able strategist and General. He 
conquered Tcansoxiana and subjugated the whole of Central Asia up to the 
confines of Kashgar. He captured the important cities of Bukhara, Samarkand 
and Farghana. 

The territories of Baluchistan, Sind and Southern Punjab were annexed 
by the youngest General in history, Muhammad bin Qasim, who through a 
glorious military campaign defeated the mightiest Indian ruler of the time, 
Raja Dahir of Debal. Through a lightning march along the Indus river valley he 
swept away all resistance encountered in the way and in less than two years 
conquered the entire lower Indus valley up to Multan. Muhammad bin Qasim 
aimexed a major portion of Southern Punjab and penetrated as far as the Beas. 
He set up a wise and benevolent Administration in the conquered territory 
which endeared him equally to Muslim and non-Muslim subjects. 

Waleed's brother, Maslamah who was the Captain-General of Muslim 
forces in Asia Minor, captured many important cities and aimexed a large part 
of Asia Minor. 

But the greatest military campaign in Waleed's time was launched in North- 
western Africa and Spain-under the able leadership of Musa bin Nusair, a 
Yemeni, and his able heutenant Tariq bin Ziyad. Musa, son of Nusair, was the 
Umayyad Viceroy of Africa. He put down the Berber rebellion with a strong 
hand and pacified the entire North African territory. The Muslim settlements 
were harassed by the Byzantines from the Mediterranean. Musa, therefore, sent 
out expeditions, which captured the islands of Majorca, Minorca and Ivica, 
which soon came to flourish under the Muslim rule. 

Whilst Africa was enjoying peace and prosperity under the benevolent 
Muslim rule, Spain was groaning under the iron heels of the Goths. The Gothic 
King, Roderick, a debauchee, had dishonoured his Governor Julian's daughter, 
Florinda. The Governor invited Musa to liberate Spain from Roderick. Musa 
despatched his lieutenant, Tariq, with a small force for the purpose. 

Tariq, son of Ziyad, an able lieutenant of Musa, landed on April 30, 711 
AC. with his small force at the Rock which now bears his name. He ordered 
his men to burn their boats and thus ended all hopes of their return. A fierce 
battle was fought in September 711 A.C., on the banks of the Guadalquivir, 
in which Roderick's heavy forces were routed by the small Muslim force led 
by Tariq. Roderick was drowned in the Guadalquivir. 

Hundred Great Muslims 361 

The moral effect of this memorable victory was immense. City after city 
of Gothic Spain threw open its gates to the Muslim Conqueror. Tariq divided 
his small army into four divisions which advanced in Spain in four directions. 
In June 712 A.C., Tariq was joined by Musa and the two Muslim conquerors 
reached as far as the Pyrenees. Leaving Tariq in Spain, Musa crossed into France 
and soon annexed a sizeable portion of Southern France. Standing on the 
Pyrenees, the dauntless Viceroy conceived the conquest of whole of Europe 
and in all human probability he would have done so, had he not been recalled 
by Waleed. The West completely lay at his feet. The cautious and hesitant policy 
of the Umayyads deprived the Muslims of the glorious opportunity of 
conquering Europe. As a result, Europe remained enveloped in darkness for the 
next seven or eight centuries. 

The recall of the two Muslim conquerors, Musa and Tariq, by Waleed, 
was, no doubt, most disastrous to the cause of Islam in the West. 

The conquest of Spain by Muslims ushered there an era of unprecedented 
peace and prosperity which, in later years, gave birth to a glorious Muslim 
civilization that ultimately dispelled the darkness that had enveloped Mediaeval 

Waleed is known as the greatest builder in Umayyad dynasty. He built 
the Grand Mosque of Damascus, enlarged and beautified those of Madina and 
Jerusalem. Under his direction mosques were buUt in every city. He beautified 
the Capital city of Damascus with magnificent buildings, luxuriant gardens and 
refreshing fountains. The city bore broad roads lined with shady trees and 
aqueducts. He erected fortresses for the protection of frontiers and constructed 
roads and sank wells throughout the Empire. He established schools and 
hospitals, built orphanages and houses for the poor. He stopped promiscuous 
charity by granting allowances to the infirm and the poor from the State 
Treasury. He created asylums for the blind, the crippled and the insane where 
they were lodged and looked after by attendants appointed by the State. He 
himself visited the markets and noted the fluctuation in prices. 

He was a great patron of art and learning; he granted pensions to poets 
and savants, legists and Sufis. He was known for his generosity and benevolence. 

His reign is known for its peace and prosperity. He is distinguished for 
giving the Arabian pattern to his Administration. He enjoyed undisputed 
popularity throughout the world of Islam, especially in Syria. 

Waleed breathed his last on February 23, 715 A.C. at the age of 64 after 
a glorious reign of nine years and seven months. 


Haroon ar-Rashid, the celebrated Abbaside Caliph of Baghdad, is univer- 
sally recognised as one of the greatest rulers of the world, whose reign ushered 
in the most brilliant period of Saracenic rule in Asia. "The stories of Arabian 
Nights ", says Ameer Ali, "have lent a fascination to the name of the remarkable 
Caliph who wjis wont to roam the streets of Baghdad by night to remedy 
injustice and to relieve the oppressed and the destitute. Faithful in the 
observation of his religious duties, abstemious in his life, unostentatiously pious 
and charitable and yet fond of surrounding himself with the pomp and insignia 
of grandeur, he impressed his personality or popular imagination and exercised a 
great influence by his character on society". 

Haroon ar-Rashid, son of the Abbaside Caliph Mehdi, was born at Rayy 
in February 763 AC. He was given a thorough education by the talented 
Barmakide Yahya bin Khalid and succeeded his brother Hadi, as the Abbaside 
Caliph in September 786 A.C. He was only 23 at that time. 

Soon after his accession, Haroon ar-Rashid appointed Yahya Barmaki 
as his Prime Minister and for the next 17 years, Yahya and his four sons, 
particularly Jafar and Fazal, virtually ruled the state and assumed unlimited 
power in the Abbaside Caliphate. 

Haroon's reign forms the golden period of Abbaside CaUphate in which 
all round progress was made and Baghdad reached the heights of its glory as the 
dream city of the Arabian Nights, unrivalled in the Mediaeval world. 

Haroon was great both in war and peace. The Abbaside dominions of 
northern Africa, then known as "Ifrika" were made an autonomous Province 
under Ibrahim, son of Aghlob. In Asia, the Government was conducted with 
vigour and foresight. In 171 AH., the whole of Kabul and Hansar were annexed 
to the Abbaside Empire which now extended up to the Hindu Kush in the 
East. Rashid also separated the Marches in Asia Minor from the ordinary 
Governorship and placed it under the control of a military Governor. Tarsus in 
CUcia was converted into a strong military base. 

Rashid's most important military campaigns were launched against the 
treacherous Byzantine rulers who broke their pledges soon after the Abbaside 


Hundred Great Muslims 363 

Caliph turned his back upon them. But there is hardly any other example of 
the generosity shown by the Abbaside Caliph who pardoned the Byzantine 
Emperor's breach of pledge more than half a dozen times only to be repeated 
again. In 79 1 A.C. the Byzantines broke the treaty concluded in Caliph Mehdi's 
time by invading the Muslim territories only to be repulsed with heavy losses. 
The cities of Matarah and Ancyra were captured, Cyprus was re-conquered and 
Crete was overrun. The Byzantines begged for peace which was granted on 
promise of the regular payment of tribute fixed in the former treaty. 

A few years later, when Nicephorus seized the Byzantine throne, he broke 
the treaty and sent an insulting letter to the Abbaside Caliph, Haroon ar-Rashid : 
"From Nicephorus, the Roman Emperor, to Haroon, Sovereign of the Arabs : 
Verily, the Empress who preceded me gave thee the rank of a rook and put 
herself in that of a pawn, and conveyed to thee many loads of her wealth, and 
this through the weakness of women and their folly. Now when thou hast read 
this letter of mine, return what thou hast received of substance, otherwise the 
sword shall decide between me and thee". When Rashid read this letter, "he was 
so inflamed with anger that no one could dare to look at his face". Then he 
wrote on the back of Byzantine Ruler's letter: "From Haroon, the Commander 
of the Faithful, to Nicephorus, the Roman dog: Verily I have read thy letter; 
the answer thou shall behold, not hear. And he was true to his word. The same 
day he started on a nonstop march to Heraclea, a Byzantine stronghold. The 
boastful Byzantine Emperor suffered a humiliating defeat at this place. "The 
warlike celerity of the Arabs could only be checked by the arts of deceit and a 
show of repentence". The Byzantine Emperor, Nicephorus begged for peace 
from the kind-hearted Abbaside Caliph which was granted on promise of regular 
payment of increased tribute by the Byzantine Emperor. But Rashid had hardly 
reached his Headquarters when the Byzantine Emperor broke his pledge, 
thinking that the Abbaside Caliph would not take to field in severe winter. But 
he had mistaken his adversary. When Rashid came to know of this breach of 
pledge, he retraced his steps. "Nicephorus was astonished by the bold and rapid 
marches of the Commander of the Faithful, who repassed, in the depth of 
winter, the snows of Mount Taurus; his stratagems of policy and war were 
exhausted and the perfidious Greek escaped with three wounds from the field of 
battle overspread with forty thousand of his subjects". (Gibbon). The Byzantine 
Emperor again implored for peace, which was granted. But "over and again when 
Haroon was engaged elsewhere, Nicephorus broke his treaty, and as often was 
beaten" (Muir). In 189 A.H., the Abbaside Caliph proceeded to Rayy to suppress 
the rebellion of the Governor. This was too good an opportunity for the Byzantine 
Emperor to miss. Leaving aside all his promises and solemn pledges he burst into 
the Abbaside dominions, where he caused widespread devastation and havoc. 
Leaving his son, Mamoon at Rakka, with absolute control of the Government, 
Haroon hurried to meet the Byzantines. The Abbaside army swept over the 
whole of Asia Minor as far as Bithynia on the north and Mysia on the west. 
City after city opened its gates to the Abbaside armies. A large force sent by 
Nicephorus was routed with fearful losses. Heraclea was stormed. The Byzantine 
Emperor again begged for pardon and the kind-hearted Abbaside Caliph with 

364 Hundred Great Muslims 

"shortsighted indulgence acceded to his prayer". The whole of Byzantine 
Empire, including its formidable Capital, Constantinople, lay at his feet. It 
would have been far better for the peace of the area, if Haroon Rashid had 
taken Constantinople at that time. The world would have been spared much 
bloodshed in future and the horrors of the Crusades, the bloodiest and longest 
war in human history. 

The real greatness of Haroon ar-Rashid lies in his efforts for peace— in his 
wise and able administration, his intellectual pursuits and his promotion of the 
well-being and unprecedented prosperity of his people which won him a high 
place among the few greatest rulers of the world. He had surrounded himself 
with wise and capable men whom he had entrusted the Government of his vast 
Empire. His Prime Minister, Yahya Barmaki, whom he affectionately called 
"father", and his four sons, particularly Jafar and Fazal were greatly instrumental 
in making his reign as one of the most glorious epochs in human history. Their 
patronage of art and learning attracted around them some of the greatest intellects 
of the age, which made Baghdad the highest seat of art and learning in the world. 
But their unbounded generosity and unlimited power aroused suspicion in the 
mind of the Caliph which was responsible for their ultimate doom. 

The welfare of his people was dearest to his heart. He used to roam about 
the streets of Baghdad accompanied by Masroor to render justice and relieve 
the people of their distress. "A soldier by instinct and training", writes Ameer 
Ali, in his well-known work. History of the Saracens, "he repeatedly took the 
field himself; he frequently traversed his dominions in every direction to repress 
lawlessness and to acquaint himself with the condition of his subjects, personally 
inspected the frontiers and passes, and never spared himself the trouble or labour 
in the work of Government. The perfect immunity from danger with which 
traders, merchants, scholars and pilgrims journeyed through the vast Empire 
testify to the excellence and vigour of his administration. The mosques, colleges 
and schools, the hospitals, dispensaries, caravan, serais, roads, bridges and canals 
with which he covered the countries under his sway, speak of his lively interest 
in the welfare of his people. As a patron of arts and literature, Rashid was 
surpassed by his equally brilliant and gifted son; but in the strength of character 
and grandeur of intellect he had no superior. And although his reign, unlike 
Mamoon's, was not altogether free from the evils which often spring from the 
possession by one individual of unlimited and irresponsible power, the general 
prosperity of the people, and the unprecedented progress made in his reign in 
arts and civilization, make amends for many of the sins of despotism". 

Rashid' s mother Khaizuran and his favourite wife, Zubaida, took lively 
interest in the welfare of the state and people. Empress Zubaida's notable visit 
to the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina, and her munificence have been 
described by the historians. In view of the acute scarcity of water from which 
the inhabitants of Makkah suffered deep agonies, she built from her private 
purse, the famous aqueduct, which is known as "Zubaida Canal" and has since 
then proved a blessing to the inhabitants of the Holy city. 

Hundred Great Muslims 365 

Rashid gave a thorough education and training to his two sons, Ameen and 
Mamoon, who were well versed in the arts of peace and war. In 1 86 A.H., the 
Caliph made a pilgrimage to Makkah and deposited in the Kaaba two documents 
executed by his two sons, binding them in solemn terms to abide by the 
succession arrangements made by him. 

The munificence of Haroon ar-Rashid, his talented Ministers and Courtiers, 
especially the Barmakides, who vied with each other in the patronage of sciences 
and arts, attracted around them in Baghdad a galaxy of intellects from all over 
the known world. This enabled Baghdad to become in a short time the greatest 
metropolis and the highest seat of learning in the world. Rashid expanded the 
Department of Translation and Scientific Studies founded by his grandfather 
Mansoor. It reached its zenith during the reign of his son, Mamoon ar-Rashid. 
Eminent scholars and artists who flourished during the time included the 
grammarian Asmai; legists and theologians, Imam Yusuf, Imam Shall, Abdullah 
bin Idrees, Isa bin Yunus and Suflan Suri; musician Ibrahim Mosuli and physi- 
cian Gabriel. "Rashid", says Ibn Khaldun, "followed in the footsteps of his 
grandfather except in parsimony for no Caliph exceeded him in liberality and 

Rashid established diplomatic relations with a number of countries in the 
West and the East. He was the first to receive at his Court embassies from the 
Emperor of China and the Ruler of France, Charlemagne. He presented him a 
clock which was an object of wonder for the people of the West. 

While on his way to put down disorders which had broken out in Khorasan, 
Haroon's illness from which he was suffering took a serious turn at a village 
named Sanabad near Toos. Feeling his end near, he assembled all his family 
members and said: "All those who are young will get old, all who have come 
into the world will die. I give you three directions: observe faithfully your 
engagements, be faithful to your Imams (Caliphs), and be united amongst 
yourselves". He then distributed large sums of money among his attendants 
and troops. He breathed his last two days later, on the 4th of Jamadi-us-Sani, 
193 A.H. (809 A.C.), after a glorious reign of 23 years and six months. 

Ameer Ali pays eloquent tributes to Rashid's brilliant rule in the following 
terms; "Weigh him as carefully as you like in the scale of historical criticism, 
Haroon ar-Rashid will always take rank with the greatest sovereigns and rulers 
of the world. It is a mistake to compare the present with the past, the humanities 
and culture of the nineteenth century and its accumulated legacy of civilization, 
the gifts of ages of growth and development, with the harshness and vigour of a 
thousand years ago. The defects in Rashid's character, his occasional outbursts 
of suspicion or temper were the natural outcome of despotism. That he should 
with the unbounded power he possessed, be so self-restrained, so devoted to the 
advancement of public prosperity, so careful of the interests of his subjects, is a 
credit to his genius. He never allowed himself the smallest respite in the discharge 
of his duties; he repeatedly travelled over his Empire from the East to the West 

366 Hundred Great Muslims 

to remedy evils, to redress wrongs, and to acquaint himself personally with the 
condition of his people. Nine times he himself led the caravan of pilgrims to the 
Holy Cities, and this brought the nations under his sway to recognise and 
appreciate his personality, and to value the advantages of Islamic solidarity. His 
Court was the most brilliant of the time, to it came the learned and wise from all 
parts of the world, who were always entertained with munificent liberality. 
Unstinted patronage was extended to arts and science, and every branch of 
mental study. He was the first to elevate music into a nobel profession, 
establishing degrees and honours, as in science and literature". 

"Haroon took great interest in art and science", observe Encyclopaedia 
of Islam, "iu.d his brilliant Court was a centre of all branches of scholarship. 
In legend and tradition he has always been looked upon as the personification 
of oriental power and splendour and his fame spread throu^out the East 
and the West by the Arabian Nights ". 


The Barmakides have been one of the most talented and versatile families 
that have lived in the world of Mam. They have been, to a great extent, 
responsible for the glorious reign of the Abbaside Caliph, Haroon ar-Rashid, 
which has been immortalised by the famous Arabian Nights. The glory that was 
Bagjidad, its cultural and literary life, was due to the Barmakides' munificence 
and patronage, which has few parallels in living history. 

Yahya bin Khalid Barmaki came into prominence during the reign of the 
Abbaside Caliph, Mansoor, who appointed him in 744-75 A.C., Governor of 
Azerbaijan. Three years later, he was appointed the tutor of yoxmg Haroon who 
later became the Viceroy of the Western half of the Empire, lying West of the 
Euphrates. Yahya was placed at the head of his Chancery. 

After the death of Mehdi in August 785, Yahya gave his protege Haroon 
the wise advice to retire voluntarily in favour of his elder brother, whereupon 
Musa was acknowledged as Caliph with the title of Al Hadi. But relations between 
Yahya and the new Caliph who was extremely fickle -minded were strained. 
He suspected Yahya of supporting Haroon against his teen-aged son, Jafar, 
whom he wanted to make his successor against the will of his deceased father. 
Yahya refused to support this injustice to the highly talented Haroon as this was 
also against the interest of the Abbaside Caliphate. He was, therefore, put behind 
the bars and the night on which he was to be executed under the orders of the 
Caliph, Al Hadi died suddenly in September 786 A.C. 

When Haroon ascended the throne of Baghdad in 786 A.C., Yahya 
Barmaki was appointed the Vizier and was entrusted with absolute power. He 
also associated his two sons Fazal and Jafar with the Government Administration. 
The glory of Haroon ar-Rashid's Administration was mostly due to the Barmakide 
family who governed the State with undiminished glory for 17 years— 786 to 
803 A.C. The official seal initially withheld from him was soon placed under his 

Yahya's two sons Fazal and Jafar held important positions in the Govern- 
ment. Jafar was later appointed Vizier of the Caliph. Fazal was the foster 
brother of Haroon ar-Rashid who called Yahya "Father" as a mark of affection 
and regard for him. 


368 Hundred Great Muslims 

Yahya's Administration was wise, firm and benevolent. He neglected no 
details and considered the well-being of the people as his primary duty. 

His four sons, Fazal, Jafar, Musa and Muhammad, possessed adirinistrative 
capacity of the highest order. Fazal held the post of Governor of Khurasan and 
Egypt and brought about the submission of Yahya bin Abdullah who had 
proclaimed himself the sovereign of Deilem. Jafar also held the post of Governor 
of several Provinces and was instrumental in bringing about peace between the 
rival tribes of Modhar and Himyar in Syria. Later on, when Yahya resigned due 
to old age, Jafar took his place. 

Fazal was first to forfeit the favour of the Caliph whom he displeased and 
was deprived of all offices except his appointment as the tutor of Prince Ameen, 
the Heir Apparent. Jafar who was eloquent and legal minded was the tutor of 
Prince Mamoon, who later on succeeded Haroon ar-Rashid. 

The Barmakides who served Haroon ar-Rashid with unswerving fidelity 
and extraordinary ability for 17 years fell from grace in 803 A.C. Their grandeur 
and magnificence, as also their benevolence and lavish charity which had made 
them the idol of the masses, created a host of enemies who were continuously 
plotting for their fall. A number of causes have been assigned to their sudden 
fall, including the romance between Jafar and the Caliph's sister, Abbasa, which 
is a mere fib disproved by later historical research. The celebrated Muslim 
historian Ibn Khaldun says that the true cause of the fall of Barmakides is to be 
found in "the manner in which they seized upon all authority, and assumed 
absolute control over public revenue, so much so, that Rashid was often forced 
to the necessity of asking for and not obtaining from the Chancellor small sums 
of money. Their influence was unlimited, and their renown had spread in every 
direction. All the high offices of the State, civil as well as military, were held 
by functionaries chosen from their family, or from among their partisans. All 
faces were tumed towards them; all heads inclined in their presence; on them 
alone rested the hopes of applicants and candidates; they showered their bounties 
on all sides, in every province of the Empire, in the cities as well as in the villages ; 
their praises were sung by all, and they were far more popular than their master". 
All this earned them the hatred and jealousy of their Arab colleagues and 
ultimately aroused the suspicion of the Caliph. Their most sworn enemy was 
Fazal bin-Rabi, the Arab Chamberlain of Rashid's Court who ultimately 
succeeded Jafar after his fall. Fazal first incurred the displeasure of the Caliph 
for his pro-Allied Policy and was removed from power in 799. Jafar, too, was 
reproached at occasions for abusing his power. 

Haroon ar-Rashid, while returning from his pilgrimage in B02 A.C., 
suddenly decided to put an end to the Barmakide domination. In the night of 
January 28/29, 803, A.C., Jafar was executed. His brothers were incarcerated 
and their aged father, Yahya, was put under surveillance. Their property was 
confiscated. The aged Yahya died in prison in November 805. He was 70. His 
able son, Fazal, followed him to the grave, some years later. 

Hundred Great Muslims 369 

Thus ended the career of Yahya Barmaki and his two illustrious sons who 
were greatly instrumental in adding a golden chapter to the history of Islam. 
Their proverbial generosity and patronage of art and learning had made Baghdad 
the Makkah of learned and talented persons who flocked there from all corners 
of the world. "They seem primarily to have served", writes a Western v/riter, 
"the Caliphate effectively and loyally, pacifying Eastern Iran, repressing the 
risings in Syria and even Ifrikiya, obtaining the submission of rebels, even Alids, 
directing the Administration in an orderly fashion, guaranteeing to the State 
important resources, undertaking works of public interest (Canals of Katul and 
Sihan), setting wrong aright with equity and in accordance with the requirements 
of Islamic law and reinforcing the judicial institution of the office of the Great 

The Barmakides' activity was not confined merely to political and adminis- 
trative spheres only. They were great patrons of art and culture science and 
learning. Their munificence to the persons possessing talents, including poets 
and writers, artists and musicians, scholars and theologians, philosophers and 
scientists, was unbounded. Their assemblies were distinguished for the attendance 
of the most talented men of Baghdad who wrote and sung their praises long after 
their fall. The Arabian Nights has immortalised the figure of Jafar the Vizier and 
intimate companion of Haroon ar-Rashid. 


It was a fateful night of 170 A.H. (786 A.C.) when the ruling Caliph Hadi 
departed from this world, a second Caliph, Haroon succeeded him and a third 
Caliph Mamoon was born. 

Mamoon was haidly 5 years old, when his elementary religious education 
was entrusted to two eminent scholars, Kasai Nahvi and Yazidi. Mamoon was a 
born genius, precodious and exceptioiudly intelligent. He used to recite the 
Quran in the presence of his teacher Kasai. The latter would raise his downcast 
head only when the boy committed some mistake. Mamoon would at once 
realize his mistake and correct it. 

One day while Mamoon was reciting the lines from the Quran, meaning: 
"O' faithful ! why do you promise that which you do not wish to do", suddenly 
Kasai, his teacher, raised his head and gazed at him. There was a meaning in his 
looks which the little intelligent boy understood. 

The same evening when he met his father Haroon ar-Rashid, he enquired 
of him if he had promised anything to Kasai. Haroon replied: "Yes, I had 
promised him some allowance. But how did you come to know of it my son ? 
Did he hint it to you about it?" "No Sir", replied Mamoon, and he related the 
story to his father. 

The great Caliph was highly struck by the extraordinary intelligence of his 
little son and fulfilled his promise immediately. 

Mamoon ar-Rashid, the greatest Abbaside Caliph, who ruled over an 
Empire extending from the shores of the Atlantic in the West to the Great Wall 
of China in the East, was one of the most talented, enlightened and learned 
rulers that the world has ever produced. Endowed with extraordinary intelligence, 
magnanimity, administrative ability, political acumen and versatile taste, he 
rallied around him a galaxy of talented scholars, professing different faiths 
and hailing from distant parts of the world. 

Mamoon was born on 15th Rabiul Awwal, 170 A.H. (786 A.C.). His 
mother, a Persian lady, survived only a few days after his birth. He was given the 
best possible education and training. It was customary with the Abbaside Caliphs 


Hundred Great Muslims 371 

to entrust their children to the care of talented scholars, hence Mamoon was 
entrusted to the care of Yazidi. Young Mamoon was brought up under the able 
guardianship of the Grand Vizier, Jafar Barmaki. 

The Caliph, Haroon ar-Rashid invited the celebrated traditionist Imam 
MaHk to Baghdad to teach Muwatta (a well-known book of Traditions written 
by Imam MaUk) to his sons Mamoon and Ameen but the learned Imam declined 
to leave Madina, the city of the Prophet saying: "People go in search of learning 
and learning does not go in search of people". The wise Caliph took his two sons 
to Madina and attended the lectures delivered by the learned Imam. Thus 
Mamoon's receptive mind imbibed and assimilated knowledge tliat was imparted 
to him and he soon became well-versed in rhetoric, literature, jurisprudence, 
traditions, philosophy, astronomy and other sciences. He knew Quran by rote 
and excelled in its interpretation. 

After mastering almost all branches of learning, he was given training in 
statecraft. His high attainments enabled him to preside over literary meetings 
attended by scholars of diverse branches of learning during his Caliphate, and 
infused in him a life-long interest in literary activities which marked out his 
regime as the golden period of Islamic learning. 

His father Haroon ar-Rashid, had twelve sons, of whom three were 
contestants for his succession. Ameen, by his favourite Empress Zubaida though 
well educated, possessed volatile and pleasure-loving character; Mutasim was 
courageous, robust but uneducated ; Mamoon was much more accomplished and 
suitable than the former two but lacked official support. Haroon did realise the 
suitability of Mamoon for the high office, but he could not displease his favourite 
Queen. Hence an administration of North Eastern Provinces was entrusted to 
Mamoon with his Headquarters at Merv, while Ameen was to administer the 
Imperial Capital and South Western Provinces. 

On the death of Haroon ar-Rashid in 809 A.C., there started a war of 
succession which ultimately resulted in the success of his ablest son, Mamoon 
ar-Rashid who made a triumphal entry into Baghdad in 819 A.C. 

On reaching Baghdad, he was confronted with a number of problems 
ranging from the internal conspiracies of the Abbasides and the Fatimides, to 
external disorders in Yemen and Syria. Mamoon faced the critical situation 
which existed in his vast Empire with courage and statesmanship. His vast 
Empire was in a state of turmoil. 

The rebellions in Yemen and Khorasan were quelled and the insurgents 
were treated with exceptional leniency. Babak, the nihilist, who had established 
himself in one of the most inaccessible defiles of Mazendran, defied the Imperial 
authority and had become a menace in the early reign of Mamoon. Being hard 
pressed by the Imperial troops, he entered into relations with the Byzantine 
Emperor Theophilus. 

372 Hundred Great Muslims 

The Byzantine Emperor attacked the Abbaside dominions and massacred 
a large number of Muslims. The news of this treacherous and unprovoked attack 
of the Greek Emperor highly enraged Mamoon who took the field in person and 
after successive campaigns inflicted a crushing defeat on the Greeks who were 
obliged to sue for peace. To guard against the future Greek raids, Mamoon 
ordered the building of strong fortifications at Tyana, situated about 70 miles 
north of Tarsus. After defeatihg the Greek Emperor, Mamoon proceeded to 
Egypt where his celebrated Turkish General Afshin had captured Al Ferma, the 
farthest part of upper Egypt. 

This period of Abbaside Caliphate is known for its conquests by the sword 
and the pen. The territorial expansion as well as literary pursuits continued with 
unabated zeal. Despite Mamoon's literary preoccupations and internal disorders 
in the State, territorial conquests continued as before and the boundary of the 
Abbaside Caliphate was extended to its farthest limits during his regime. 
Afghanistan was annexed to the Abbaside Caliphate and thus formed a 
permanent part of this great Empire. Kashmir and Tibet were invaded by the 
Imperial forces, which conquered a major part of Turkistan including Karab, 
Shagar and Farghana. Mamoon in person took the field against the Byzantine 
Empire which was beaten with heavy losses in several combats. His valiant son, 
Ishaq captured thirty Byzantine forts. 

In Europe, too, the Imperial forces met with spectacular success. A 
military expedition under the leadership of Zaidatullah Aghlab brought the 
island of Sicily under the sway of the Caliph. Two years later a few hundred 
Muslim enterprisers effected a landing on the island of Crete and captured it 
without much difficulty. 

Mamoon was a great Administrator who was known for his sagacity and 
forbearance. He applied himself vigorously to the task of reorganising the 
Administration which had very much deteriorated during the regime of Ameen. 
He made secret rounds in the city accompanied by his Chamberlain, Ahmad ibn 
Abu KhaUd. He appointed capable Administrators as Governors of his Provinces 
and kept a constant watch over their actions. 

Mamoon had established a regular Council of State, composed of 
representatives from all communities found in his Empire. He recognised no 
distinction of caste and creed, and his public services were open to all. The 
representatives of the people enjoyed complete freedom of expression and had 
free discussions in the presence of the Caliph. 

He had established an efficient intelligence service throughout his vast 
Empire. It kept him fully informed of even the minor incidents occurring in 
the remotest comer of the Empire. The secret agents and spies of the Caliph 
were working in the alien countries also, especially in the Byzantine dominions. 
Thus Mamoon had established the most elaborate intelligence services of his time. 
More than 1,700 women were employed for intelligence service in Baghdad 

Hundred Grea t Muslims 3 73 

alone. According to the celebrated historian Ibn Khalikan, every branch of 
Central and Provincial Administration had its secret reports and chronicler. 
Once, in a distant part of the Empire, a soldier took forced labour from an 
ordinary subject. The man cried out: "Alas! Umar where are you?" The matter 
was reported to the Caliph who summoned the oppressed person and asked. 
"Had you cried for Caliph Umar?". "Yes", replied the man. Thereupon the 
Caliph said, "By God, had my people been as good as those of Umar, 1 would 
have been more just than him", and rewarded the man and suspended the soldier. 

Tahir wielded great influence in the Caliphate and was the Viceroy of the 
East. He had acquired so much power that he had become a danger for the State. 
His movements were strictly watched and reported to the Caliph by the 
intelligence staff. One day, he did not mention the name of Mamoon in the 
Friday oration from the pulpit. This was a clear sign of revolt. The same night 
Tahir had an attack of violent fever and died the next day. It is said that he was 
poisoned at the behest of Mamoon. 

Mamoon was free from sectarian feelings which characterised most of the 
Umayyad and Abbaside rulers. He had great regard for the Fatimides despite 
their secret machinations and open revolts against the State. He had appointed 
a number of Fatimides on high posts and said that with these appointments he 
was returning the gratitude which the Abbasides owed to Caliph Hazrat Ali, who 
had appointed a large number of Abbasides on important posts. 

In 816 A.C. he declared Fatimide Imam ar-Riza as his Heir Apparent and 
the oath of fealty was taken to him as the Heir Apparent to the Caliphate on the 
second of Ramzan, 201 A.H. Mamoon openly declared that Imam All ar-Riza 
was his most suitable heir and he found no better person among the Abbasides. 
But the virtuous Imam did not survive to occupy this high office and died at Tus 
before the triumphant entry of the Caliph in the Capital. 

The Abbasides are particularly known for their pomp and pageantry. The 
Arabs under the Abbasides in Iraq, and the Umayyads in Spain had built a 
splendid civilization whose glory dazzled mediaeval travellers. 

Baghdad and Cordova, with their grand palaces, broad highways, shady 
canals, green parks and gardens, busy business centres and magnificent univer- 
sities, colleges and hospitals, were considered as the glory of Mediaeval civilization. 
Mamoon ar-Rashid, the greatest of the Abbaside Caliphs, though inclined 
towards literary pursuits and patronage of the learned, was responsible for some 
of the most striking events of splendour recorded in living history. 

One of them is his marriage with Buran, daughter of Hasan ibn Sahl, an 
event which has become classical. A modem historian has recorded thus ! "The 
marriage was celebrated with great festivals and rejoicings at a place called 
Fam-us-Salh, where Hasan resided at that time. The Vizier entertained the whole 
company for seventeen days on a lavish and gorgeous scale. Zubaida and her 

374 Hundred Great Muslims 

daughter, with other ladies of the Imperial household, were present at this 
wedding; their surpassing beauty and the magnificence of their attire were sung 
by the poets invited on the occasion. But the most beauteous of them all was the 
bride herself. At the ceremony, her grandmother showered upon the Caliph and 
his bride from a tray of gold a thousand pearls of unique size and splendour ; 
they were collected under his orders, made into a necklace and given to the 
young Queen. 

The hymeneal apartment was lighted by a candle of ambergris, weighing 
eighty pounds, fixed in a candle stick of gold. When the imperial party was 
departing the Vizier presented the chief officers of the State with robes of 
honour, and showered balls of musk upon the princes aaA chiefs who accompanies 
the Caliph. Each of these balls contained ticket on which was inscribed the name 
of an estate, or a slave or a team of horses, or some such gifts ; the recipient took 
it to an agent who delivered to him the property which had fallen to his lot. 
Among the common people he scattered gold and silver coins, balls of musk and 
eggs of amber". 

According to historical records, Baghdad, the Imperial Capital, housed 
more than thirty thousand mosques and ten thousand public baths. The celebrated 
historian Gibbon states that Baghdad of those times had 860 medical 

The dominions of Mamoon extended from the shores of the Atlantic in 
the West to the walls of China in the East. On several occasions the Byzantine 
Emperor was obliged to pay tribute to Mamoon. His annual revenues exceeded 
32 crores. This did not include other taxes which were deposited in the Baitul 
Mai (Public Exchequer). 

His armed forces comprised about a quarter miUion soldiers. Each cavalier 
was paid Rs. 25/- p.m. and infantry man Rs. 10/- per month. Till lately the pay 
of an Indian soldier of the British army was Rs. 16/- per month. His high officials 
were paid fat salaries and lived like princes. His Prime Minister, Fazl bin Sahl was 
drawing three million Dirhams a month. 

The regime of Mamoon was a period of prosperity and plenty. The standard 
of living was high and the common man passed a life free from anxieties for the 
necessities of life. According to a weU-known historian, on the occasion of his 
visit to Egypt, Mamoon toured village after village. In each vills^e he was the 
guest of some villager. In one village he was the guest of a poor old woman. 
While departing he was presented ten bags full of gold coins by the old woman. 
Mamoon hesitated to accept this valuable gift, whereupon the old woman said: 
"Gold is produced by our soil. I have plenty of it and I have presented only a 
part of it to Caliph". This shows the state of prosperity in Mamoon's dominions. 
Commerce was free and enormous. New cities sprang up and each village in Iraq 
was provided with canals and fountains which added to the agricultural and 
industrial prosperity of the country. Asylums and poor houses were built all over 

Hundred Grea t Muslims 3 75 

the vast Empire for widows, orphans and destitutes who were looked after by 
the State. It was the duty of the State to provide employment for the people or 
to pay the unemployed. This was one of the important laws of the Caliphate 
w4uch was scrupulously followed. 

Mamoon ar-Rashid is particularly known as one of the greatest benefactors 
and promoters of learning in recorded history. So far as patronage of letters and 
litterateurs is concerned, he stands unrivalled among Eastern as well as Western 
monarchs. He himself being a well-known scholar attracted around him a galaxy 
of intellectual luminaries, with whom he held weekly discourses on sciences and 
arts. He is reputed to be the founder of Darul Hukama (House of the Wise), 
which housed a big Translation Department, a Research Section and an 
Astronomical Observatory. His Caliphate constitutes the most glorious epoch of 
Muslim history and has rightly been characterised as the Augustan age of Islam. 

His twenty years reign recorded an unprecedented intellectual develop- 
ment embracing all branches of knowledge, including astronomy, mathematics, 
medicine, philosophy, fine arts, tradition and literature. 

The interest shown by the Caliph in the promotion of learning created a 
love for knowledge among his subjects, who vied with one another in furthering 

It was for such a period, more than anything else that Robert Briffault 
writes: "The incorruptible treasures and delights of intellectual culture were 
accounted by the princes of Baghdad, Shiraz and Cordova, the truest and 
proudest pomps of their Courts. But it was not a mere appendage of princely 
vanity that the wonderful growth of Islamic science and learning was fostered by 
their patrons. They pursued culture with the personal ardour of overmastering 
craving. Never before and never since, on such a scale, has the spectacle been 
witnessed of the ruling classes throughout the length and breadth of a vast 
Empire given over entirely to a frenzied passion for acquirement of knowledge. 
Learning seemed to have become with them the chief business of life. KhaUfs 
and Amirs hurled from their Diwans to closet themselves in thier libraries and 
observatories. They neglected their affairs of the state to attend lectures and 
converse on mathematical problems with men of scKncei" (Making of Humanity). 

Writing about Mamoon another Western writer Oelsner states: "We see 
for the first time perhaps in the history of the world a religious and despotic 
government allied to philosophy, preparing and partaking in its triumphs". 

The interest exhibited by the talented Caliph in the pursuits of learning 
was responsible for the establishment of a large number of educational 
institutions all over his vast Empire. 

The Caliph collected invaluable books on sciences and arts from distant 
parts of the world. He had requested the Byzantine Emperor to send him rare 

31€ Hundred Great Muslims 

manuscripts of Greek philosophy and science which were locked in a dark-room 
of an unknown monastery. His Translation Department employing competent 
translators on high salaries, rendered the works from Greek, Syraic, Chaldaic, 
Persian and Sanskrit into Arabic under the supervision of Costa bin Luqa: from 
Persian under Yahya bin Plaropn and from Sanskrit under Duban, the Brahmin. 
As many as 60 translators worked under Costa bin Luqa. In fact, the translation 
of invaluable works from other languages into Arabic paved the way for later 
ori^al researches and provided the firm ground on which the stately edifice of 
Islamic learning was built. 

The study of astronomy received great impetus during the reign of 
Mamoon. Astronomical observations and research were made in the observatory 
at Shamassia and the observations regarding equinoxes, eclipses and other 
celestial phenomena are worth mentioning. The measurement of a degree on the 
Red Sea enabled the calculation of the size of earth. Abdul Hasan invented 
Telescope during this period which immensely facilitated the carrying out of 
astronomical observations. A large number of high class works were produced 
during the Caliphate of Mamoon in medicine, mathematics, optics, philosophy, 
astronomy, meteorology, mechanics, ethics and literature. 

"Mamoon's reign", writes Ameer Ali, "was unquestionably the most 
brilliant and glorious of all in the history of Islam. The study and cultivation of 
humanitarian science is the best index to a nation's development. Mamoon's 
Court was crowded with men of science and letters; with poets, physicians and 
philosophers from every part of the civilized world and of diverse creeds and 

Mamoon extended his patronage to scholars inespective of their castes and 
creeds. Tuesdays were reserved for literary and philosophical discussions. Scholars 
of diverse castes and creeds assembled at the place in the afternoon. They were 
entertained there and had free discussions on all sorts of subjects tiU late in the 
night. Such literary meetings were presided over by the Caliph himself who 
freely took part in such discussions. 

The two greatest scholars of his time were Yaqub bin Ishaq Kindi and Abu 
Musa Khwarizmi. Kindi, a talented translator, is known as the philosopher of the 
Arabs who has been recognised as one of the 12 subtlest minds of the world by 
Garden and who has left behind him 282 invaluable works on philosophy, logic, 
medicine, mathematics, music, physics and astronomy. Abu Musa Khwarizmi, 
the founder of Algebra who is recognised as one of the highest intellects of 
Islam, greatly contributed to the study of mathematics, astronomy, geography 
and other sciences. His book on Algebra was translated into several oriental and 
Western languages. 

Mamoon was so fond of philosophy that he requested the Byzantine 
Emperor to lend a certain Greek philosopher for teaching philosophy and in 
return promised him lasting friendship as well as payment of five tons of gold. 
Hardly anyone would have paid such a high price for learning. 

Hundred Grea t Muslims 377 

Mamoon was an able Administrator and a wise statesman. During his 
twenty years of reign he established an administration throughout his vast 
Empire which maintained a high standard of justice, thus adding to the peace 
and prosperity of his people. Sundays were meant for his public audience. From 
early morning till afternoon, everyone was at liberty to present to the Caliph in 
person his or her complaint which was instantly attended to. One day a poor old 
woman complained to the Caliph that a certain cruel person had usurped her 

"Who is that person?" asked the Caliph. 

"He is sitting beside you", replied the old woman and pointed out to the 
Caliph's favourite son, Abbas, who was sitting next to the Caliph. 

The Prince defended his action in a halting tone while the old woman was 
getting louder and louder in her arguments. The Caliph stated that honesty of 
her case had made her bold and decided the case in her favour. 

Once a certain person filed a suit in the Court of the Grand Qazi, claiming 
thirty thousand dirhams from Mamoon. The Caliph was summoned to the Court. 
On his arrival, his attendants wanted to spread a carpet for him. The Grand Qazi 
sternly rebuked them, saying that in a court the Caliph and an ordinary man 
were equal. The Caliph was immensely pleased with the remark of his judge and 
increased his salary. 

Mamoon was a very kind-hearted ruler, reputed for his forbearance and 
humanitarianism. He used to say that if people could know of his kind nature, 
they would commit more crimes. He would often say that he got greater pleasure 
in forgiveness than in awarding punishment. His treatment of the sons and the 
mother of his rival brother Ameen, was exemplary. He brought them up like his 
own sons and married them with his daughters. 

On several occasions he granted pardon to rebels and conspirators. He 
quelled the rebellions in Yemen and Khorasan and treated the rebels with 
exceptional leniency. His uncle Ibrahim who had proclaimed himself as the 
Caliph in Baghdad when Mamoon was in Merv, was hiding himself here and 
there. At last he was caught and brought in the presence of the Caliph. Ibrahim 
was expecting nothing less than a death sentence, but the humane Caliph 
pardoned him and restored him his former position. 

A dangerous conspiracy against his life was unearthed in 824 A.C., the 
conspirators who were Abbasides were arrested and treated with extraordinary 

Mamoon used to say that on the Day of Judgement he would not expect 
God's blessings for his forbearance as he derived much pleasure out of it. 

3 78 Hundred Grea t Muslims 

There was complete freedom of expression in his Caliphate. Once when 
his uncle Ibrahim drew his attention to a certain poet Dabal's disgraceful satire 
on him and the members of the Royal Family, he pardoned the poet. 

His treatment of non-Muslims was exemplary. His non-Muslim subjects 
enjoyed compWe freedom of speech, worship and liberty of conscience. They 
were allowed all sorts of privileges enjoyed by the Muslims. He had estabUshed 
a regular Council of State, on which members of different communities, 
including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians inhabiting his vast Empire, 
were duly represented. Several non-Muslims occupied high posts in the 
Goverrunent. One of them, Gabrail bin Bakhtushu, a Christian scholar, had 
attained a high position in the Caliphate. All new employees, high or low, 
reported to him before their postings. 

Mamoon's liberal policy towards non-Muslims had added to their peace 
and prosperity. There were more than eleven thousand churches in his State, 
in addition to numerous synagogues and Zoroastrian temples. The administrators 
of churches and other non-Muslim shrines enjoyed the same privileges extended 
to them under the rulers of their own faith. 

His behaviour towards his servants and slaves was extremely humane. He 
was always tolerant to their criticism and never objected to their freedom of 

One night, Qazi Yahya who was his guest felt extremely thirsty at 
midnight. The Caliph woke up and himself brought for him a goblet of water 
from the adjacent room. The Qazi felt somewhat embarrassed at this act of the 
Caliph and said that it would have been better if he had asked his servants to do 
so. The kind-hearted Caliph replied that in accordance with the traditions of the 
Prophet of Islam, he refrained from troubling his servants during the dead of night. 

Mamoon died when he was 48 years old. He had marched at the head of 
a huge army to stop the incursions of the Greeks in Asia Minor. The Greeks were 
defeated with heavy losses and were obliged to sue for peace. Mamoon ordered 
the building of fortifications at Tyana, to provide a permanent check to the 
Greek incursion. Encamped near Tarsus, Mamoon, along with his brother 
Mutasim, was sitting on the bank of the river, washing their feet in its icy cold 
water. The same night, they had an attack of violent fever from which Mutasim 
recovered but Mamoon died on 9th August 833 A.C. 

Mamoon ar-Rashid was undoubtedly one of the greatest monarches that 
the world has produced. As an enlightened, talented, humane, magnanimous and 
sagacious ruler, he would always rank amongst the greatest in histoiy. "He was 
the most distinguished of the House of Abbas", says one of the annalists, "for 
his prudence, his determination, his clemency and judgement, his sagacity and 
awe-inspiring respect, his intrepidity, majesty and liberality. He had many 
eminent qualities, and a long series of memorable actions are recorded of him. 
Of the House of Abbas none wiser than he ever ruled the Caliphate". 


Muslim Spain has added a golden chapter to the history of Saracens. The 
light of knowledge which illumined Moorish Spain was greatly instrumental in 
dispelling ignorance that had enveloped Mediaeval Europe since the fall of the 
Roman Empire. "It was under the influence of Arabian and Moorish revival of 
culture", writes Robert Briffault, "and not in the 15th century, that the real 
renaissance took place. Spain and not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of 
Europe". Another well-known orientalist, Phillip K. Hitti, acknowledges that 
"Moslem Spain wrote one of the brightest chapters in the intellectual history of 
Mediaeval Europe. Between the middle of the 8th and the begiiming of the 1 3th 
centuries, as we have noted before, the Arabic speaking people were the main 
bearers of the torch of culture and civiUzation throughout the world. Moreover, 
they were the medium through which ancient science and philosophy were 
recovered, supplemented and transmitted in such a way as to make possible the 
renaissance of Europe. In all this, Arabic Spain has a large share". 

The ablest and the most gifted of all the rulers of Muslim Spain was Abdur 
Rahman al-Nasir who established an era of unparalleled peace and prosperity in 
that country which led to the cultivation and development of sciences and arts, 
commerce and industry, education and culture on an unprecedented scale. 

Abdur Rahman succeeded his grandfather Abdullah at the age of 22. His 
father was sentenced to death for some capital offence under the orders of his 
grandfather. King Abdullah. The child Abdur Rahman was then barely three 
years old. He was brought up most tenderly by his grandfather who wanted to 
make amends for the severity shown to his father. 

The accession of young Abdur Rahman in 912 A.C. was hailed by his 
kith and kin as well as by the general public and was considered a happy augury 
for the State. They all perceived in him the signs of greatness and accepted him 
as the saviour of the distracted Empire of the Umayyads. 

His was an uphill task of pacifying the strife-ridden country as well as 
dealing with the external enemies— the neighbouring Christian states who were 
always conspiring to strike at the rising Muslim power in Europe. Abdur Rahman 
dealt with this twin danger with determination and foresight. He abandoned the 
tortuous and temporising policy of his grandfather and pursued against the 


380 Hundred Great Muslims 

rebels a course which was at once bold and straightforward. Disdaining the 
middle course, he warned the rebels that he wanted their complete surrender. If 
they submitted, they would be given a free pardon, otherwise they would be 
dealt with severely. Most of the principal cities submitted spontaneously. 

Abdur Rahman's frank and chivalrous manners and his desire to share with 
his soldiers not only their glory but also their perils, evoked an exceptional 
enthusiasm in the army and enhanced its morale. 

In less than three months, the provinces of Elvira and Jaen were subjugated, 
the strongest castles were captured and even the inaccessible heights of Sierra 
Nevada were cleared of the brigands. The bandits who were harassing the 
country either submitted or were put to death, in less than a year, a major part 
of the country had been pacified. Even the Christian Spaniards, convinced of the 
generosity and firmness of the young King, began to lay down their arms. Dozy, 
a Christian historian says: "The government, be it said to its honour, conducted 
itself with the greatest justice towards the Christians who capitulated". 

In 928 A.C. Bobastro was captured and Serrania was finally pacified. 
Abdur Rahman next turned his attention to the North. Badajoz and Toledo 
capitulated after a long-drawn siege and despite the Christian instigation. Thus, 
Abdur Rahman became the undisputed monarch of the land of his ancestors. 

But, he had still to face two formidable enemies, who cast their longing 
eyes on the fertile lands of Andalusia— the Christian tribes of the North and 
Fatimides of Africa. A terrible famine in Spain obliged the Arab settlers in the 
north to migrate to Africa. This provided a golden opportunity to the Galicians 
to rise in insurrection. They massacred a large number of Muslims and elected 
Alfonso as their King. 

The Muslims had experienced the cruelty of the Christians in the previous 
century. "Fanatical, cruel and pitiless", says Dozy, "they rarely gave quarter; 
when they took a city they indulged in promiscuous slaughter, sparing neither 
age nor sex". They were wholly unaware of the tolerance shown by the Muslims 
to the Christians. The young King was faced with saving not only his kingdom 
but also the glorious civilization existing there which was hated by the fanatical 

The treacherous Christians of the North were a constant menace to Spain. 
King Abdur Rahman fuUy realised that lasting peace could not be established in 
his dominions without permanently stamping out this evil. Hence he resolved 
to crush them with a strong hand. 

In 914 A.C., the Leonese, under their chief Ordono II, burst into the 
Province of Merida, ravaged the country with fire and sword, and massacred a 
large number of Muslims. Abdur Rahman who was engaged at this time with 
the Fatimides in Africa sent a punitive expedition. It failed to achieve the object. 

Hundred Great Muslims 381 

In 918, he despatched another army under Hajib Badr and in 920 he himself 
took the field in person. Ordono was beaten and was pursued into the 
mountains. Osma, San Estevan, Clunia and several other important cities were 
captured. The King next turned his attention to Naverre. Muhammad bin Lope, 
Governor of Tudela, inflicted a humiliating defeat on Sancho, the Navarrean 
chief. He was pursued by the Muslims in the narrow Pyrenees defiles. The 
Christians hurled rocks on the pursuing Muslims from the mountain tops. 
Abdur Rahman saw the danger and halted his troops in a small valley surrounded 
by mountains. "The Christians now committed a mistake", observes Dozy; 
"Instead of remaining on the mountains, they descended into the plains, and 
audaciously accepted the battle the Mussulmans offered. They paid for their 
temerity by a terrible defeat. The Mussulmans pursued them until they were 
concealed from sight by the darkness of night, and many of their chiefs fell into 
the hands of the victors, among them two bishops, who were fighting clad in 
mail". Navarre was overrun by Abdur Rahman who razed to ground all their 
towers and fortifications. He returned triumphant to his Capital on September 
24, 918. 

In 921 A.C., Ordono and Sancho again rose in revolt and came down up to 
Viquera. The Christian chief put to sword a large number of Muslim families, 
including some of the most illustrious Arabs. Abdur Rahman hastened to meet 
the insurgents and on July 10 he entered Navarre. The enemy chief fled from 
this country on his approach, leaving behind his fortresses undefended. Sancho 
tried to bar the way of Abdur Rahman, but was badly beaten. He entered 
Sancho's Capital, Pampeluna without any resistance and razed to the ground 
Sancho's citadel palace and other important buildings. 

The chiefs of Basques and Leon were completely subdued. In 925, a civil 
war broke out between the sons of Ordono. Abdur Rahman applied himself 
more vigorously to crush the insurrections and by 929 A.C., complete order 
was restored in his vast country. 

At this period, when the Abbaside CaUphate had declined to its lowest 
ebb and could hardly keep its control over the Muslim world, especially on the 
Holy cities, Abdur Rahman Al-Nasir assumed the title of Ameer-ul-Momineen 
(Commander of the Faithful). In a large gathering of his subjects, he was invested 
with the Caliphate under the title of "Al-Nasir il Din Illah". 

In 933 A.C., Ramire II seized the chieftaincy of Leon and started raiding 
and ravaging the Muslim country. Abdul Rahman once again marched against 
him when Ramire hesitated to give battle. The Caliph advanced towards the 
North and swept through Castile and Alva, razing to the ground towns and 
fortresses of the Galicians. Saragossa, in the extreme North, capitulated. Ramire 
who was severely beaten in several engagements, at last retired to the hills. The 
whole of Spain now lay at the feet of CaUph Abdur Rahman. 

Abdur Rahman who disliked the Arab aristocracy and their factions and 

382 Hundred Great Muslims 

turbulent spirit, formed a new corps called Slavs, comprising European converts 
to Islam and appointed them into important positions. This aroused the Arab 
jealousy and alienated them from him. 

In 939 A.C., when the Galicians and Basques again rose in revolt, the 
Caliph despatched a force under a Slav General named Najd. The Arabs refused 
to fight under a Slav General which led to the disaster of the Muslim force in 
the battle of Khandak. The Slavs fought with great determination, but were 
almost annihilated. 

This did not damp the Caliph's determination to put down the insurrection 
with a strong hand. He despatched another force which severely punished the 
Galicians and the Basques. In 940, his Governor of Badajoz inflicted a crushing 
defeat on Ramire and laid waste his country. 

The Chiefs of Nav^re and Leon, at last sued for peace and agreed to pay 
annual tribute to the Caliph. The boundary of Muslim Spain was withdrawn to 
the River Ebro, which formed a natural barrier. 

After peace with Ordono III, the Caliph paid his entire attention to 
Africa, where the Fatimides were creating trouble and were jeopardising his 
interest. But on the death of Ordono, the chieftaincy of GaUcia and Leon fell 
upon Sancho, who refused to abide by the treaty concluded by his brother. The 
CaUph was thus obliged to apply force and his able General Ahmad bin Ila, who 
was Governor of Toledo, won a memorable victory against the Galicians and 
Leonese. Sancho was expelled from his dominions and Leon, Castile, Galicia 
and Navarre practically became the dependencies of the Umayyad Caliphate. 

The great Caliph could not enjoy his triumph for long and died on October 
16, 961 A.C., at the age of 73 amidst universal mourning, after a glorious reign 
of over half a century. Abdur Rahman al-Nasir was undoubtedly the greatest 
and ablest ruler of MusUm Spain. "He had found the kingdom", says Ameer Ah, 
"in chaos, torn by factions, and parcelled among a number of feudal chieftains 
belonging to different races; a prey to anarchy and civil war, and exposed to 
continued raids on the part of Christian tribes of the north. In spite of the 
immovable difficulties he saved Andalusia, and made it greater and stronger 
than it ever was before". Muslim Spain enjoyed an unprecedented peace and 
prosperity. Order was restored throughout the Empire and safety of the road 
was established as never before which led to the thriving of commerce and 
industry throughout his vast dominions. 

The prices of consumer goods considerably fell down and the people's 
Uving standards considerably enhanced which testified to their great prosperity. 
The splendid hydrauUc works and the scientific system of irrigation gave a 
wonderful impetus to agriculture and horticulture. The smiling fields and the 
luxuriant gardens spoke of the great agricultural development in the country. 
A large number of industries sprang up throughout Spain. Cordova, Seville and 

Hundred Great Muslims 383 

Almeria were important industrial centres. All this greatly added to the wealth 
of the State and the prosperity of her people. The custom dues alone suppUed 
considerable portion of State revenue and amounted to over 1 2 million dinars. 

Science and literature, art and culture were cultivated with unabated zeal 
during his time. Muslim Spain became the greatest educational and cultural 
centre in the world, where students flocked from all parts of the world. Its 
great educational institutions became the training ground for the future leaders 
of European renaissance. 

Al-Nasir possessed a formidable army and a strong navy which disputed 
the Fatimide supremacy over the Mediterranean. A well disciplined army, 
"perhaps the best in the world", says Dozy, "gave him a superiority over the 
Christian Chiefs of the North". 

The great rulers of Europe, including the Byzantine Emperor of Con- 
stantinople and the Kings of Germany, France and Italy, sought his favour and 
exchanged their Ambassadors with him. "But what excites the admiration and 
wonderment of the student of this glorious reign", observes Dozy, "is less the 
work than the workman". Even the minutest details could not escape his 
attention. "This sagacious man", continues Dozy, "who centralised, who 
founded the unity of the nation and that of the monarchical power, who by his 
aUiances estabUshed a kind of poUtical equiUbrium who, in his large tolerance, 
called to his counsel men of every religion, is especially a King of modern times 
than ruler of the Middle Ages". 


Abu Ali Hasan ibn Ali ibn Ishaq, better known as Nizamul Mulk Toosi, 
was the celebrated Grand Vizier of the Saljuk ruler, Malik Shah. Being one of 
the ablest and most talented Prime Ministers that the Muslim world has 
produced, Nizamul Mulk ranks high among the greatest administrators and 
statesmen of the world. The celebrated historian Phillip K. Hitti calls him as 
"one of the ornaments of the political history of Islam", and another well-known 
orientalist. Ameer Ali says : "Nizamul Mulk was probably, after Yahya Barmaki, 
the ablest Minister and Administrator Asia has ever produced". 

Nizamul Mulk was born on April 10, 1018 A. C. at Radkhan, a village near 
Toos. His father was a revenue agent on behalf of the Ghaznavide King. He got 
proficiency in almost all sciences and arts at an early age. In 1 054 he joined the 
service of Alp Arsalan, the Saljuk Prince. Later, when Alp Arsalan ascended 
the throne, Nizamul Mulk was made his Grand Vizier. Nizamul Mulk Toosi 
continued in office under two succeeding Saljuk Rulers. He held great sway over 
Alp Arsalan and accompanied him on all his campaigns and journeys. He 
was present at the famous battle of Manazgrid. He also undertook military 
operations on his own and was responsible for the capture of Istakhr citadel in 
1076 A.C. For more than 20 years during the reign of Saljuk Monarch, Malik 
Shah, Nizamul Mulk was the real ruler of the Saljuk Empire, the entire authority 
vested in his capable hands. 

Nizamul Mulk was the man behind the glorious reign of Malik Shah 
Saljuki. His wise Administration and the prestige of Saljuk arms had established 
such peace and prosperity in the vast Saljuk Empire that none dared to rebel 
against the State. "Nizamul Mulk was in all but name a Monarch", adds the 
Encyclopaedia of Islam "and ruled his Empire with striking success". He was 
kind and merciful in nature but firm and decisive in action. 

His work on Administration and Government form enduring monuments 
of his genius and capacity. Peace reigned in his vast Empire. For twelve times he 
traversed his wde dominions and personally examined the conditions and 
requirements of each Province. 

Nizamul Mulk paid much attention to the welfare of his people, life 
became happy, safe, peaceful and cheap, resulting in the unwonted security 


Hundred Great Muslims 385 

of road and low cost of living in his dominions. He set up a network of colleges, 
madrassas, hospitals, mosques and palaces in the cities of Western Asia. He 
established resting places and guard houses along the trade and pilgrim routes 
for protection of merchants and travellers. In peace and prosperity, good 
administration and pursuits of learr\ing, the Saljuk Empire administrated by 
Nizamul Mulk rivalled the best Arab and Roman rule. He made the road leading 
to Makkah from Iraq safer and more comfortable for pilgrims. 

Nizamul Mulk was one of the greatest patrons of learning that the world 
has seen. His Court was the meeting place of scholars, statesmen and poets, 
who flocked around him from all parts of the world. Being one of the greatest 
sponsors of Islamic learning in history, he founded a chain of great educational 
institutions all over his vast dominions. He founded the Nizamiya types of higher 
educational institutions at Neshapur, Baghdad, Khurasan, Iraq and Syria. The 
first great institution founded by him in 1066 A.C. was the Nizamiya University 
of Neshapur, which, in fact was the first university of the Islamic world. According 
to Allama Ibn Khalikan, Nizamul Mulk Toosi was the first in Islamic history 
to lay the foundation of a regular educational institution. 

The State Exchequer was enriched by the munificence of Nizamul Mulk 
Toosi for purposes of advancement of education. The Saljuk Sultar Malik Shah 
once called him and said : "Dear father, you can organise a big army with so 
much money". The wise Minister replied: "My son, I have grown old, but you 
are young. If you are auctioned in a Bazaar, I doubt if you will fetch more than 
30 dinars. In spite of this, God has made you the Monarch of such a vast Empire. 
Should you not be grateful to Him for the same? The arrows thrown by your 
archers will not have a range of more than 30 yards, but even the vast shield 
of the sky cannot check the arrow of prayers flung by the army which 1 have 
undertaken to produce". Malik Shah was struck with the reply of his talented 
Vizier and cried out : "Excellent father, we must produce such an army without 
the least delay". 

Institutions of higher education sprang up all over the Saljuk Empire. 
The big cities of Khorasan, namely, Merv, Neshapur, Herat, Balkh and Isphahan 
had a chain of Nizamiya Institutions of higher education. But the greatest of 
these was the Nizamiya University of Baghdad set up in 1066 A.C. which stands 
as a landmark in the educational advancement of Muslims during the Mediaeval 
times. It was a model institution in the whole world of Islam, known for 
the high standard of teaching and great scholarship of its teachers, attracting 
students from all over the world. It was, in fact, the first Academy of 
Islam. Imam Ghazali, the well-known thinker of Islam, had been its Principal and 
the celebrated Persian poet. Sheikh Muslehuddin Sa'adi, a student of this 

Nizamul Mulk spent I/IO of the State income on education, spending 
three million rupees on building of higher educational institutions and one 
million on the Nizamiya University of Baghdad. 

386 Hundred Great Muslims 

Nizamul Mulk was instrumental in the inauguration of Jalali Calendar, a 
much improved one, formulated by a body of astronomers headed by Umar 

Nizamul Mulk wrote in 1091 A.C. for the guidance of Malik Shah, his 
monumental political treatise, Siyasbt Noma, which stands as a landmark in the 
annal of poUtical treatises, written during the Mediaeval times. He added 11 
chapters to the book, the following year. It is a book on the Art of Administra- 
tion for the benefit of Rulers. Being an able Administrator, he incorporated his 
personal experiences in this book, which can serve as Magna Charta for an 
ideal state. It deals with topics of kingship, judiciary, espionage, ambassadorship, 
the qualifications and functions of all classes of officers. He complained that a 
sound intelligence service was not being maintained in Mediaeval states whereby 
corruption may be revealed and rebellion forestalled. The book was written in 
Persian, containing 50 chapters of advice, illustrated by historical anecdotes. 
The last 11 chapters added to the book in 1092 A.C. deal with dangers which 
threatened the Empire, specially from the Ismailis. 

In Siyasat Nama, he insisted on limiting the rights of fief holders to the 
collection of fixed dues. 

His Administration greatly resembled the Buyid Administration of the 
golden days of the Abbasides. He had very successfully accomplished the 
maintenance of a large tribal army by abandoning partially the traditional tax 
framing system of revenue collection for that of the fief, whereby the MiUtary 
Generals supported themselves and the army under their command, through the 
land aEotted to them by the State for the purpose. Nizamul Mulk elaborately 
systematised it. 

In the absence of regular intelligence service, he managed to intimidate the 
rebels through a judicious display of Saljukide might. He was a follower and 
champion of Shafii sect and had gained the support of famous and powerful 
Ulema. Among these were a Al-Ishaq, Al-Shirazi and Al-Ghazali. 

In 1091 the first challenge to his authority was made when Basra was 
captured by Carmatians and the citadel of Almut by Hasan bin Sabah. 

Nizamul Mulk Toosi was assassinated by a follower of Hasan bin Sabah 
on October 4, 1092 near Sihna while on his way to Baghdad. The assassin had 
disguised himself as a Sufi. Thus died one of the greatest administrators and 
benefactos of the world of Islam. 


A formidable force of Hindu warriors drawn from different parts of India 
had arrayed themselves on the plains of Kathiawar against a small Muslim army 
led by Mahmood of Ghazni. The large Hindu army led by hundreds of war 
elephants was characterised by massive pomp and pageantry. On the other hand, 
Mahmood's troops hardly one-tenth of the opposing force, who treked through 
a trackless desert, were too tired and, therefore, hesitated to meet such a powerful 
enemy. But Mahmood was too steadfast and valiant to lose heart. He prayed 
for Divine assistance against the infidels who, in the past, had broken many 
pledges and treaties made with the Muslims and he had come to punish them for 
their treachery. He made a memorable speech before his weary soldiers which 
steeled their determination to crush the enemy. A loud cry of Allah-o-Akbar 
(God is Great) rent the air, and the Muslims, led by Mahmood, made a desperate 
charge on the serried ranks of the perfidious infidels. They fought like heroes 
in a sea of men, which swarmed and closed in upon them from all sides to 
devour them. The occasional cries of Allah-o-Akbar raised by them above the 
din of the battle proclaimed their existence. 

At last, an irresistible charge by Mahmood won him the day; the Hindus 
were routed with terrible losses. They fled, leaving behind a large number of 
dead on the battlefield. They had to pay a heavy price for their treachery and 
broken pledges. 

The famous temple of Somnath lay before the Conqueror from Ghazni. 
The inmates of the temple offered an extremely high price to save their idols 
but Mahmood declined their offer, saying : "I want to be known in history as 
the destroyer of idols and not a idol seller". He struck the biggest idol with his 
staff. Its interior was found filled with invaluable precious stones which gushed 
forth and strewed the floor. 

Sultan Mahmood was a great conqueror, builder and patron of art and 
literature. According to the noted chronicler, Farishta, he "was endowed with all 
the qualities of a great prince". "The reail source of his glory", says Elphinstone, 
"lay in his combining the quaUties of a warrior and a conqueror with a zeal 
for the encouragement of literature and arts, which was rare in his time, and has 
not yet been surpassed". 


388 Hundred Or ear Muslims 

Mahmood, the eldest son of Subuktagin, was born in 969 A.C. His father, 
posted as Governor of Khorasan by King Nuh II of Bukhara, appointed Mahmood 
as his Deputy. He took Neshapur from the Ismails and made it his Capital. On 
the death of his father in 997 A.C. Mahmood seized Ghazni from his brother 
and ascended its throne in 999 A.C. 

Sultan Mahmood proved himself a capable and enlightened ruler, who 
was great both in war and peace. He was an invincible conqueror, a successful 
administrator, and a great builder. The Abbaside Caliph of Baghdad, Al-Kadir 
Billah, recognised Mahmood as the ruler of Ghazni and Khorasan and conferred 
on him the title of "Amir-al-Millat" and later "Yameen-ud-Dawala". 

During the last 30 years of his life, he made 17 invasions of India. In 1001 , 
he defeated and captured Raja Jaipal I of Punjab. He was later released on 
promise of paying tribute. But he soon broke it and was later punished by the 
Sultan. Mahmood invaded Multan and besieged its ruler Dawood who had 
adopted the Carmathian creed. Later he captured Ghur. 

The Princes of India made a confederacy against Mahmood. A number 
of Rajas who had promised to pay tribute to him also joined them. When he 
crossed the Indus in 1008 he was met at Und by a great Hindu army composed 
of the troops of Anand Pal and the Rajas of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalanjar, Kanauj, 
Delhi and Ajmer. The Sultan routed the Hindus after a hotly contested battle. 
The Hindus fled from the battlefield littered with their dead bodies. The Rajas 
later lost faith in each other and the confederacy was dissovled. Mahmood 
pressed on and the fortress of Bhavan and the temple of Kangra fell to him. 

In 1009, the Sultan again invaded Punjab to punish Anand Pal who had 
broken his pledge to pay tribute. In 1011, he captured the temple of Thanesar. 
In 1014 Mahmood defeated the Hindu Princes in the Mangla Pass, captured the 
fortress of Naudana and pursued them into Kashmir. 

In 1018 the Sultan set out on an expedition to punish the treacherous 
Hindu Rajas who had broken their pledges and taken up arms against him. He 
crossed the Jamuna, received submission of the Raja of Basan, defeated Raja 
Kulchand of Mahaban and captured Mathura and Bindraban. He marched with 
his picked force on Kanauj, guarded by seven forts built on the Ganges. The 
Raja of Kanauj fled, leaving behind his Capital city to Mahmood. 

The Rajas of Kalanjar and Gwalior murdered the Raja of Kanauj for his 
cowardice and formed a confederacy against the Sultan who broke it by 
inflicting a crushing defeat on them in 1022. The Rajas promised to pay him an 
annual tribute. 

In 1033, the Sultan invaded Transoxiana to establish his authority there. 
In 1025, he set out on his expedition against Somnath and there in January 
1026. he defeated and routed a combined force of Hindu Rajas. 

Hundred Great Muslims 389 

In 1027. the Sultan launched his last expedition to India to punish the 
rebellious and treacherous Jats. He collected a flotilla of boats at Multan and 
defeated them in a bloody naval battle fought on river Indus. 

In the remaining period of his life he devoted his attention to consolidat- 
ing the Western provinces of his vast Empire. He wrested Iraq. Rayy and Isfahan 
from the Buwayhids and invested his son Masood with the Government of the 
newly conquered territories. 

Great in war, Mahmood was greater in peace. Whenever he got respite 
from his long-drawn-out campaigns, he devoted himself to the peace and 
prosperity of his people. 

He built Ghazni into a magnificent Capital, the Queen of the East. The 
Grant Mosque of Ghazni, known as the "Bride of Heaven", built by him. was 
a wonder of the East in those times. Besides this, Mahmood adorned his Capital 
with a museum, a library, and a university as well as beautiful mosques, porches, 
fountains, reservoirs, aqueducts and cisterns. 

The Sultan also constructed many dykes and aqueducts for his subjects 
which gave an unprecedented impetus to agriculture. His far-flung dominions 
were connected with good roads, dotted with caravansarais and protected 
under a strict Administration which ensured a flourishing trade in his Empire. 
Among his great public works, the Sultan's dyke is still extant and is used even 
up to the present day. The dyke was constructed at the mouth of a pass. 1 8 miles 
from Ghazni, 25 feet above the water level of the Nawar. It is 200 yards long. 

Historians are all praise for Mahmood's Capital, Ghazni. "The civilization 
and grandeur possessed by the Samanids of North-Western Persia", says Sir 
John Marshal, "were handed down to Ghaznavids, as if by right of inheritance 

Under Mahmood the Great, and his immediate successor. Ghazni became 

famous among all the cities of the Caliphate for the splendour of its architecture 
(Cambridge History of India. "The splendour of its courtiers" palaces", writes 
Lane Poole in his Mediaeval India "vying with his own. testified to the liberal 
encouragement of the arts which raised Ghazni— from a barrack of outlaws to 
the first rank among the many stately cities of the Caliphate". Another historian, 
Marshman has described it as "the grandest in Asia" (Cambridge History of 

Sultan Mahmood was one of the greatest patrons of art and learning that 
the world has seen. He gathered around him in his Court a galaxy of intellectual 
luminaries hardly ever seen in a Royal court of the Medieval times. The Sultan 
loved the society of learned men. "This restless adventurer", says Lane Polle. 
"after sweeping like a pestilence for hundreds of miles across India, or pouncing 
like a hawk ^oursing south to Hamadan almost within call of Baghdad itself, 
would settle down to listen to the songs of poets and the wise conversation of 

390 Hundred Great Muslims 

The Sultan stands unrivalled even up to the present times in his munifi- 
cence and expenditure to the cause of education and learning. He founded a 
university equipped with a vast collection of books on different subjects and 
in different languages. A museum of natural curiosities was attached to the 

"He showed so much munificence to individuals of eminence", says 
Elphinstone, "that his Court exhibited a greater assemblage of literary geniuses 
than any other monarch in Asia has ever been able to produce". (Cambridge 
History of India). The number of poets alone attached to his Court was rhore 
than 400. 

The Sultan, himself being a poet and scholar of repute, enjoyed the 
Company of intellectual luminaries who adorned his Court. Iran immensely 
benefited from Mahmood's patronage of learning. "It is to Sultan Mahmood" 
writes Elphinstone, "that the (Iran) is indebted for the full expansion of her 
national literature". According to Professor M. Habib "among the patrons of 
Persian renaissance, he (Mahmood) is the most remarkable". 

Amongst the brightest intellectual luminaries which illuminated the Court 
of the Sultan was the encyclopaedist Abu Rehan Biruni, the philosopher- 
musical theorist Farabi, the philosopher-linguist Ansari, the witty poet 
Manuchehri, the celebrated poet Asjadi and the great epic poet Firdausi, whose 
Shahnama ranks amongst the greatest epic poems of the world. 

The Sultan's boundless generosity to these men of letters has been 
recorded in history. The story of his paying sixty thousand silver coins instead 
of the gold ones to Firdausi as settled with him is a fiction that has been 
contradicted by modem historical research. 

The great Sultan breathed his last at Ghazni on April 30, 1030 A.C. at 
the age of 63, being worn out by the labours of 40 years' rule. 


Babur, the founder of the great Mughal Empire in India, was a direct 
descendant of the two greatest conquerors of the world : Timur and Chengiz 
Khan— from the former from father's side and from the latter from mother's 

Born in 1482 at Farghana, a small town situated in a charming country 
of vales and mountains, enclosed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, abounding 
in roses, melons and pomegranates, and reputed for all sorts of games and 
sports, Zahiruddin Muhammad, sumamed Babur "the Tiger" was a Chaghtai 
Turk by race. 

His father, Sheikh Umar, was a pleasant brave man whose generosity was 
large and who possessed great humour and eloquence. Babur's uncle, a great 
soldier, was the King of Samarkand. 

Babur himself, a true child of the race, was handsome, affable and fearless, 
an expert polo player and a deadly shot with the bow. He could swim across 
mighty rivers and could climb mountains with two men under his arms. 

In 1494 A.C. Sheikh Umar died in an accident. Immediately anarchy 
broke out in Samarkand and Babur had to flee for his life. Three years later, he 
captured Samarkand. But his stay there was shortlived. His enemy seized it again 
when he was out on an expedition. Being driven once more into exile, he 
wandered for three years and in 1500 A.C. he swooped down on Samarkand 
with a handful of men and recaptured it. The boy King was seated on the throne 
of his world famous ancestor— Timur— in Samarkand, the glorious city of 
orchards and pleasure gardens, adorned with a magnificent Friday Mosque, 
Colleges, Observatory and the Famous Palace of the Forty Pillars. 

Babur was not destined to stay there for long. The following year, Shahi 
Beg, the great Khan of the Uzbeg expelled him from Samarkand. Young Babur 
once again found himself a fugitive. He wandered for four years and turned 
towards the south to Kabul which was ruled by one of his uncles. 

His uncle died, leaving the state of Kabul in disorder, Babur occupied 
Kabul in October 1504 and henceforth he embarked upon a meteoric career. 


392 Hundred Great Muslims 

He liked Kabul and the country surrounding it, icnown for variegated luscious 
flowers and fruits. In 1512 A.C., he again got a chance of capturing Samarkand 
but his triumph was shortlived, lasting for eight months only. 

Finally returning to Kabul, he thought out a plan of conquering India, 
a land of gold, watered by the mighty Indus and Ganges. 

On Friday, November 17, 1525 A.C., Babur set out for India with a force 
of 12,000 men. The Lodhi Governor of Lahore, Daulat Khan, promised to help 
him against his master Ibrahim Lodhi, King of Delhi. When Babur reached 
Lahore the treacherous Daulat Khan changed his mind, but was easily defeated. 

Babur marched upon Delhi. Capital of the Afghan Empire, ruled over by 
Ibrahim Lodhi. 

The two armies met on April 21, 1526 on the historic plain of Panipat 
Babur's force was hardly a tenth of his enemy's but it was better disciplined and 
equipped with a number of firearms unknown in the East. 

Babur followed the traditional Mongol manoeuvre to camouflage the 
bound waggons, and while the enemy was attacking them, to counter attack 
simultaneously on both flanks with swift masses of cavalry. 

The unskilful young Ibrahim Lodhi was tempted to make a frontal attack 
led by his war elephants. This was what Babur desired. Withholding his fire 
till the elephants came at point blank range, he suddenly opened fire. The 
savage brutes stampeded and turned round on their own men. Babur, thereafter, 
made fierce cavalry charge which totally routed the enemy. 

By midday the battle was over. Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi was killed and lost 
20,000 men. Immense spoils including the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond fell 
into the hands of Babur's men. Babur marched on Delhi, which capitulated 
without any resistance. He was proclaimed as the Emperor of Hindustan from 
the pulpit of the Friday Mosque in Delhi. 

Babur settled down to rule over India. He had a very poor opinion of India 
and its inhabitants. He set to work to make India more tolerable for himself 
and for that purpose he laid out gardens and orchards containing fruit trees and 
flower plants of his choice. He built palaces of his choice dotted with fountains 
and aqueducts. 

But a vital danger still loomed large over the horizon. He had to face a 
greater challenge thrown by the veteran Rajput Ruler, Rana Sangram Singh, 
the "Sun of Mewar", better known as Rana Sanga. The Rajput army, comprising 
80,000 horse and 500 elephants and commanded by 120 Chieftains of ancient 
lineage, were the flower of Hindu chivalry. The Rana himself, a mere "fragment 
of a man", who had lost an arm and an eye on the battlefield had fought 18 
pitched battles against the Afghans. 

Hundred Creat Muslims 393 

Babur advanced from Agra to a place called Kanua, where he awaited the 
approach of Rajput forces. He adopted the Mongol tactics. "His waggons were 
bound together with iron chains, with the cannons at intervals, and. in addition, 
he had mounted his matchlocks on wheeled tripods which could be moved 
quickly to the threatened point. His flanks were protected by deep ditches and 

The Mughal army became somewhat nervous at the arrival of the mighty 
Rajput force. But their leader was not a man to lose heart. He took a vow that 
if God gave him victory he would never taste wine again. He made a memorable 
speech before his men : 

"Noblemen and soldiers! Everyman who comes into the world is subjected 
to death. When wepassawayandaregone.Godonly survives, unchangeable. 
Whoever comes to the feast of life must, before it is over, drink from the 
cup of death. He who arrives in the inn of mortality must one day inevitably 
take his departure from this house of sorrow, the world. How much better 
it is to die with honour than to live with infamy !"' 

"The Most High God has been propitious to us, and has now placed us 
in such a crisis, that if we fall in the field we die the death of martyrs; if 
we survive, we rise victorious, the avengers of the cause of God. Let us 
then, with one accord, swear on God's Holy Word that none of us will 
even think of turning his face from this warfare, nor desert from the battle 
and slaughter that ensues, till his soul is separated from his body." 

The army electrified by these noble words swore to fighi till death. On 
March 16, 1527 the Rajput army appeared on the scene. Babur divided his 
army into three portions, with a strong reserve. The attack started soon. Wave 
after wave of Rajputs threw themselves against the gallant Mughals and Babur's 
artillery did a terrible slaughter. When the Rajputs were exhausted, Babur ordered 
a simultaneous attack on the centre and on either flank. The Rajputs were 
routed with terrible losses and were pursued relentlessly to their camp. A 
minaret of Rajput heads was erected on the battlefield. Babur, with his small 
force, hardly one-ninth of the mighty Rajput force, had smashed the Hindu 
power in India for ever. 

The next year Babur captured the stronghold of Chanderi. The same year 
his forces overthrew the Afghan kingdom of Bihar and Bengal and he became 
the undisputed Emperor of India, and the foundations of the great Mughal 
Empire were laid firmly on the Indian soil. 

But Babur was not destined to live long to enjoy the fruits of his labour 
and administer his vast Empire. He undertook the task of beautifying his new 
Capital, Agra, with gardens, palaces and buildings. In December 1529, he held a 
grand Durbar, attended by ambassadors from Persia, Herat and Bengal. 

394 Hundred Great Muslims 

In December 1530, his most beloved son, Humayun fell seriously ill. All 
medical treatment proved ineffectual. Some wise men suggested the life of the 
Crown Prince could be saved only if the Emperor sacrificed his most precious 
thing. He at once offered to sacrifice his most precious thing, Ufe, to save 
Humayun. Walking thrice round the sick Prince's bed, he prayed, "On me be 
the sickness". Then he cried out ecstatically, "I have succeeded ! I have taken 
it". From that moment Humayun gradually recovered and Babur sickened and 
died on December 26, 1530 A.C. 

He was buried in a beautiful garden on the hillside of Kabul, where he 
once delighted to sit and gaze on the beautiful and panoramic world around. 

Babur, a great warrior General, was a litterateur of repute. He was well 
versed in Persian and Turkish languages. Besides being an accomplished poet, 
he was a well-known writer of Persian prose and his "Memoirs " bear an immortal 
testimony to it. 


Some are born great, some acquire greatness and some have greatness 
thrust upon them. Sher Shah Suri belongs to the second category of great men. 
From the position of an ordinary soldier he rose to be the monarch of a mighty 
Empire stretching from the vale of Brahamputra in the East to the borders of 
Afghanistan in the West. He was undoubtedly a great genius, endowed with 
varied talents. With his sagacity and chivalry, indomitable will and undaunted 
courage, he founded a vast Afghan Empire. Because of his dynamic and 
enlightened administration he carved for himself a unique place in the history 
of Muslim India. During his short reign he introduced laudable reforms and 
organised public works on an unprecedented scale which added to the peace 
and prosperity of his people. "No Goverimient", says Keene, "not even the