Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi: A Man of Peace in a Century of Turmoil (Part I)

Early Life

The Background

Some seventy km off Lucknow (capital of Uttar Pradesh – India), lies a district in the north-west called Rae Bareli. A winding narrow path on the north-eastern flank of the town, across the agricultural fields, meadows and shrubs, insects and surprise birds, leads to a small village whose size suggests the nomenclature of a settlement rather than a village. Once somewhat more populous, now it boasts of some 8-10 houses. The village was established by the famous Shah’ IIm-u-Aliah Hasani, Naqshbandi, in the 17th century. Atop a raised area, you could walk down the end of the village some distance across a slopy field to reach the bank of the quiet river Sayyi.

Occasionally, maybe twice or thrice a century, the river swells and threatens to swallow the village. At such times its inhabitants run for their life along with the precious load of books from the fairly well-equipped village library. Amidst the old and new houses a mosque stands tall – a little less taller though, than the Ka ‘ bah on whose pattern it has been built. It has no minarets. Two huge tamarind trees stand at both ends of the village as if on guard. The village cemetery, a short distance away – bereft of tombs, epitaphs, or plastered humps – is almost entirely composed of the extended family, sleeping next to each other peacefully, spared the throng of visitors, although many were Aw/iya’ Allah in their own right in their own time. Called Takyaa Kalaan, it is here in this small village that several generations of scholars, sufis, mujahids, meshe’Ikh, poets, historians and men of renown appeared, grew and spread around to reach the masses over wide areas. Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali al-Nadwi (Ali Miyan of later times) was one of them. This is where he was born some 90 years ago. This is where he sought recluse after every hectic activity that took him thousands of miles away from his ancestral home.


Born in the same year as Shibli .died (1914), to a quiet, hard-working, scholarly father and a very religious mother (who wouldn’t let the child miss a single prayer), he was tutored, following the custom of the time, by scholars of sorts, spending most of his childhood in Lucknow where Abdul Hayy, his father ran a clinic. Abdul Hayy, author of the 8 volume Arabic Nuzhatu et-Khewiitir, and several works in Urdu, was also the rector of the Nadwatul ‘Ulama (popularly, the Nadwah), a traditional type of Madrasah with modernistic leanings.

In his childhood Ali Miyan spent a few hours studying Quran in the traditional Maktab of the local mosque where he finished his first Qur’an-reading. Later, roughly from the age of seven, various teachers took charge. He was put on a variety of study courses in Urdu, English, Persian, Arabic. Those days masters assessed every child’s capacities and aptitudes and taught him books most suitable to him. An intelligent child for example, did not follow the rigmarole of the average students.

His elder brother Abdul Ali – from his father’s earlier marriage – had done his preliminary course at Nadwah, advanced courses at Deoband, and had then got himself enrolled for a degree in medicine at the Lucknow University. After completion of the course and practice for a few years, he was to abandon the allopathic for the homeopathic, although at the cost of well-to-do patients and their purses. In fact, the family tried a few books of medicine on Ali also, but for lack of interest on his part, they gave up.

He lost his father at the age of nine. Massaging his feet, the child hardly realized the peaceful transition of the father into the next world. After him the family couldn’t afford to live in the rented house at Lucknow and had to shift back to the modest Takiya Kalan where the child continued to take lessons in Persian from one of his uncles. Soon, however, thanks to the support of some well-wishers, the family shifted back to Lucknow under the charge of the elder son of the family who was continuing his medical studies at the Lucknow University.

Arabic, Urdu and other Studies

Ali Miyan was entrusted for his Arabic language to a private but unpaid tutorship (Indian scholars never charged a fee for their services), of Sheikh Khalil ibn Muhammad. Originally a Yemeni and at that time professor in the Arabic language at the Lucknow University, he was a teacher of his own class. Following a self-designed syllabus he took his students across miles in weeks. Ali Miyan studied several years under this skillful teacher. One of those days he was introduced to Zakir Hussain Khan (later, President of India), who, fresh from Germany with a doctorate degree, was pleasantly surprised at hearing a young lad speak in unbroken Arabic.

In Urdu he received some coaching from an elder cousin, Hafiz Sayyid Habibur Rahman, who was studying at Jami’a Milliyah. Writings of Azaad (Bilgirami), Shibli, Haali, (Deputy) Nazeer Ahmed, Sharar, Ratan Nath Sarshaar and a few other leading writers, not to forget his own father’s works, formed the core of his studies in  those days of quick and lasting impression.

Also during those days the famous Qur’an scholar and commentator Khwajah Abdul Hayy visited the family. Ali Miyan’s brother Abdul Ali ordered him to do a quick course with him. Khawjah had a unique style and his coaching helped Ali Miyan qualify for attendance to another Qur’anic course conducted by Ahmed Ali Lahori, at Lahore, a thousand miles away. However, before he could go there, he was fortunate enough to study Arabic grammar under the famous grammarian Sayyid Talha.

When he was 13 he was advised to enroll himself at the Lucknow University for an advanced study course in the Arabic language. He was the youngest to appear in the entrance test, but emerged at top in order of merit. In two years time he completed the Senior Level course obtaining a gold medal for topping the class, thanks to the strong foundation that Sheikh Khalil and Sayyid Talha had provided him. The gold medal also earned him a scholarship for a year which he spent at the university doing a special course in Hadith. But, as he wrote later, he was mortified that the Hadith degree was presented to him by an unbelieving British Governor, Sir Malcolm Haley. He couldn’t forget the distastefulness even after the lapse of half a century.

His elder brother was a disciple of Hussain Ahmed Madani, a Hadith scholar, Sufi, and a freedom fighter who had spent several years in Andaman Islands along with his mentor Mahmoodul Hasan, the Sheikh aI-Hind. They were imprisoned in the island by the British. Abdul Ali was so close to Hussain Ahmed Madani that whenever the latter came to Lucknow, and it was not unoften that he did, he stayed in his house. So, for days and weeks of those early impressionable days, the lad Ali spent time with the great Sheikh.
The Sheikh possessed a very attractive personality, and was second to none in scholarship after his own master the Sheikh aI-Hind.

At Lahore

Ali was now 15 and traveled to Lahore where he was advised by a professor – who saw some of his Arabic writings including translation of Dr. Iqbal’s “Chand” in Arabic prose – to specialize in Arabic literature. He returned however, to become, on the behest of his brother, a pupil of Hadith under the famous Sheikh al-Hadith Hayder Hasan Khan at Nadwah. Under him he studied Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Abu Da’ud. The course included not only the text, which was read by the students before the Sheikh, word by word, but also details of the narrators, their (or textual) weaknesses, finer technical details, etc. The Sheikh also trained his students in research work. That was followed by a course in Fiqh, taught by the famous specialist Mawlana Shibli Jirajpuri.

To give an idea of the quality of students around the young Ali Miyan, we might mention the names of Mas’ud “Aalarn, Abdul Quddus Hashmi (Karachi), Abdus Salam Qidwai; Muhammad Nazim, Muhibbullah (vice-chancellor, Nadwah), Hafiz Abdus Shakoor, Muhammad Uways (Sheikh al- Tatsir at Nadwah), Muhammad ‘Imran Khan (who built the famous Bhopal mosque), Ra’is Ahmed Ja ‘ feri, (the novelist) Muhammad Nazim (vice-chancellor Nadwah), and several others who outshined each other as Ali’s Nadwah colleagues.

As providence should have it, he had not completed his Hadith studies at Nadwah when Taqiuddin Hilali, the famous Arabic linguist arrived in India. He was an expert in the Arabic language and a personality of such caliber that when giants like Rashid Rida (Egypt) and Ameer Shakeeb Arsalaan (Syria) – two leading and the most influential scholars of the Muslim world of that time – clashed over a grammar point, he acted as the arbiter and judge. On the run because of some political problems back home, he tried to settle down in India. He was so well-known the world over that the Arabic language teachers flocked around him to sort out grammar issues. Ali Miyan became his student, to study the language for full two years. Under this skillful teacher he covered the long and difficult road to proficiency in Arabic language in leaps and bounds.

It may be pointed out at this juncture, that in addition to the fact that those were days of knowledge, when the “run of the mill” scholars in India knew more than perhaps the self-proclaimed mujtahids of today, there were two factors that helped Ali Miyan become what he became. First, his family was composed of scholars, Shuyukh, and other distinguished figures. Devoted to religion, the thoughts of getting a fair share of this world never crossed their minds. His father had by his own choice discontinued to receive salary from the Nadwah, depending entirely on his practice. An author of several books, he didn’t even get his 8-volume Nuzhatul Khawatir (which has the biography of four thousand and five hundred scholars and renowned men of India), printed in his life. Ali Miyan’s brother, Abdul Ali gave up practicing allopathic medicine despite heavy financial loss. So, the family knew what a child was to do and how to go about achieving the objectives of life, whatever the material conditions. The objectives themselves were clearly defined: knowledge and service. Little else mattered. In the face of these objectives set by the family, friends, elders and the society, the need for admonition or discipline did not arise. Secondly, it was never difficult for the family to convince any top order teacher to accept one of it members for coaching because of the respect the family enjoyed for its scholarly achievements.

Consequently, given Ali Miyan’s own abilities, coupled with Divine Favor, it wasn’t for any of his teachers to lament the loss of his useful time. They knew what fruits their efforts would bear and offered their best to a hungry soul.

Scholars and Shuyukh of the Time

Luckily, as we have said earlier, and in view of the adage that a man is what his teachers and the social milieu make of him, those were days when eminent men were available for the asking. They were not merely men of letters. They were practitioners of the spirit that underscored the written word. Men like  Hussain Ahmed Madani (Hadith), Ahmed Ali Lahori (the Master of masters in Qur’anic studies), Taqiuddin Hilali (the linguist), Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (the poet), Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani, Abul Kalam Azad (the man of letters), Ashraf Ali Thanwi (the Alusi of India), Prof. lIyas Burni, Dr. Sir Ziyauddin, Khalil b. Ahmed (the grammarian)’ Hayder Hussain Khan (Sheikh al-Hadith), Manazir Ahsan Geelani (author of the unique work Khatam un-Nebivyini, Abdul Sari Nadwi, ‘Ubaydullah Sindhi, Abdul Majid Daryabadi (the Majma’ al-Bahrayn of India who had the distinction of writing two Qur’anic commentaries: in Urdu and English) Mawlana Zakariyyah Kandhlawi (Sheikh al-Hadith – the great populizer of Hadith among the masses), Sa “Id Ahmed Akbar Abadi (Life of Abu Bakr), Sayyid Sulayman Nadwi (the all-round scholar par excellence), Shabbir Ahmed ‘Uthmani (Tafsir-e-‘Uthmami, Mawlana ‘Abdul Qadir Ra’epuri (the Sufi) Mawlana lIyas Ahmed (the great Da’ee) and many others who excelled in their special fields – were within easy reach of any serious student. In fact, such was the quality and so large the galaxy of scholars at the end of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century in India, that students and scholars from all parts of the Islamic world were constantly arriving to either pursue higher studies or seek employment in their – field of specialization. Ali Miyan did not finish with one but to take position with another giant, all about ready to incarnate himself into the young, studious, impressionable and extremely pliant lad.

Not only these scholars, spiritualists, intellectuals and Shuyukh trained and guided him on day to day basis, but they also earnestly prayed for him in their supplications. He was an extremely likeable person because of his amiability and was universally looked upon as someone in the making, on whom they could fasten their hopes. In fact, even in his later life, most of his affairs in connection with journeys, Da’ wah works, articles, books or teaching jobs were decided in consultation with or by the urging of his mentors. His activities had their backing, won full blessing, and drew a few supplications. When he spoke, or wrote, they were the first to congratulate him and encourage him to further tasks. In this sense he stood truly distinct: there was not a well-known scholar or religious personality throughout the length and breadth of India but from whom he had not drawn some fuel for his spiritual lantern.

A single incident will say a lot about the kind of discipline, teacher-student relationship, and the general milieu that was prevalent among the learned of those days. One day when the English teacher knocked at the door, Ali Miyan emerged to tell him that he would not be able to take lessons for some reason or the other. That granted, the lad closed the door, a bit hard, which sounded like he had slammed it against the teacher. The teacher felt affronted. He complained to All’s Arabic teacher, the Yemeni Sheikh Khalil. Sheikh Khalil spoke to “All’s elder brother and guardian Abdul Ali and let him know that he was going to spank the lad. When Ali showed up, he gave him a thrashing that put Ali in a sort of bad shape. When Ali went to his village Takyaa Kalaan his other asked, “So you were spanked by Sheikh Khalil? Were you? What went wrong?” The lad explained the misunderstanding and kind of defended the teacher.

What has to be noted is that nobody interfered, nobody commented and nobody protested. The mother too did not say a word about her dear child or the teacher who spanked. Obviously, had anything of that kind happened, the lad would have had to do not only without those teachers, but many others.

Otherwise of course, the teachers, scholars and others were absolutely sincere people. They looked at a lad as to what they could make of him, if he was willing to follow the course suggested by them. Their love for their pupils was immense. They would go any length to remove a pupil’s doubt during the course or after it. They’d never refuse to teach anyone who showed the inclination to learn. They worked during their vacations, at no cost. In fact, in some cases they spent their own money on a deserving student. When a student distinguished himself in some way, they went about speaking proudly of him in their assemblies, guiding him to further courses, writing strong letters of recommendation, and then following up the matter with the next batch of teachers. At night they earnestly prayed for their pupils.

A few incidents might throw more light on the culture of the religious class of those times. When Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi received a copy of Ali Miyan’s “Seeret Sayyid Ahmed Shehid,” he kissed the book after opening the parcel. Then, as he scanned it, he hugged it and involuntarily raising his hands began to supplicate for the author, with the disciples around him chanting Ameen. When in the year 1975, under the rectorship of Ali Miyan, Nadwah was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, having served the community for eighty-five years, Sheikh Zakariyyah Kandhlawi sent a few of his disciples to pitch their tent near the venue and engage themselves in  nothing but unbroken supplications for the success of the function! And once ‘Abdul Qadir Ra’epuri – moved by his “state” – suddenly said, “I am going to supplicate for Ali Miyan. All of you [the disciples] will say Ameen!” On another occasion, Ali Miyan was passing by Bhopal. He wrote to his Sheikh – Mawlana Ya’qub Bhopali – that against his usual habit of breaking the train journey to meet him, he wouldn’t be stepping down this time since the train would be reaching the town at mid-night. The train was late by two hours, but when Ali Miyan looked out of the window, he found his Sheikh standing on the platform shivering in severe cold along with a few disciples. Ali Miyan pooled up courage to say that the Sheikh had troubled himself. The reply was, “I have never enjoyed an occasion like I enjoyed it today.” The two parted with an embrace and said goodbye with moistened eyes.

At all events, it might be pointed out that such were not the attitudes of the Shuyukh specifically with Ali Miyan. Where there was spiritual, or even intellectual talent, such were the ways of the Shuyukh of the Indian sub-continent of that historic period.

First Few Writings

Trained by such able teachers, guided by such eminent scholars, paces set by such preeminent Shuyukh, supplicated for by such powerful souls, (not to forget his mother, the tireless supplicator, come morning, come evening, come tahajjud, come Friday), and helped on by his own consistent efforts, Ali Miyan soon began to produce articles of worth in the Urdu and Arabic languages. The first notable one was on the life of Sayyid Ahmed Shaheed which appeared in” AI- Tawhid” a respectable journal of the time. His Arabic articles began appearing in the famous “Al-Diya'” magazine at a regular pace. AI-Diya’s editors were Sayyid Sulayman Nadwi and Al-Hilali, both experts of the Arabic language. His brother advised him to translate his Urdu article on Sayyid Ahmed Shaheed into Arabic and add some more historical material. Sayyid Ahmed Shahid (martyred 1831) was the great Mujahid who started jihad against the British rule, and fell martyr a thousand miles away from his ancestral village Takyaa Kalaan. Al-Hilali advised him to get it published abroad. He sent it to and was accepted for publication by Rashid Rida for his al-Manar (Egypt).

Read by scholars, litereates, revolutionaries and intellectuals alike, Al-Manar was then the world’s leading Arabic religious and literary magazine. Subsequently, Rashid Rida got the article published in Egypt in the form of a short book. That was no small tribute to a lad merely sixteen years old.

Those days he was also studying English language, some science and mathematics in the hope of entering into a secular university for a graduate course. But, after a two-year application, he gave it up on a sudden, having learnt enough of the English language and known enough of the hollowness of the new disciplines. At all events, he had learnt enough English to be able to extract required material when working on his publications. From the start his mother was completely opposed to the study of the English language. In her letters she pointed out that there were already several members of the family who had distinguished themselves on that road, and that the family was in no desperate need of another trail blazer. She said if she had a hundred children, she would put them all to the study of Arabic language. Interestingly, she wrote to him that she wished to be remembered as someone who bore an offspring (and was not sterile)!

At Deoband

In 1930 he traveled once again to Lahore; this time to study Qur’an under the famous Ahmed Ali Lahori. The Lahori accepted those as his students who had already finished their Madrasah courses and held ‘Alim or Fadil degrees. It was kind of an advanced course conducted in an entirely new but effective style. Students from the whole of the Indian sub-continent were attracted to the prestigious institution. Ali Miyan arrived late and so received the coaching but could not appear for the examination. He also participated in a course held on Shah Waliyullah’s “Hujjatullahi al-Baligha” and passed the test.

In 1932 he was sent to Darul Uloom Deoband to study Hadith under Hussain Ahmed Madani. He stayed there for four months during which time he also studied Fiqh, participating in a few sessions of Anwar Shah Kashmiri (the Sheikh al-Shuyookh in Hadith studies of the time). From there he returned once again to Lahore, this time to enrol himself as a student for the Qur’anic course. At the end of the examination when the results were announced, the other students, many of whom being several years senior to Ali Miyan, (in fact, a few specialists in one or the other discipline), protested. How could the youngest of them top the list? A re-evaluation had to be ordered before Ali Miyan could receive his degree and the distinction. Thereafter he returned to Lucknow. But a short while later Ahmed Ali Lahori urged him to come back. This time he was to spend three months in seclusion in a mosque, spending time in meditation under the supervision of Ahmed Ali Lahori himself. Even reading was disallowed during those months!


A Teacher

Thus qualified on all fronts, with a dozen hard copy certificates, and as many impressed on his heart and soul, he was recommended for appointment as a teacher by no less than the rector, Sayyid Sulayman Nadwi, at the prestigious Darul “Ulum Nadwatul ‘Ulama. The recommendation accepted, he entered Nadwah as a teacher in Tafsir, Arabic language, and other subjects. He had just turned twenty.

Having joined Nadwah, Ali Miyan could not have found a better place for research, studies, Da’ wah, and writing. Teaching Qur’anic Tafsir (commentary), he was forced to study, virtually word by word, commentaries such as “Kashshaf”, “Ma ‘alim al-Tanzi!”, “Madarik ei-Tenzil”, in addition to Rashid Rida’s “Tafsir AI-Manar”, Abul Kalam Azad’s Urdu commentary “Tarjuman et-Our’en”, those of Abdul Majid Daryabadi, and, for difficult questions, that of “Alusi.” Could there be a better start for anyone who wished to take up the cause of Islam in his later years? Added to this, the presence of renowned teachers and scholars, a general environment of learning, scholarship and piety – the place was a dream come true. Later, teaching “History of the Arabic Language” gave him a sound footing in the language and taught him expressions and usage. He ended by teaching Shah Waliyy Allah’s “Hujjatullahi al-Baligha” a philosophical work written in a fine literary style.

During those early days at Nadwah, when he also got married, Ali Miyan was chosen to represent the institute and invite Dr. Ambedkar and his community to Islam. Dr. Ambedkar was a low caste Hindu leader, who had realized that so long as he and hundreds of million others like him remained Hindus, they would never be able to lead a respectful life in India and find their rightful place in the community. He announced that he was studying various religions and would be soon choosing one for adoption. Ali Miyan met him in Bombay, found a copy of the Qur’an and a few other Islamic titles on his desk and made a strong appeal for Islam. Ambedkar however, opted for Budhdhism. His conversion of course did not make any difference. Those few who converted remained low caste, while the great majority remained Hindus. The doctor hadn’t perhaps realized that most of his community were resigned to their fate as those created as serfs for the upper caste. It is interesting to note however, that when Ali Miyan was leaving for Bombay, his Arabic teacher, Sheikh Muhammad the Arab, whispered into his ears in a choking voice, that if Ambedkar asked him who would give him – a new Muslim – a daughter into marriage, he could tell him that an Arab – a descendant of the (Madinan) Ansar – was ready to offer his daughter!

The First Book

Year1936 gave him the opportunity to travel to Tonk where the remnants of the descendants of Sayyid Ahmed Shahid were living, notably his great grandson Muhammad Isma’il. There he chanced to lay hands on a work running into several volumes detailing the life, times and struggle of Sayyid Ahmed Shahid. The work inspired him and it was here, a little before sunrise, that with his feet dipped in the river Banas – at which surely Sayyid Ahmed and the Mujahideen accompanying him would have time and again performed wudu – Ali Miyan wrote the foreword to his first book Seerat Sayyid Ahmed Shaheed.

Built on the Arabic article he had earlier got published in Al-Manaar, he finished writing the Urdu Seerat Sayyid Ahmed Shaheed by the end of 1 937. He had it with him when he went to Lahore to meet with Dr. Iqbal. Although the poet was sick he gave him more time than was expected of a person who was destined to die in that sickness. However, Ali Miyan, mindful of his sickness, didn’t have the courage to ask him for a foreword for the book. It was decreed to be written by Sayyid Sulayman Nadwi who produced a piece of its own class for a work that was to prove a landmark for Ali Miyan. The book hoisted him up, installing him right among the rank of the leading writers of the time.

It was during those days (1938) that Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi fell sick and went down to Lucknow for treatment. He stayed there for quite a while. Scholars milled around him. Ali Miyan was one of those who visited him regularly.

As if for the Divine Will to prepare him intellectually for the writing of text books for Nadwah, a task only expert educationists can perform well, in 1938 he was asked to write a book on Islam for the Islamic courses offered in the Aligarh Muslim University. With the manuscript approved, he was called to Aligarh to stay there for a month and a half and improve on it – under the guidance and supervision of experienced professors including the giant Sayyid Sulayman Ashraf. In its wake the book earned him a neat sum of Rs.500 as prize, (being equivalent of about 50,000 today). It also earned him two congratulatory letters from Sayyid Sulayman Nadwi, a prize by itself.

The year 1939 saw the publication of Seerat Sayyid Ahmed Shaheed. It was not the life history of an individual. It was the history of a Jihadic struggle to establish the Islamic system of life on a patch of land. Accordingly, it was preceded by efforts to cleanse the body politic of the Muslim Ummah of the sub-continent of Shirk (Association with Allah) and Bid’ ah (innovation in Islam). Tens of thousands were encouraged to repent, enter into an allegiance with Sayyid Ahmed Shahid, the leader of the movement whose most eloquent spokesman was Shah Ismail Shahid. After considerable reformation, deliberations and preparations, Jihad was finally launched in the Sarhad area (1823). Its final target was the British occupation but had to start with the Sikhs who controlled the region. However, once the struggle began, the powerful Muslim landlords of the area stood up against the movement. Fighting the two forces, Sikh and Muslim, the top leaders of the movement were martyred in Balakoat, in Karbala-like fashion, and the movement died in the same fashion as that led by Imam Hussein. At a time when the Muslims were being beaten on every front, their lands were under colonial rules, the youth were feeling humiliated and let down by their scholars and leaders who would not advise them to take up arms against the established regimes, this rekindling of the Jihad memories through the life of Sayyid Ahmed Shahid, ran an electric current through the youth and the religiously committed. Some people read it ten times over. It drew appreciation even from a man of Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s caliber.

Prompted by the inadequacy of classical Arabic Readers designed for senior students in the good old days, Ali Miyan took up the task of preparing a new anthology of Arabic prose and poetry. For the first time writings of such old masters as Muhiuddin Ibn al-Arabiyy (Sheikh al-Akbar), Hasan al-Busri, Mas’udi, Ghazali, Ibn Jawzi, Ibn Hibban, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Khaldun and Shah Wali Allah were included in the work entitled Mukhta;at (Selections). In a couple of years the book reached the Arab lands and several institutions were quick to incorporate it among their course books. It is still used for Master Degree courses in several universities in India. In 1987 Saudi Arabian education authorities also prescribed the book for high school level courses and it underwent a reprint in Jeddah.

While teaching Arabic language at Nadwah Ali Miyan also felt that the famous six-volume Egyptian text book Al-Qira’atu al-Rashidah was quite inadequate, if not unfit, for the religious institutions. It has heavy secular overtones. Besides, it speaks of places and discusses topics familiar to the Egyptians alone. The sub-continent Indians hardly feel themselves related to those parts. Surely, an equivalent was the need of the day. Called Al-Qira’at al-Raashidah it was prepared by Ali Miyan in three volumes in about 2 years time. It won appreciation by way of inclusion in the Arabic courses in local schools. By 1944 he also brought out another set of children’s books for the religious schools entitled Stories of the Prophets for Children – in Arabic. This one won the appreciation of even Sayyid Qutb who wrote a foreword for its second print. The book was soon included in the syllabi of various countries including Saudi Arabia. After quite a gap, Ali Miyan followed up the first three volumes with a fourth in 1975 and a fifth in 1977. The five together cover all the major Prophets mentioned in the Qur’an. A little later he followed up the children’s series with AI-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah, (Life of the Prophet), also in Arabic, for adults. It was also well received and was included as a course material by various universities of the Arab world. Once when Ali Miyan himself visited Badr (nowadays a remote town). he found that the book was being read out to a circle of devotees in the town mosque.

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