Peshawar Jamaat’s first-hand experience with Maulana Ilyas


The following is a rare excerpt from a diary written by Arshad Saheb. He was part of a Jamaat from Peshawar who met Maulana Ilyas in Nizamuddin in 1944. This extraordinary account details their first-hand experience and events of what Nizamuddin was like in those early days. Maulana Ilyas was very sick at that time and passed away 3 months later. What’s interesting is that it describes the vibrant environment and intense Fikr of Maulana Ilyas before his death

APRIL 11, 1944

(From Arshad Saheb’s Diary)

At about 1 o’clock a child brought the news that the meal was ready. Maulana Ilyas’ room is in the corner of the Masjid. We went to it. The meal was laid there and Maulana Ilyas was sitting on a charpoy supported by pillows and covered with a quilt. His frugal meal as prescribed by the physician had been placed before him. His face was luminous while the body had been reduced to a sack of bones. His physician was sitting on the floor near the charpoy. We sat down to the meal after paying our respects to him. In all, there were twenty to twenty-five men. 

During the meal, we heard Maulana Ilyas giving the following remarks:

  1. “Hakim Saheb (Maulana Ilyas’ Physician)! I consider it a religious duty to follow your instructions. But does it mean nothing to you that I am deprived of the Divine reward on Qayam (Standing up)  in Salat?” 
  2. “Brothers! Allah SWT has a special affection for his bondmen, even the infidels. It is in this affection that he used the following words in the Quran regarding Hazrat Yunus AS: ‘And the fish swallowed him while he was blameworthy’ (Quran 37:142)”

Maulana Ilyas emphasised the word Maleem, i.e. blameworthy. He then said:

“When such is the love of Allah for the infidels, that what will be his love for the Believers? In the service of the Believers lies the essence of servility (willingness to serve others). And what is servility? It is to make oneself lowly for the sake of the Believers. This is the cardinal principle of our Movement which no Ulema, layman or materialist can refute.” 

After that, Maulana Ilyas condemned vanity and hypocrisy. With it, the sitting came to an end. 

At the time of Zuhr, Maulana Ilyas came out leaning on a stick, supported by two men. He sat down, resting his back against the pulpit. He then remarked:

  1. “Brothers! We have deviated far from the Deen of the Prophet SAW. Government or any other form of political power can never be the goal of a Muslim. This does not mean that we reject power if it is obtained while we are adhering to the Path of the prophet SAW. We have to understand that this is not our aim. Our aim is to give everything including our lives in the path of the Prophet SAW.”
  2. “Remember, that the eradication of evil practices within the Muslims does not take place by admonishing them or cursing upon their evilness. What needs to be done is to enlarge and heighten the few virtues that may be present in them. By doing so, the evils will automatically disappear by themselves.”

After it, the people stood up for Salat and two men helped Maulana Ilyas stand. Strangely enough, a man who could not move from his place without the support of two persons was carrying out Qayam, Ruku, Sajda, and Jalsa perfectly with ease in all four Rakaats of Salat.

When the Salat was over, Maulana Ilyas addressed the audience: 

“Know that you have not come here to sit on the Masnad. Do not allow your time to be wasted. Always remain occupied with Zikr and Taleem. You have come here for a very short time”

He then added with utmost conviction:

“Bring a larger Jamaat when you come again and stay for a longer period. It is necessary to stay here as long as possible.”

Maulana Ilyas went back to his room after Salat. He was supported by two persons. Those of us who were present were then divided into two groups, one of the Arabic-knowing people and the other of the non-Arabic-knowing people. Instructions were imparted to the non-Arabic-knowing people from the Urdu books relating to the movement. For the Arabic-knowing people, a few Hadith were read out from Kitab-ul Iman which was followed by a discussion. I was told that it was essential for everyone at Nizamuddin to complete this course of study.

At night, the Jamaat from Peshawar carried out Tabligh in Paharganj along with other Jamaat spending the whole night there.

APRIL 12, 1944

At the forenoon, we met together for the study of Hadith. Maulana Ilyas was looking better at tea time. He said to me,

“Brother, send a bigger Jamaat. Even a simple thing of Dunya cannot be done without acquiring the necessary knowledge, so much so that even a mentor is required before becoming a thief. If a thief commits theft without proper training, he will be caught. Thus, how can one become proficient in such an important task as Tabligh without gaining the knowledge and skill in it?” 

Then, gently, he asked,  “Now brother, will you bring the Jamaat’?

 I replied, “If a Jamaat from here (Nizamuddin) first come to Peshawar, it would be easier to make the people there interested in Tabligh.”

Maulana Ilyas then remarked:

“Ok, for this, you yourself must write a letter to (so) and (so). Then, you should also ask some of the other influential people of Peshawar to write a similar letter. Write to them about bringing a Jamaat to Peshawar. The Jamaat will then come to your town. These people who have so far been sitting on the Masnad too will become active.”

After Zuhr, Maulana Ilyas busied himself in the formation of Jamaats and gave them necessary instructions before departure.

In the afternoon, we had another round of Haduth and Maulana Wasif read out some wonderful reports from Kitab-ul-Jehad.

A large number of people came for the Urs Festival (of Nizamuddin Aulia). Exhortation to Tabligh was also being done to them.

APRIL 13, 1944

At tea time, Maulana Ilyas said that like the earlier Prophets, our Prophet too brought the Sharia. The Injeel of Isa did not revoke the Torah, but only made some alterations in its commands. The Quran of the holy Prophet SAW however repealed all former scriptures. It is now forbidden to follow them directly.

It was the method of Tabligh that distinguished our Prophet from other Prophets. As the chain of Prophethood was to continue for earlier Prophets, they did not pay as much attention to it as the Prophet Muhammad SAW. As Prophethood was to cease after him, the entire responsibility of Tabligh had to be borne by his followers.

Maulana Ilyas then shed some light on the doctrine of ‘There is no loyalty to the creatures in the transgression of the law of the Creator’. He observed that it should permanently be kept in mind in worldly affairs and even in one’s attitude towards parents, teachers or spiritual mentors.

Addressing Maulana Ihsanullah, Maulana Ilyas said, 

“Did you follow, Molvi Sahib? This work is the jewel of the early generations of Islam. Sacrifice everything. Even your life for it. The greater the sacrifice you make, the more will you gain.

“You can listen and enjoy it. But such is the joy one feels on seeing the fruit in another person’s orchard. The real joy lies in growing the fruit in your own orchard. How can such be done without toil and sacrifice?”

It began to rain heavily at the time of Asr. The Tabligh Activities were suspended for that day. When Maulana Ilyas came for the Asr prayers, he was angry to know that the Jamaat had not gone out for the daily rounds. He spoke regarding Deen and the sacrifices of Mewatis and remarked: “These people are your benefactors. They have shown you the correct path”

He then called a Mewati and told him to sit by him and said: 

“When I first told him to go and do the Work of Tabligh, he asked what was “Tablid”. (He was so ignorant that he could not even pronounce the word Tabligh correctly). I thereupon told him to teach the Kalima to the people to which he replied that he did not know it. I then said to him to go and tell the people that even an old person like himself did not know the Kalima. Thus people must go to someone and learn it.”

Inspired by Maulana Ilyas’ speech, the Jamaat set out after Asr in the rain. All thanks to Allah, It stopped raining as soon as the Jamaat had started. The weather became pleasant. The program of Tabligh was carried out in a village about half a mile away. The party returned after Maghrib.

On Thursday, many prominent persons came from Delhi to pay their respects to Maulana Ilyas. Thus today, there is a very good gathering in spite of the rain and it has been my good fortune to see so many blessed faces.

APRIL 14, 1944

I found most people engaged in Zikr and Tahleel after Tahajjud. Our friend, Maulana Ihsanullah, led the Fajr prayers at the order of Maulana Ilyas. Over fifty persons were present at breakfast.

Maulana Ilyas said:

“The reward of reciting a small Sura in the Quran, Sura Al Fateha, in Salat, is greater than the reciting the entire Quran outside Salat. From it, one can imagine the reward earned by Jamaats which exhort people to observe Salat.” 

“An Amal is given a special quality at a particular time and occasion. Zikr in the Path of Allah fetches a much greater reward than at home or in a hospital. So friends, do Zikr much and often”

“What is this Movement? This movement is to act upon the verse: “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed. (Quran 9: 41)”. Negligence in this is to call upon the Wrath of Allah. It is essential to observe the rules and principles of the work of Tabligh. If any rule or principle is disregarded, the punishment of Allah which might, otherwise, have been delayed will visit you at once. On two occasions in the past, the Movement has suffered a severe setback owing to the neglect of the rules even though apparently it was at its peak. So brothers, follow strictly the six fundamental principles.”

“What is Islam? Islam is to bow one’s head before the Commandments of Allah. Shaitan will try to prevent us from it. He misleads us in two ways:

  1. “By making the evil deeds look attractive and thus, inciting our carnal self to indulge in them”
  2. “By persuading us to give up a superior act for an inferior one. He induces us to perform an excessive non-obligatory deed when an obligatory deed is incumbent upon us. He leads us to believe that we are doing a virtuous thing. The most important task at the present time is Tabligh and not even the highest act of worship can take its place”

At tea-time, it was decided that our Jamaat from Peshawar would leave for Saharanpur the next morning for Tabligh along with a Jamaat from Delhi. We went to Maulana Ilyas to get permission to leave. Maulana Ilyas enquired why have we not brought youngsters with us. We made up some excuses in which he remarked, 

“Take care of the Tarbiyyah (upbringing) of the youngsters and take advantage of their simple-mindedness. It is not necessary for a youngster to fully understand everything. What is needed is to let them listen with their ears and make them conscious of the good environment. Tell me, what is the purpose of saying Athan in the ears of a newly-born child (who does not understand its meaning)?”

Maulana Ilyas then exhorted us to carry out Zikr habitually and frequently. He said, 

“Zikr is like an impregnable fortress in order that Shaitaan does not attack and overpower you. In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. Moreover, brothers, teach good and virtuous things to your children.” 

At Saharanpur, Molvi Abdul Ghaffar Nadwi met us. He had come after meeting Maulana Ilyas in Delhi and brought the following message from Maulana Ilyas: 

“You came and are going back after sitting on the Masnad for a few days. Remember, you have to undergo hunger and thirst in the path of Allah. Shed your sweat in this path and be ready to shed your blood also.”

Source: Life and Mission of Maulana Ilyas

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