Scholar of renown: Muhammad Yusuf Al-Kandhlawi
Edited by Adil Salahi, Arab News Staff
Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Al-Kandhlawi was born on 25 Jumada I, 1335 H, corresponding to 20 March 1917 in Kandahla in India. His family was well-known for its Islamic scholarship and total devotion. His father, Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Al-Kandhlawi (d. 1943), played an important role in the reform movement led by two scholars, Ahmad ibn Irfan and Muhammad Ismaeel, both of whom were to be martyrs. The reform movement aimed to remove all deviation from people's beliefs and return them to the pure Islamic faith. Several scholars in his family studied under Sheikh Abd Al-Azeez ibn Ahmad ibn Abd Al-Raheem Al-Dahlawi, a highly reputable scholar of Hadith. Indeed the family produced a long line of famous scholars who were devoted to the study of Hadith and Fiqh, as well as other Islamic studies.
As a young boy, Muhammad Yusuf Al-Kandhlawi showed very early promise. Indeed, he completed the memorization of the Qur'an when he was only 10 years of age. He then completed his primary education and studied Hadith, starting with the six main authentic collections, under his father. He then undertook a more specialized study of Hadith under the distinguished scholars of Mazahir Al-Uloom, a specialized school which placed particular emphasis on the study of Hadith, and trained its students in the art of Islamic advocacy. During his attendance at this school he particularly benefited from studying under his cousin, Sheikh Muhammad Zakariya Al-Kandhlawi, one of the top scholars of Hadith in the Muslim world in the twentieth century. He graduated from this school at the age of 20, in 1355 H.
It was his father, Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Al-Kandhlawi, who established an organization dedicated to Islamic advocacy. Its members devote a good portion of their time to travel and educating Muslim people in their faith, trying also to explain Islam to others. This organization is well known as Tableegh, or Jama'at Al-Tableegh, with members in many countries of the world. An important aspect of this organization is that it does not concern itself with politics in any way. It is dedicated to Islamic propagation and advocacy.
Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Al-Kandhlawi began his scholarly career in teaching and writing. However, after consulting several scholars and figures of the Tableegh, his father entrusted to him the leadership of Tableegh as he sensed his approaching death. Al-Kandhlawi dedicated himself to this task which practically filled every day of his life. He traveled all over the Indian Subcontinent giving lectures and speeches and holding circles advocating a return to the pure faith of Islam, which should be implemented in people's life.
Al-Kandhlawi believed that the Arabs must always take the leading role in Islamic advocacy, because they were the people chosen by God for this task as He revealed His final message in their language. Hence he was keen to spread his efforts and the Tableegh work to Arab countries.
He also realized that the best centers to spread this work were Makkah and Madinah, regularly visited by pilgrims from all over the Muslim world.
Therefore, he gave particular attention to educating Indian and Pakistani pilgrims, speaking to them at the ports of Bombay and Karachi, before embarking on their journey.
He would teach them the proper way of performing their pilgrimage rituals, and educate them in the need for Islamic advocacy. Thus, he was able to form groups of advocates from the pilgrims. These groups undertook the task of speaking to other pilgrims in the Grand Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. This generated interest among pilgrims of other countries who approached al-Kandhlawi to send groups to their areas. He responded to their requests and the Tableegh work began to take roots in several Arab countries.
Al-Kandhlawi traveled a great deal to promote the Tableegh work of Islamic advocacy. He made numerous trips to Pakistan where he held heavily attended functions, which contributed to the Tableegh organization taking strong roots in that country. His first pilgrimage was in the company of his father, before he took over the Tableegh. In his second pilgrimage, undertaken in 1374 H, 1954, in the company of Sheikh Hussain Ahmad Madani, a famous Hadith scholar, he met many Saudi scholars and discussed with them the issues and problems of Islamic advocacy and propagation. He made his final pilgrimage one year before his death, in 1383, where he held an endless series of meetings with scholars from all over the Muslim world, and was keen to meet as many Saudi scholars as possible.
Despite his total dedication to the Tableegh work, which took much of his time, Al-Kandhlawi was able to write and his writings reflect his broad knowledge, particularly in Hadith and in the history of the Prophet and his companions. Two books feature more prominently among his writings. The first is Amani Al-Ahbar Fi Sharh Ma'ani Al-Athar, which is an annotation of a major work by Imam Ahmad Al-Tahawi, a famous Egyptian scholar who lived much earlier. The book is in four large volumes.
However, his book Hayat Al-Sahabah, which may be translated as The Prophet's Companions' Way of Life, has earned wide acclaim and become essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the Islamic way of life or to explain Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. In this book, Al-Kandhlawi collects reports mentioned in books of Hadith, history and biographies about the Prophet himself and his companions.
It highlights the aspects related to Islamic propagation and advocacy. It thus reflects life at the time of the Prophet's companions, and shows their manners, feelings and thoughts in different situations. The book was published in Arabic in three volumes many times by different publishers. It has more recently been published, with annotation, in four large volumes, with two introductions by two highly reputable scholars, Syed Abu Al-Hasan Ali Nadwi, and Sheikh Abd Al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah.
In 1965, Al-Kandhlawi made a long trip to Pakistan, where he traveled throughout the country, giving a long series of lectures and speeches, and holding a continuous series of meetings, with people from all strata of Pakistani society. Although he was not feeling well at the start of his trip, he continued with his heavy schedule, paying little attention to his deteriorating condition. On the final day of his trip, he was scheduled to give a major speech in Lahore, and although he was too ill to give such a speech, he felt that he could not let people down.
But the speech took its toll of his health. On finishing it, he was immediately taken to hospital, but he died on his way there, at the age of 48. His body was airlifted at night to Delhi, where his funeral was attended by tens of thousands of mourners. May God shower His mercy on him.