Before Shah Wali Ullah came to the scene, the Muslim community in the 18th century confronted numerous significant issues after the death of Aurangzeb. Due to their indulgence in an opulent lifestyle, Aurangzeb’s most incompetent successors were unable to maintain the superiority of Muslim authority, and as a result, the Mughal Empire had fallen into their hands.
Islam, the religion of the Muslims, experienced significant issues as a result of the decline of the Muslim empire. Un-Islamic tendencies and practices were on the rise, and the religious saints were suffering from widespread ignorance about Islam, the Quran, and Hadith. The conditions were favourable for reformers and revivalists to emerge and rid Muslim society of these influences. Shah Wali Ullah, a notable Muslim scholar, reformer, and leader, came to prominence as a result, ushering in a period of religious regeneration.
Who was Shah Wali Ullah?
On February 21, 1703, four years before the death of Aurangzeb, Hazrat Shah Wali Ullah was born in a devout household in Delhi. His true name was Qutub-ud-Din, but due to his devout ways, he eventually adopted the name Wali Ullah. A sufi and a theologian, his father Shah Abaur Rahim was renowned for his piety and in-depth understanding of Islam. He worked on the Fatawa-i Alamgiri compilation project for Emperor Aurangzeb.
His father gave Shah Walt Ullah his early training in spiritualism and mysticism. In his youth, he memorised the Holy Quran. His great father taught him about Tafsir and Hadis, and he also learned about spiritual discipline from him. Along with logic and Ilm-ul-Kalam, his father also taught him metaphysics.
Social condition of Shah Wali Ullah’s time
The sub-continent was experiencing severe social and political unrest at the time. In the Muslim society, there were numerous disruptive factors at play, making life, property, and honour insecure. After Aurangzeb’s death, the Mughal Empire was in the hands of his incompetent heirs, who were unable to preserve the empire’s greatness. The Moghul Empire slowly started to fall apart and showed overt indications of decadence.
The rivalry between the Shia and Sunni factions was posing grave risks to Muslim nobility, and religious groupings were also asserting their superiority. In the political, social, and religious spheres of society, there was a lack of the stability and strength of Aurangzeb’s reign.
The Marhatas and Sikhs had established a stronghold; they frequently raided Delhi, the capital city, and once briefly occupied the ancient city. Marhatas’ emergence may have encouraged Hindu nationalism, which accelerated the social disintegration in Muslim culture.
Religious Reformation of Shah Wali Ullah
Shah Wali Ullah heard accounts of unsteady and chaotic situations in India when he was in the Hejaz. He was recommended to remain in Arabia, but he refused to do so, and on July 9, 1732, he went back to Delhi. He immediately got to work on the holy mission of preserving Islam in society. He prepared a small group of students and instructed them in various aspects of Islamic knowledge. They were given the responsibility of teaching others the information.
Muslims were urged by Shah Wali Ullah to adhere faithfully to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). He explained to the populace the fundamental principles of Islam. He urged Muslims to give up un-Islamic tendencies and practices in favour of Quranic instruction for their wellbeing and benefits. He exhorted the populace to live simply and stay away from indulgent activities. He started the process of integrating the Muslim society, which was in danger of collapsing. He added a liberal element and flexibility to the understanding of Islam by using the tatbiq approach.
He approached religious problems in a fair and compassionate manner. He carefully considered all schools of thought and, without offending anyone, gently and elegantly stated what was just and true. He significantly reduced miscommunication between Shi’ites and Sunnis and in doing so created the spiritual foundation for unity and harmony throughout the country.
In order to make Islam more palatable to a wider audience, he presented it in a more reasoned manner. He claims for himself, “Ilham (inspiration) instructed me that I would be responsible for taking on this obligation. The time has arrived to rationally explain to the world each and every Sharia commandment as well as the overall Islamic teaching.”
Shah Wali Ullah made contact with the authorities and urged them to uphold Islamic law. He also exhorted them to live their lives in accordance with Islam. He instructed the Muslim warriors on the value of Jehad and urged them to engage in it in order to elevate Islam. He urged the traders to follow the Holy Prophet’s teachings on fair trade and put them into practice. He warned the populace against amassing riches and urged them to only carry the amount necessary to meet their basic requirements. In this sense, Shah Wali Ullah is known as the father of modern “Muslim India” and its founder.
Shah Wali Ullah gave Muslims leadership in the political sphere in addition to educating them in their religion. He came up with his extraordinary insight and vision to inspire political awareness among India’s Muslims.
The growth of the Marhatas and Sikhs had caused the Muslim rulers significant issues. The rise of the Sikhs, Marhatas, and other non-Muslim factions severely threatened the supremacy of Muslim authority.
Marhata soldiers stormed Delhi, the seat of the Mughal kingdom. To install Biswas Rao, the son of Peshwa, on the throne of Delhi, the Marhatas sought to annihilate Muslim rule once and for all.
Shah Wali Ullah arose to deal with this delicate circumstance. He had correctly seen that the political influence of Muslims would permanently vanish if the Marhatas were not adequately restrained. He warned the top Muslim nobles in letters of the dire circumstances that threatened the Moghal suzerainty. He was successful in persuading certain Muslim chieftains to change their minds by requesting military support from them. In the end, he triumphed over Najib-ud-Daula.
When the Murhatas rose up against Rehmat Khan and Shuja-ud-Daula, they were unable to defeat deal with the challenge as they lacked the resources.
Therefore, Shah Wali Ullah turned to Ahmad Shah Abdali, whom he had convinced to restore Muslim control in India. At the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, Ahmad Shah Abdali, summoned to India by Shah Wali Ullah, dealt the Marhatas a humiliating defeat. Ahmad Shah Abdali’s victory at Panipat destroyed the Marhatas’ power and opened the door for the resurgence of Islam in India.
Shah Wali Ullah’s work
In total, Shah Wali Ullah wrote fifty volumes on mysticism and other areas of Islamic knowledge that address issues of religion, commerce, and politics.
His translation of the Holy Quran into plain Persian, the literary language of his time, is considered to be his most notable contribution. In 1737–1738, he wrote this literary masterwork, which drew harsh condemnation from the orthodox ulama, who even threatened to kill him. The Holy Quran had never before been translated into a foreign tongue, making Shah Wali Ullah’s work extraordinary. His translation made the Holy Quran accessible to the average literate individual, who found it simpler to read and comprehend the Holy Quran in a language other than Arabic.
Shah Wali Ullah is well known for his book Hujjat-ullah-al-Baligha. Shah Sahib has covered the causes of the Muslim people’s social and religious decline in great detail in this work. In this work, he has also covered the significance of applying ljtihad and the intellectual and academic prerequisites of a Mujtahid priest.
Shah Wali Ullah wrote “Izalat-al-Akhifa’ and Khilafat-al-Khulafa to clear up miscommunication between Shi’ites and Sunnis. He resisted calling Shias heretics. The four schools of mysticism were approached by Shah Wali Ullah with fairness and balance.
He wrote “Al Insaf fi Bayan Sahab al Ikhtilaf,” in which he researched the origins of the four schools, namely Hanafi, Hambali, Shafii, and Malaki, in order to establish harmony between them.
Shah Wali Ullah wrote numerous books on a variety of subjects in addition to the ones already mentioned. They include Tafhimat-1-Hahiya, Aqad-al-Jaiyad-fi-Ahkam al-jithad wa-al-Taqlid, and al-Nawadar-Min-al-Hadis.
All of Shah Wali Ullah’s writings, including these, have been produced in Arabic and Persian.
His Madrassa and other institutions founded by him imputed education in the light of his works. These institutions produced a group of religious nationalists who interpreted Islam in accordance with his teachings. These religious nationalists were led by Shah Abdul Aziz, the eldest son of Shah Wali Ullah, who eventually oversaw the construction of an Islamic empire based on the beliefs of Shah Wali Ullah.