Architect : Allama Shibli Nomani

Muhammad Shibli Nomani


By Afzal Usmani

Born 4th June 1857 in Bindawal Azamgarh (UP)
Died on 18th November 1914 in Azamgarh (UP)
Father : Shaikh Habibullah
Mother: Moqeema Khatoon (d/o Mr.Qurban Ahmad, Phariha Azamgarh)
Wife: Majidunnisa (Married 1876-77)
Brothers : Mahdi Hasan, Mohammad Ishaq, Mohammad Junaid, Mohammad
Children : Hamid Hassan Nomani , Rabia Khatoon , Jannutul Fatima

Teachers: Maulana Farooq Chirayyakuti, Chirayyakot Azamgarh, Maulana Irshad Husain, Rampur, Maulana Faiz ul Hasan Saharanpuri, Lahore, Maulana Ahmad Ali Saharanpuri

MAO College Association: 1882 – 1898, Professor of Persian and Arabic

Founder Editor: The Aligarh Magazine (Urdu)-1891

Famous Students:
Hamid ud din Farahi, Abul Kalam Azad, Saiyid Sulaiman Nadvi, Muhammad Ali Jauhar, Zafar Ali Khan, Sajjad Haider Yaldram, Aziz Mirza, Masud Ali Nadvi, Abdus Salam Nadvi, Abdul Bari Nadvi, Shibli Mutakallim Nadvi

Books :

Seerat-un-Nabi – 7 Volumes (co-edited by Syed Sulaiman Nadvi), Muqadmat-Seeratun Nabi, Al-Farooq : Biography of Hazrat Omar Farooq (R.A.), Al-Ghazali, Al-Mamoon , Seerat-un-Noman, Swaneh-Maulana Room, Al-Kalam, Ilmul-Kalam, Safar Nama Room-Misr-o-Shaam, Sherul-Ajam -5 Volumes, Kuliyat-e-Shibli (Urdu), Kuliyat-e-Shibli (Farsi), Mawazenah Anees-o-Dabeer, Al-Inteqad, Aurangzeb Alamgeer per Ek Nazar

Shibli Nomani (1857-1914), was an exception to the rule in that he was not in line of Delhi ulema-sufis of the Naqshbandi order, although his thoughts were influenced by Shah Waliullah. He was, however, an alim concerned with the reform of the ulema so that they could be the effective guides to the Muslim community, a scholar who wrote and published prolifically and who nurtured younger authors, leader in the movement to advance the Urdu language as a modern vehicle of expression, and an educator associated with Aligarh College and with the reformist madrasa of the Nadwatul-Ulema in Lucknow. Shibli was the Muslim Rajput from Azamgarh district in the eastern reaches of the then United Provinces. Although his younger brothers went to Aligarh, Shibli was given a classical Islamic education. His teacher was Maulana Muhammad Farooq Chirayakoti, a rationalist scholar who was an outspoken opponent of Sir Syed. This aspect of Shibli’s background perhaps explains his ambivalent relationship with Aligarh and Sir Syed. The Chirayakot connection is significant. David Lalyveld notes that Chirayakot was the center of ‘a uniquely rationalist and eclectic school of ulema’, who studied Mu’tazalite theology, the early Arab development of Greek science and philosophy, as well as such languages as Sanskrit and Hebrew.

Shibli, therefore, had reasons to be both attracted and repelled by Aligarh. Even after he had secured a post as a teacher of Persian and Arabic at Aligarh, he always found the intellectual atmosphere at the college disappointing, and eventually left Aligarh because he found it uncongenial, although he did not officially resign from the college until after Sir Syed’s death in 1898. Shibli had an original mind that combined rationalism and clarity of expression with an aesthetic sensibility. These characteristics are apparent in his writing style and they doubtless attracted him to the young Azad, and vice versa.

In early 1890s Shibli traveled extensively in West Asia, visiting educational institutions and libraries in Turkey, Egypt, and Syria for his own research and meeting scholars, including Sheikh Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) in Cairo and other Islamic reformers. After leaving Aligarh, Shibli worked for a time in the educational service of the Nizam’s government in Hyderabad, but finding that also uncongenial he returned to north India, where he became the secretary and guiding light of the madrasa of the Nadwatul Ulema in Lucknow.

The Nadwa, founded in 1893, was an association of ulema who had various institutional affiliations. One of its moving spirits was Maulana Syed Muhammad Ali Mongiri, a learned Naqshbandi who continued the mission of promoting Muslim solidarity that was initiated by Shah Waliullah. The Nadwa was formed to bring about the reconciliation of eastern and western learning of Deoband and Aligarh, as it were nd to unite the ulema in the task of spreading and defending Islam. To do this, Nadwa avoided the divisive issues and called upon the ulema to sink their differences and to improve communication among themselves by holding annual meetings. The Nadwa was not always able to avoid divisions in its ranks or at its meetings, however, as Shibli later found out. In 1898, the Nadwa founded a madrasa, the Darul Ulum, with the intention of incorporating the best of Islamic and western learning in its curriculum, in order to produce a new breed of modernized ulema. Under Shibli’s direction, the school earned a reputation for sound scholarship, published a journal, Al-Nadwa, and collected an impressive library. It also secured British government patronage to build an imposing edifice by the bank of the Gomti, and to institute the teaching of English and mathematics.

Ultimately, the Nadwa gave up its notions of uniting occidental and oriental knowledge and concentrated on Islamic scholarship, and on the dissementation of biographical and historical writing in Urdu. Shibli’s own writings set the pattern for the latter. His works included biographies of the caliphs Mamun and Umar, the jurist Imam Abu Hanifa, al-Ghazali, the poet Rumi, and the Prophet Muhammad, and two works on theology. These works introduced into Urdu the methods of Western historiography and biography, but were also defensive in that they responded to western and Christian criticisms of Islam and Muslim heroes. Shibli also wrote poetry, literary criticism, including a monumental study of Persian poetry, and numerous articles and letters. His style was clear and straightforward, with a tendency to romanticize the Islamic past in the interests of promoting Muslim pride and solidarity. In the last year of his life,1913-14,Shibli left the Nadwa under fire from an opposing faction and retired to his home in Azamgarh, where he started an academy, the Darul-Musannifin, again to promote historical scholarship and publication in Urdu.

In his two works on theology, Ilm-al-Kalam and Al-Kalam, Shibli shows both similarities and differences with the rationalism of Sir Syed. They shared similar sources and influences, but on the equation of the work of God ( science, or nature) and the word of God (religion, or revelation), Shibli parts company with Sir Syed. He states that science and religion have nothing to do with one another, being two entirely different realms. The one has to do with observable phenomena and the other with matters that are beyond the grasp of observation or experiment. As such, they do not conflict, but neither can the one be used to confirm the other.



Muslim University Ki Kahani 365

Allama Shibli Nomani with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and supporters and Well wishers of Aligarh Movement


Allama Shibli Nomani with leaders of Aligarh Movement: (L-R) Sitting:Viqarul Mulk, Mohsinul Mulk, Nazir Ahmad, Altaf Hussain Haali, (L-R) Standing : Shibli Nomani, T.W. Arnold


Shibli Hostel

Shibli Hostel at Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh India


Shibli Road in Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh India


Shibli Hostel at Nadwatul Ulum Lucknow India



Shibli College at Azamgarh (UP) India India


Shibli Manzil at Azamgarh (UP) India India


Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy at Azamgarh (UP) India India


Reading Hall of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy at Azamgarh (UP) India India


Allama Shibli Nomani was buried in the courtyard of his house "Shibli Manzil" which is now Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy at Azamgarh (UP) India

A Biographical sketch of Shibli Nomani by Dr. Ian Henderson Douglas

Shibli Nomani (1857-1914), was an exception to the rule in that he was not in line of Delhi ulema-sufis of the Naqshbandi order, although his thoughts were influenced by Shah Waliullah. He was, however, an alim concerned with the reform of the ulema so that they could be the effective guides to the Muslim community, a scholar who wrote and published prolifically and who nurtured younger authors, leader in the movement to advance the Urdu language as a modern vehicle of expression, and an educator associated with Aligarh College and with the reformist madrasa of the Nadwatul-Ulema in Lucknow. Shibli was the Muslim Rajput from Azamgarh district in the eastern reaches of the then United Provinces. Although his younger brothers went to Aligarh, Shibli was given a classical Islamic education. His teacher was Maulana Muhammad Farooq Chirayakoti, a rationalist scholar who was an outspoken opponent of Sir Syed. This aspect of Shibli’s background perhaps explains his ambivalent relationship with Aligarh and Sir Syed. The Chirayakot connection is significant. David Lalyveld notes that Chirayakot was the center of ‘a uniquely rationalist and eclectic school of ulema’, who studied Mu’tazalite theology, the early Arab development of Greek science and philosophy, as well as such languages as Sanskrit and Hebrew.

Shibli, therefore, had reasons to be both attracted and repelled by Aligarh. Even after he had secured a post as a teacher of Persian and Arabic at Aligarh, he always found the intellectual atmosphere at the college disappointing, and eventually left Aligarh because he found it uncongenial, although he did not officially resign from the college until after Sir Syed’s death in 1898. Shibli had an original mind that combined rationalism and clarity of expression with an aesthetic sensibility. These characteristics are apparent in his writing style and they doubtless attracted him to the young Azad, and vice versa.

In early 1890s Shibli traveled extensively in West Asia, visiting educational institutions and libraries in Turkey, Egypt, and Syria for his own research and meeting scholars, including Sheikh Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) in Cairo and other Islamic reformers. After leaving Aligarh, Shibli worked for a time in the educational service of the Nizam’s government in Hyderabad, but finding that also uncongenial he returned to north India, where he became the secretary and guiding light of the madrasa of the Nadwatul Ulema in Lucknow.

The Nadwa, founded in 1893, was an association of ulema who had various institutional affiliations. One of its moving spirits was Maulana Syed Muhammad Ali Mongiri, a learned Naqshbandi who continued the mission of promoting Muslim solidarity that was initiated by Shah Waliullah. The Nadwa was formed to bring about the reconciliation of eastern and western learning of Deoband and Aligarh, as it were nd to unite the ulema in the task of spreading and defending Islam. To do this, Nadwa avoided the divisive issues and called upon the ulema to sink their differences and to improve communication among themselves by holding annual meetings. The Nadwa was not always able to avoid divisions in its ranks or at its meetings, however, as Shibli later found out. In 1898, the Nadwa founded a madrasa, the Darul Ulum, with the intention of incorporating the best of Islamic and western learning in its curriculum, in order to produce a new breed of modernized ulema. Under Shibli’s direction, the school earned a reputation for sound scholarship, published a journal, Al-Nadwa, and collected an impressive library. It also secured British government patronage to build an imposing edifice by the bank of the Gomti, and to institute the teaching of English and mathematics.

Ultimately, the Nadwa gave up its notions of uniting occidental and oriental knowledge and concentrated on Islamic scholarship, and on the dissementation of biographical and historical writing in Urdu. Shibli’s own writings set the pattern for the latter. His works included biographies of the caliphs Mamun and Umar, the jurist Imam Abu Hanifa, al-Ghazali, the poet Rumi, and the Prophet Muhammad, and two works on theology. These works introduced into Urdu the methods of Western historiography and biography, but were also defensive in that they responded to western and Christian criticisms of Islam and Muslim heroes. Shibli also wrote poetry, literary criticism, including a monumental study of Persian poetry, and numerous articles and letters. His style was clear and straightforward, with a tendency to romanticize the Islamic past in the interests of promoting Muslim pride and solidarity. In the last year of his life,1913-14,Shibli left the Nadwa under fire from an opposing faction and retired to his home in Azamgarh, where he started an academy, the Darul-Musannifin, again to promote historical scholarship and publication in Urdu.

In his two works on theology, Ilm-al-Kalam and Al-Kalam, Shibli shows both similarities and differences with the rationalism of Sir Syed. They shared similar sources and influences, but on the equation of the work of God ( science, or nature) and the word of God (religion, or revelation), Shibli parts company with Sir Syed. He states that science and religion have nothing to do with one another, being two entirely different realms. The one has to do with observable phenomena and the other with matters that are beyond the grasp of observation or experiment. As such, they do not conflict, but neither can the one be used to confirm the other.

Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy & Allama Shibli Nomani

Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy & Allama Shibli Nomani

By Afzal Usmani

After the defeat in the wake of 1857 war of independence, the Muslims of India were the special target of British rulers. They destroyed lives and properties of the Muslim community and also encouraged Christian missionaries to preach against Islam. On global level, orientalists and western scholars also let loose their intellectual onslaught on Islamic faith, history, and civilization. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (Founder of MAO College Aligarh) and Maulana Qasim Nanotwi’s (founder of Darul-Uloom Deoband) were the two notable personalities who responded to this onslaught. Allama Shibli Nomani learned from the experiences of his predecessors and developed a comprehensive education plan to bring dynamics in the entire field of learning. Darul Musannefin (House of Writers) was the integral part of such scheme. Allama Shibli, being an erudite scholar with great sense of history, knew very well that civilizations progress in continuity. He also understood the challenges of minorities in a pluralistic society. He envisioned Darul Musannefin as an institution that could produce a chain of scholars who would be well grounded in their own history and ancient sciences, have an aptitude for modern research methods, and open to new ideas. He believed that these scholars will serve as ‘think tank’ and through their research and writings will guide Muslims to meet modern challenges and live with dignity as a productive member of a pluralistic society. Allama published an outline of such institution in Al- Hilal (February 11, 1914). Unfortunately, Allama Shibli passed away on November 18, 1914 before his dream could be fully realized in his life time.

On November 21, 1914, three days after Allama’s death, his trusted students Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi and Maulana Syed Sulaiman Nadvi called a meeting and finally established the Darul Musannefin—The Shibli Academy. Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi was chosen as its president and Maulana Syed Sulaiman Nadvi became the Secretary & Maulana Masood Ali Nadwi was the Manager. These intellectual giants along with Maulana Masood Ali Nadvi gave shape to the Academy based on the ideas of their teacher and mentor, Allama Shibli Nomani.

The Academy is housed in an old bungalow-style building amidst acres of mango orchard. The campus has a mosque, a guest house, press building, residential quarters, a stock room and a conference hall. It is a self-contained institution, organized in several departments consisting of Research and Publication, Monthly Journal Ma’arif, Library, Press, and Administration.

Allama Shibli Nomani : Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli

Allama Shibli and Aligarh Movement :

By Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli

Muhammad Shibli Nomani (1857-1914) more popularly known as Shibli Nomani or even simply as Shibli was born in a respected family of landed aristocracy in Bindawal, a village of Azamgarh district in eastern U.P. in 1857. Thus Shibli was born while the first war of independence was at its peak. Azamgarh and surrounding areas were particularly affected by its patriotic fervour. It was a matter of symbolic significance that on the day of his birth the freedom fighters broke open the gates of district jail and set free the prisoners incarcerated there. He took his first breaths in this highly surcharged patriotic and rebellious atmosphere. It was bound to have an abiding influence on the thinking and attitudes of Shibli in the days to come. He had imbibed the indomitable spirit of independence in his cradle and it remained with him as a distinctive trait of his personality throughout his life.

Shibli occupies a very important place in the history of Muslim community in modern India. His role in revitalizing and reviving the community is enormous. By his scholarly and intellectual attainments, he revived the memories of the great scholars of our past. He was an accomplished scholar of Islamic sciences and Arabic and Persian languages and literature. He was a prolific writer of Urdu both in prose and poetry. He was a prose writer of great excellence who remains unrivalled for the literary elegance and beauty of his writings. His poetry, both in Persian and Urdu, was of a very high order and excellence. He is considered as the last great poet of Persian in India. His historical writings opened new vistas and touched unprecedented heights of scholarly depth, incisive interpretation, deep insight, penetrating criticism and refreshing approach. It earned for him the title of the first teacher of history of the Indian Muslims, an honour that he thoroughly deserved. By his powerful writings he not only defended Islam against the ideological onslaught of the orientalists but eminently succeeded in creating a deep and abiding sense of pride, attachment and belonging with the past among the Indian Muslims. His personality was multifaceted and his contributions are immense and multidimensional. The people whom he taught, trained and influenced are legion and the exact nature and magnitude of their contribution in the fields of their interest is difficult to assess. Among them are included such illustrious personalities as Hamid ud din Farahi, Abul Kalam Azad, Saiyid Sulaiman Nadvi, Muhammad Ali Jauhar, Zafar Ali Khan, Sajjad Haider Yaldram, Aziz Mirza, Masud Ali Mahvi, Abdus Salam Nadvi, Abdul Bari Nadvi to name only a few. He built many institutions that continue to play a vital role in the life of the community. Darul Musannifin Shibli Academy had no parallel in the Sub Continent as a centre of historical research and publication. He was an Alim, scholar, educationist, reformer, historian, litterateur and much more. It is, therefore, not possible to attempt even a brief survey of his varied accomplishments and contributions in a small article. The endeavour here therefore would be confined to a brief study of his association with Aligarh and the contribution that he made to the Aligarh Movement.

1881 proved to be a turning point in his life. In that year he went to Aligarh along with his father to pay a visit to his younger brother, Mahdi Hasan, who was a student at M. A. O. College. In this journey he also met Sir Syed, a meeting that was destined to change his life and give it a new purpose, meaning and direction. In accordance with the traditions of the time he presented an Arabic Qasida (Ode) in praise of Sir Syed. Contrary to the style of those days, it was composed in the style of classical Arabic poetry. Sir Syed was impressed by it as he could see through it the great creative genius of the writer. He published it in Aligarh Gazette with a note of appreciation. This paved the way for Shibli’s eventual appointment at Aligarh. A new star of matchless brightness was to impart its lustre to the intellectual firmament of Aligarh and the conditions for this were created on this occasion.

In 1882 there was a vacancy for a teacher to teach Arabic and Persian languages in the College. Towards the end of January Shibli was appointed as Professor of Persian and Assistant Professor of Arabic. He joined his duty on 1st of February 1882. He spent next sixteen years at Aligarh. Initially his salary was fixed at Rs. Forty a month. Shibli belonged to a well to do family. He seems to have felt deeply hurt at this paltry salary. But he also seems to have realised the immense possibilities that Aligarh offered to the growth of his intellectual faculties and attainment of academic excellence. He settled for the later. There could not have been a better bargain. Later in 1886, he was promoted as Professor of Arabic as well and his salary was also raised accordingly. Ultimately it rose to Rs. 100 per month. But the extremely vital role that he was destined to play in the uplift of the College, furtherance of the objectives of the Aligarh Movement and enlightenment of the Muslim community of the Subcontinent could not be determined and understood in terms of salaries and stipends.
The most important thing that Shibli acquired at Aligarh was his abiding concern for the plight of the community and realization of the imperative need to work for its uplift and taking it out of the morass in which it found itself. It was a natural outcome of his contact with Sir Syed. It provided a direction to him and gave him a purpose and objective to work for. It fired his imagination and opened up new horizons before his eyes. This concern remained with him throughout his life. At Aligarh he came into contact with European scholars. He developed very close and friendly relations with Professor T. W. Arnold and learnt from him modern methods of research and scholarship, which he put to maximum use in putting across his own views and researches. He learnt French from him and taught him Arabic. He has referred to him as a friend and a mentor. It was here that he had access to the works of the orientalists and became painfully conscious of the great need to do something to resist and stop their onslaught against Islam and the Muslims and it determined the course of his future academic activities. He was a voracious reader and at Aligarh he had access to a virtual treasure of rare books to satisfy his thirst. Sir Syed’s library was perhaps the best library of its kind during those days in the entire subcontinent. It had an excellent collection of Arabic and Persian books of great Muslim scholars, which were being published in Europe and which, according to Shibli himself, were still beyond the reach of scholars even in Egypt. Seeing Shibli’s interest in scholarly pursuits, Sir Syed had allowed him free access to his library. This opened up new vistas of research and scholarship before him. The results of his researches delighted and amazed even great scholars. Sir Syed was deeply impressed by his scholarship and began to rely more and more on him in his researches. He built a banglow for him near his residence so that he could have easy access to his library. They spent much time together discussing scholarly subjects of mutual interest. Shibli had a very high opinion about Sir Syed’s great qualities of mind and heart. This mutual respect and appreciation for each other found expression on many occasions and forms a shining chapter of Aligarh’s history.

The contribution of Shibli to the Aligarh movement and his services in furthering its cause are varied and many. First of all he was a committed and dedicated teacher and was fully alive to his responsibility towards educating and building the character of his students and molding their views. His erudition, scholarship, vast knowledge of Islam and Islamic history and his ability to effectively communicate with them enabled him to establish effective rapport with his students. This he used to create in the students an interest in Islam and instill a sense of pride and belonging to its glorious past. He always tried to uphold the sublime traditions of Islamic civilization and did not inculcate in his students a sense of loyalty to the British or interest in western civilization. He always emphasized Islamic values in his teachings, lectures and writings.

He used every available forum to educate and train the students to be able to fulfil their role in the society and to retain the distinctive mark of having been students of the M. A. O. College. Besides the union where students acquired debating and oratory skills, there was an association with the name of Ikhwan us Safa. It was a forum where students were trained in Urdu speaking. He actively participated in both these forums and gave talks and lectures there to instruct and guide the students. He established a new forum for training students in speaking and writing Arabic and took keen interest in its development. When Aligarh Gazette decided to publish an Urdu supplement, its charge was given to him. Later, it acquired a separate identity of its own and came to be known as Aligarh Magazine. Some of his important writings initially appeared in this magazine. Through this magazine he trained a generation of students in writing Urdu.

An important aspect of Aligarh Movement was Sir Syed’s desire to retain the Islamic identity while acquiring modern education and acquainting oneself with the western values. Modern education at the cost of religion was not acceptable to him. He was very clear on this point and his pronouncements on the subject are too well known to bear repetition. He never wanted to impose his own religious ideas on the students or include his writings in the curriculum of the College. The religious aspect of the College was left entirely to the care of a graduate of the famous seat of religious learning, Darul Ulum at Deoband, Maulana Abdullah Ansari. Maulana Ansari was not only a product of that great seat of Islamic education but he was also son in law of Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanatuwi, the founder of the Darul Ulum. Shibli was professor of Arabic and Persian and technically religious instruction was not one of his concerns. But it would appear in the light of the available evidence on the subject that his role in inculcating in the students an attachment with the religion was by far the most significant. To achieve this end he adopted various means and employed different methods besides personal contacts. He was very closely associated with Lujnatus Salat, an association that was formed to ensure punctual performance of five times prayers among the students and was proud of his own role in making it a success. Sir Syed entrusted him the responsibility of giving lectures to the students on the meaning and interpretation of the Holy Qur'an, a responsibility that he performed with great earnestness and enthusiasm. It became very popular among the students. When Maulana Abdullah Ansari was appointed, Shibli expressed his desire to be relieved of this responsibility but Sir Syed would not agree. He therefore continued to perform this responsibility till the end of his stay at Aligarh. Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar had observed that his interest in the Holy Book goes back to these lectures. There must have been many others who were inspired by his expositions of the meaning and exegesis of the Holy Qur'an.

On the instance of Sir Syed he compiled a book on the early history of Islam titled Bada’ ul Islam (The Beginning of Islam) to be included in the syllabus of Theology. This book was translated into Persian by his cousin and pupil, Hamiduddin Farahi, who was a student of the College at that time and later rose to be the greatest scholar of Quranics in modern times. It was included in the curriculum of Persian. The function celebrating the birth of the Prophet had become a hallmark of the University. It is interesting to note that it was begun by Shibli to acquaint the students with the life account of our beloved Prophet, a theme that was destined to emerge as the main interest of his life and for which he received universal acclaim. In the beginning it was held at his residence but as it could not accommodate all those who wanted to attend it, the venue was shifted to some other place. Besides these, his writings, poems and lectures went a long way in instilling in the students a deep sense of attachment to the religious and cultural moorings of Islam. He was a source of inspiration and a role model to the students in this regard. It could be seen that in this particular sphere he made significant contribution in realising and furthering some of the basic objectives of the Aligarh Movement.

As noted above, he was a poet of great excellence. In the academic circles of the College he was first introduced as an excellent poet. His poetic talent was used in the service of the College and furthering of the objectives of the Aligarh Movement. Keeping with the traditions of the time, important personalities were welcomed at the College with a Qasida and it was invariably his responsibility to compose and present it on behalf of the College. It would seem that he did not relish this job which smacked of flattery still he did it in the interest of the College. He also presented his poetic compositions at the annual sessions of Educational Conference. One of his most stirring poetical compositions “Masnavi Subh-e Ummid” was presented at the 1885 session of the conference. After depicting the hopeless situation in which the Muslims of India found themselves, he makes a very forceful presentation of the Aligarh Movement and its objectives and considers it as the morning of hope for those who had lost all hope. It contains one of the finest portrayals of Sir Syed and his dedication to his mission. There could be little doubt about the fact that his poetic compositions rendered yeoman service in furthering the objectives of the Aligarh Movement and his forceful voice was an asset and a source of great strength for the Movement.

Shibli had written some polemical writings to his credit before his joining the College. But his career as a writer and author in fact began at Aligarh. Here he had access to the books that were published in Europe and Egypt and these introduced him to a world that was not known to him before. Sir Syed’s library was perhaps the richest repository of such books in the entire Subcontinent and Shibli had full access to it. His discussions with Sir Syed introduced him to new ideas in the fields of literature, history and other areas of learning. Shibli’s scholarly exploits are varied and many but his greatest contributions are in the field of history and sirat. He has been called the first teacher of Indian Muslims in history and rightly so. The book that seems to have stimulated his interest in the study of history was Gibbon’s history of Rome. Sir Syed had got it translated into Urdu for his personal use. Thereafter history became the field of his main interest and his researches in Muslim history have acquired legendary status that has been celebrated by succeeding generations of Muslim scholars. There could be little doubt that Sir Syed’s writings on the Muslim history particularly Khutbat-i Ahmadiyya that he wrote to dispel the allegations and malicious insinuations contained in the Life of Mohamet of William Muir must have inspired him and convinced him of the imperative need of meeting the onslaught unleashed by the Orientalists against Islam and the Prophet. Shibli’s achievements in the field are unrivalled but it would be useful to remember that the trend was set by Sir Syed who was first to stand up against the scholarly tyranny of the west against Islam. Shibli, however, was a perfectionist and he thought it necessary to first fully equip himself with all the essential means and resources for this onerous task before accepting the challenge and throwing down the gauntlet. From the date of joining the College till 1887 he seems to have been mainly engaged in study and preparation for the task that he had set for himself. Though his reputation as a scholar was established he contented himself with expressing his ideas and concerns for the community and the urgent need for reform mostly through the medium of poetry.

In 1892 Shibli undertook an academic journey to collect necessary material for his proposed book al Faruq. This took him to Constantinople (Istanbul), Cairo, al Quds and Beirut. This was first journey of this kind by a professor of the College. Sir Syed had gone to England before he launched his movement for the establishment of the College to collect material for his rebuttal of William Muir’s infamous book on the life of Prophet. Among the professors of the College, however, Shibli was first to have done so. In a way he was the first ambassador of the Indian Muslims to Turkey and was instrumental in establishing first contacts of the Muslims of South Asia with that region. This shows his thirst for knowledge and spirit of enquiry. This journey was undertaken with his personal resources and without any help from any outside agency. He spent six months on this academic tour, most of which was spent in Constantinople, scouring its many libraries for the books that he needed. Most of the books that he needed were still in manuscript form. The libraries were situated at considerable distance from each other and he had to walk for miles to go from one library to the other and it was very tiring but he bore it cheerfully as a labour of love. Academically this tour was a great success but the general conditions of the Muslim countries he visited greatly dismayed and depressed him. He had gone from a country that was under the subjugation of others to those which were free and masters of their own destiny. He made it a point to meet the scholars and visit the academic institutions there. But to his great dismay same ailments seemed to be infecting those Muslim countries as well, which were the bane of Muslim society in India. He found the great divide between the old and new systems of education particularly very disturbing because his studies had convinced him that without a judicious combination of the two systems there would be no possibility of progress for the Muslims in the modern times. But living and breathing in a free country was an experience in itself. In recognition of his great academic achievements and service for the community, the Ottoman government awarded him Tamgha-i Majidi. It was first such honour achieved by a professor of Aligarh. It brought fame not only to Shibli but also to Aligarh where he belonged. Theoretically, Ottoman Sultan was still considered as the head of the Muslims and a symbol of the unity of the community. And therefore recognition of a scholar by him was indeed a matter of great honour. Shibli took the name and fame of the College wherever he went and was instrumental in introducing the College to the academic circles of the countries he visited. Those who came into contact with him were deeply impressed by his great scholarship and depth of knowledge. This was bound to create favourable impression about the institution where he taught. Among those whom he met at Cairo was included the great Egyptian scholar Mufti Muhammad Abduhu. He spent considerable time at the grand al Azhar University discussing with the Ulama matters of mutual interest and looking for books in its library. On his return he was felicitated both by the staff of the school and the College. Sir Syed also attended the felicitations.

In 1894 Shibli was granted the title of Shams ul Ulama by the British Government. It was the firs title that was granted to a professor of the College by the government. Keeping in mind the fact that Shibli had not yet crossed 37 years of his age and during those days grant of such titles was not very common, this event was considered to be very significant. Besides Sir Syed none of his associates had received any title from the government so far. Even such eminent luminaries and members of Aligarh fraternity as Hali and Nazir Ahmad received it much later. There were celebrations in the College. Ikhwan us Safa and Lujnat ul Adab held a joint function on January 19, 1894 to felicitate Shibli on the receipt of this honour. Among others, it was attended by Sir Syed, Syed Mahmud, Muhsin ul Mulk, Hali, Muzammilullah Khan, Theodore Beck and Arnold. The meeting was chaired by Muhsin ul Mulk. Besides others, Hali also presented a congratulatory poem in Arabic which was appropriately titled “From friend to friend”. Among the students Hamid ud din Farahi, Zafar Ali Khan and Ghulam us Saqlain were included among those who spoke on the occasion and presented their poetic compositions. The high academic standards of the students of those days could be assessed from the fact that majority of the poetic compositions of the students presented on the occasion were either in Arabic or Persian. On February 17 another function was held in the Strachey Hall, which was attended by the European officers, their ladies, notables of Aligarh and the College community. In this function the title and the robe of honour (khil’at) was officially conferred on him.

Under the influence of the Aligarh Movement and realising the imperative need of introducing modern education to the Muslims, soon after his joining of the College Shibli had founded a school at Azamgarh with the name of National School in 1883. By 1895 it was upgraded as a High School. After independence it became a Post Graduate College with the name of Shibli National Post Graduate College. At present it is the best minority college in the province of Uttar Pradesh with post graduate facilities in all the main branches of Science and a number of subjects in Arts and Social Sciences. It also offers courses in law, commerce and education. It has all the potential of being developed as a university. Over a period of more than a century since it has been in existence it has continued to fulfil the same objectives in the region of Eastern U. P. which Aligarh Movement tried to propagate and popularise among the Muslims.

In 1895 he was nominated as a member of the Faculty of Arts and Board of Studies of Allahabad University. It may be recalled here that M. A. O. College was affiliated to Allahabad University before it became Aligarh Muslim University. Around that time a move was afoot to remove Persian as a subject from the syllabi of the University as its syllabus was considered to be below standard. Due to his intervention it was retained and Shibli was asked to prepare a new and suitable syllabus. He prepared a standard syllabus for this purpose. The course of study that he prepared continued to be taught at the university for many years. Shibli used to give a portion of the income that accrued to him from this course to the College fund.

Sir Syed died on March 27, 1898. Shibli left the College after few months. First he took leave for six months in May and after the expiry of the leave, he tendered his resignation form the service of the College. Thus the relationship that had that had begun in 1882 and had lasted for sixteen years that saw Shibli achieve glory and fame, came to an end. It may, however, be useful to remember in this context that in spite of all the admiration of Shibli for Sir Syed and appreciation of Sir Syed for the unusual calibre and talent of Shibli, there were a number of issues on which they differed. Men of substance do not agree with each other on each and every point. It was only natural that men of such stature as Sir Syed and Shibli would differ on some issues. It does not seem to be a coincidence that Shibli continued to serve the College as long as Sir Syed was alive in spite of whatever differences he might have had with him and in spite of the fact that he had been contemplating to leave thee College for quite some time. It was only after his death that he found it necessary to severe his relationship with the College. Even long after he had left Aligarh, there were moves particularly during the stewardship of Muhsinul Mulk to revive his association with the College. It would appear that Shibli was not averse to the idea but some how it did not materialise. Shibli lived another eighteen years. These years saw his talents blossom to the full. He authored many great books on a variety of subjects with equal ease and felicity. One is struck with wonder on the range of his interest. On every subject that he did chose, he wrote with compelling authority and beauty. But the crowning glory of his scholarship was the biography of the Prophet, peace be on him, for which he received universal acclaim and which remains unsurpassed even today. He founded many institutions and participated in many movements. These include, among others, Darul Musannifin Shibli Academy, Nadwatul Ulama and Madrastul Islah. His role in mobilising assistance and support for Turkey was very important. He did not actively participate in politics but supported the Congress from the very beginning. These and many other aspects of his life are no doubt very important but they are out of our purview here. In the midst of the plethora of real and alleged differences of Shibli with Sir Syed and Aligarh Movement, it would be useful to remember that after Sir Syed Shibli was the most towering personality among the galaxy of great men who had gathered around him and he made enormous contribution towards furthering the objectives of the Aligarh Movement.

Allama Shibli Nomani and Nadwatul Uloom : Afzal Usmani

Allama Shibli Nomani and Nadwatul Uloom

By Afzal Usmani

On the occasion of convocation of MADARSA FAIZ-E-AAM, Kanpur in 1893 A.D.(1310 Hijri), scholars like Maulana Lutfullah Aligarhi, Maulana Hafiz Shah Muhammad Hussain Allahabadi, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, Maualana Muhammad Khalil Ahmad (Deoband), Maualana Sanaullah Amritsari, Maulana Noor Muhammad Punjabi, Maualana Ahmad Hasan Kanpuri, Maulana Syed Muhammad Ali Kanpuri, Shaikhul-Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan, Maulana Shah Sulaiman Phulwari, Maualana Zahurul Islam Fatehpuri, Maualan Abdul Ghani Mau-Rashidabadi, Maulana Fakhrul Hasan Gangohi and Maulana Syed Shah Hafiz Tajammul Husain Desnavi agreed to form an organization of Ulema and convene a gathering of Ulema of the thoughts in the next annual convocation of Madarsa Faiz-e-Aam, Kanpur. They decided the name of the Organization to be NADWATUL-ULEMA. The responsibilities of the organization were given to Maulana Syed Muhammad Ali and so he became the first NAZIM of NADWATUL-ULEMA. The main object of this Association was to bring about harmony and co-operation among the different groups within the Muslim Millat, and thereby to bring about the moral, religious and educational reform and progress of the Muslims.

Nadwatul-Ulema held its first convention on 22nd, 23rd and 24th April 1894 A.D. (15th, 16th and 17th Shawwal 1311 Hijri) in Madarsa Faiz-e-Aam, Kanpur. It was attended by a huge group of scholars from all sects of the Ummah and all corners of the sub-continent including Maulana Abdullah Ansari (Founder Nazim-e-Diniyaat, MAO College Aligarh) and Shamsul Ulema Allama Shibli Nomani, who were Professor of Arabic and Persian at MAO College. Allama Shibli Nomani had already visited Rome, Syria and Egypt and have seen the Madaris of those regions and met their scholars. Allama Shibli Nomani proposed the name of Maulana Mufti Lutfullah to chair the opening session of the convention. According to Nawab Sadar Yaar Jang Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani, Maulana Ibrahim Aaroomi and Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Batalwi were representing Ahle-Hadis (Salafi) delegation, Maulvi Ghulamul-Hasnain were representing Shia delegation. Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Barailvi also attended the convention and in his addressed praised Malana Inayatullah, maulana Lutfullah and Maulana Ahmad Hasan. Maulana Shah Muhammad hussain presented the aims and objective of the organization and then Allama Shibli Nomani presented the Working Guidelines (Dasturul-Amal) of the organization. On the recommendation of Maulana Muhammad Husain Batalwi, this working guidelines (Dasturul Amal) was referred to a committee of scholars to discuss.
On 23th April (16th Shawwal), after maghrib prayer, a special session comprising of 30 scholars were held and each and every guidelines were discussed and finalized. On the next day, 24th April (17th Shawwal) in morning session under the chairmanship of Maulana Lutfullah of Aligarh, Allama Shibli Nomani announced the proposals;

1. The Present educational system and needs a reform.
2. Principles or their representative of all the Islamic Institutions (Madaaris) should attend the annual convention of Nadwatul Ulema.
3. A Federation of Madaaris should be formed so that all the madaaris should come under one umbrella. To implement this scheme few large Madaaris should be started which will act as a main Madrasah known as Nadwatul-Uloom and rest will be their branches. Nadwatul-Uloom will keep an eye on the activities of the branches.
4. Expansion of Madarsa Faiz-e-Aam with Hostel facility.
5. Curriculum reform ( This was proposed by Shah Muhammad Husain Allahabadi and seconded by Allama Shibli Nomani)

After this 12 scholars including Allama Shibli Nomani were named to develop curriculum

All the members of the curriculum developing committee made their proposed changes in the curriculam but Allama Shibli Nomani presented the Model of Nadwatul-Uloom. When Allama Shibli’s proposal of a Darul-Uloom was accepted by the attendees, he requested to form a Managing group and so a panel of 16 people was selected with consensus.

The founding session of Nadwatul-Ulema was concluded with final remarks and vote of thanks by Allama Shibli Nomani.

Allama Shibli Nomani & Prof. Thomas W. Arnold

Allama Shibli Nomani & Prof. Thomas W. Arnold

By Afzal Usmani

When Allama Shibli returned to India after performing Hajj, he met Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who had just established M.A.O. College. Allama Shibli Nomani was offered and accepted a teaching position at the MAO College in 1882. He met Prof. Thomas W. Arnold in 1888 when Prof. Arnold joined MAO College staff from whom Allama Shibli learned first hand modern western ideas and thoughts. At the same time Prof. Arnold learned Arabic from Allama Shibli. They traveled together in 1892 to Syria, Egypt, Turkey and other countries of the Middle East and got direct and practical experience of their societies. Allama Shibli’s scholarship influenced Prof. Thomas Arnold on one hand and on the other he was influenced by Thomas Arnold to a great extent, and this explains the modern touch in his ideas.
When Prof. Arnold left MAO College and joined Government College Lahore, Allama Shibli wrote to his cousin brother and disciple Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi (MAO College graduate and later a Professor of Arabic at MAO College); “Arnold left, College is sad about his departure. He was given a warm farewell.”

In 1904, when Prof. Arnold was finally leaving India to join as the staff of the India Office as Assistant Librarian in Britain, he was given addresses at different places including at MAO College. For the said event Allama Shibli again wrote to Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi ; “ Mr. Arnold is leaving for Britain, MAO College Aligarh will give addresses to him, one of the address will be in Persian too. I have been requested to prepare that, but I am not good in Persian so please prepare one and send it to Prof. Abul Hasan, MAO College immidiately.I will prepare the Arabic one. Mr. Arnold will be coming to Aligarh on 26th February, 1904.”

Educational Ideas of Allama Shibli and Their Relevance to Modern Period

By Zafarul Islam

This is quite well- known that Allama Shibli Nomani (1857-1914) was one of those eminent thinkers and scholars who left great impact on the Muslims of the sub-continent in their academic and socio- cultural life. Muslim education was one of the important issues in which he showed keen interest and devoted himself to build up the people’s mind for realizing the value of education and that of correlating it with the collective needs of the Ummah and demands of the time. In fact, his educational ideas were based on the assessment of the situation of the Muslims and deep analysis of the problems faced by the Ummah in those days. Besides, he had personal experience of the actual working of modern and traditional systems of education due to his close association with M.A.O. College (Aligarh), Nadwatul Ulama (Lucknow) and Madrasatul Islah (Sarai Mir, Azamgarh).So his educational ideas were of much significance not only for the Muslims of his period ,but they have also relevance to the present scenario of Muslim society, particularly to understand the type of education which may be more useful for the development of individual personality of the Muslims as well as for meeting the requirements of their religious and socio- economic life.

In view of Allama Shibli, education is not only an individual need of every Muslim, it is also very closely connected with the betterment and development of their collective life. Therefore, neither traditional education is enough for them, nor merely modern education can solve the problems of their religious and socio-cultural life. What is actually required for them, in his opinion, is establishment of a comprehensive system of education which may help integration of traditional and modern education. He was also of the view that the products of the Madrasahs and modern institutions should work at their own level for the benefit of the Muslim community and that the gap between them must be narrowed down through the regular interaction and cooperation with each other in the works of common welfare.

With regard to the Madrasah education Allama Shibli thought that with main emphasis on the fundamental sciences of Islam, there must be provision of teaching of English language and some other contemporary subjects (at least of social sciences) to make this education responsive to the demands of the time and more beneficial for the products of the Madrasahs as well as for the Ummah at large. On the other hand, he stressed that the rising activities of the non- Muslim missionaries and other opponents of Islam demanded that the Muslim Ummah must have able, sincere and self-less preachers and interpreters of Islam to cope with the challenges of these missionaries and critics of Islam. He was of the opinion that the madrasahs were the most suitable place for producing and training such preachers who were designated by him as Khuddam al- Din. In this connection, Allama Shibli made earnest plea that the Madrasah education should be reoriented and necessary changes should be effected in the syllabi of these institutions to achieve this purpose.

In brief, Allama’s views about objectives of Muslim education, integration of traditional and modern education, cooperation among the products of both the streams of education and making the Madrasah education more useful for the Dawah and other works of Muslims’ welfare in the changed circumstances are quite relevant to present In brief, Allama Shibli’s views about objectives of Muslim education, situation of Muslim society and so his views deserve serious consideration by Muslims in general and ulama and scholars in particular.

Allama Shibli Nomani and Madarsa-Tul-Islah

Allama Shibli Nomani and Madarsa-Tul-Islah


Allama Shibli Nomani was associated with the Madrasa-Tul-Islah almost from the very beginning. After his disillusionment from Nadwat ul 'Ulum in 1913, Allama Shibli gave his full attention to this institution and wanted to develop it in accordance with his own ideas and ideals. Simple living, contentment and a deep commitment to the service of religion were to be the hallmarks of this institution. He was actually thinking in terms of a university, which was to be developed in conjunction with the proposed Darul Musannifin. He wanted to make it a centre of excellence for religious and material education of the Muslims. He also impressed upon Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi to take greater interest in the affairs of this Madrasah. Unfortunately he was not destined to live long after that and died in 1914 before he could give concrete shape to his ideas and develop it according to the vision that he had about this institution. It was left to Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi to give it the shape and content that was to become its distinctive feature and constitute it basic character.

Have We forgotten Shibli Nomani ?

Have We forgotten Shibli Nomani ?

“Yeh maana tum ko talwaron ki tezi aazmani haiy,
Humari gurdanon pur ho gaa is ka imtihaan kub tuk”
( We know you want to display your military might,
But for how long will it be at our cost.)

………..Shibli Nomnai in “Shahar-e- Aaashob-e-Islam” (The ruined city of Islam” )

In recent years whenever I have enquired from well educated north-Indian Muslims about Allama Shibli Nomani, they have told me that I should talk to someone from Azamgarh, because that is where he was from, and that is where the Shibli Academy and Shibli National College are located. So recently I traveled to Azamgarh, visited both institutions and Shibli’s grave there and talked to a few of Shibli’s descendents. What I discovered is that despite his awesome services and contribution in furthering the causes of the Indian nation, the culture and heritage of the Mussalmans of South Asia and his yeoman services in spreading education in the community, the Qaum has relegated him as a remote figure in the pages of history. Further some people do grave injustice when they say that Shibli was a personality largely from Azamgarh and east U.P.

The fact is that from the young age of 25 Shibli lived away from Azamgarh, serving in institutions all over the country and abroad and returned to live in Azamgarh only a couple of years before his untimely death at age 57 in 1914. It is injustice to Shibli that the Aligarh Muslim University, Nadvat ul Uloom and Osmania University where Shibli spent thirtyone years of his life have done little to retain his memory. Next only to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Shibli was a crusading pioneer in the Aligarh movement to spread modern education in the Muslim qaum that was badly ravaged by the 1957 war of independence. Indeed Shibli, who was a child of India’s first war of independence, was born in 1857 in Azamgarh.

Shibli completed his education in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Usul (Islamic principles), Hadith (traditions of prophet Mohammad), Munazra (comparative religious debate), Maqulat (rational science) and astronomy under illustrious scholars like Maulana Farooq Chiryakoti, Hakim Abdullah Jairajpuri and Maulana Irshad Hussain of Rampur. Shibli began his career by first working as a lawyer in Azamgarh and Jaunpur. But starting in 1878 Shibli was increasingly drawn to scholarship, comprising of learning and teaching. Thus he started writing discourses in ‘Awadh Panch’ and ‘Payam-e-yaar’, two contemporary newspapers of U.P. that talked of retaining the established values of the Muslim society.

At Aligarh College:

In 1881 Shibli visited Aligarh to meet Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Subsequently as the then Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College , then also known as ‘Madrasat al uloom Musalman’ needed a teacher for Eastern languages, Shibli applied for the position. Shibli’s interview for that position by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is an interesting anecdote. On the day of his interview Shibli was asked to seat himself in the college’s library. In the library Shibli found that the book-shelves were unlocked and a few chairs were placed; he proceeded to browse through the books. The whole day passed but Sir Syed never came. Instead he sent word to Shibli to come to the library the next day. Again on the next day Shibli waited, browsing through books the entire day but again Sir Syed never came. Instead he again sent word to Shibli to come the next day. The same occurred on the third day. At the end of the third day, Sir Syed came to the library and told Shibli, “ Maulvi Shibli, the interview is over, go and start your teaching work”. On February 1, 1883, at the young age of twentyfive Shibli was appointed Assistant professor of Arabic and Persian at a monthly salary of forty rupees. Two years later he was promoted as professor and his monthly salary increased to seventy rupees.

Thus began the father-son like partnership of Shibli Nomani with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who was forty years older than Shibli, to develop the Anglo Mohammedan college to impart modern education to the Mussalmans of India. Shibli was immensely popular among the students at Aligarh; some of them being Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Mohammad Nazir, Sajjad Haider yaldram, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar. Soon Shibli became the first editor of the Urdu version of Aligarh Institute Gazette. He brought in distinguished writers of the period like Altaf Hussain Hali and Munshi Mohammad Zakaullah. In the events at the college, Shibli often spoke eloquently about the crestfallen position of Muslims and the importance of the Aligarh movement. To raise funds for the nascent college he will often participate in events along with Thomas Arnold, Kennedy, Smith, Anthony and Yusuf Vakil. At Aligarh he also established students’ societies like ‘Akhwan ul safa’ and ‘Lajinatul Adab’.

Shibli Steps Out

In 1892 Shibli took leave from the Aligarh College and left for a six month travel through various countries in the middleeast. In this travel Shibli visited Aden, Syria, Cyprus, Turkey, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Beirut and Cairo. He met luminaries like Saiyad Tahir, Maulana Ali Pasha, Sheikh Abduh, Sheikh Hamza Fathullah, Syed Raza Misri among others. In these countries he studied the system of education in a variety of madrasas and colleges and became familiar with the literature of those countries. Upon his return from this travel Shibli introduced common boarding houses, common dining halls and uniform dress for students at the Aligarh school.

Also upon his return the British Indian government awarded Shibli with the honorific title of ‘Shams ul Ulema’. Shibli was also appointed a fellow of the then illustrious Allahabad University, member of the Bombay branch of Royal Asiatic Society, and he attended the Government Oriental conference in Shimla (1910), and the Coronation Durbar (1911) where he was introduced to King George V. In 1912 the Indian Government accepted many of Shibli’s recommendations for the reform of the syllabus in schools.

In Hyderabad and Turkey

In 1901 the Nizam of Hyderabad invited Shibli to Hyderabad to help set up the syllabus and systems at the new Oriental university that in time grew into the Osmania University. Shibli wrote the plan for the university entitled ‘Hyderabad ki mashraqi universirty’. In Hyderabad Shibli was appointed the secretary of Education and Arts at a monthly salary of five hundred rupees. In this position in Hyderabad, Shibli completed many works such as Al Ghazali (1902), Ibn al Kalam (1903), Sawaneh Maulana Rumi (1904). Also during his stay in Hyderabad he composed ‘Sher al Ajam’ and ‘Muwaznah Anis o Dabir’.

In 1913 Shibli was invited by the Ottoman Sultan of Turkey to develop the text books for the proposed university at Madina.

Shibli departs Aligarh for Nadvat ul Uloom, Lucknow

Despite his long and dedicated service to the Aligarh College, in the late 1890s Shibli started getting uncomfortable with uncontrolled modernity at the college. In fact Sir Syed himself was uncomfortable with the growth of over-anglicized trends at the Aligarh College. It is said that Sir Syed’s appointment of his son Syed Mahmood, a highly anglicized person as his successor as the secretary of the Aligarh Education Society, in preference to several of his staunch colleagues like Maulvi Samiullah, Karamat Hussain, Shibli Nomani etal led to a situation where several of these luminaries left the Aligarh college ultimately. It is said that a fortnight before his death in 1898 a major quarrel occurred between Sir Syed and his son Syed Mahmood due to the later’s very anglicized lifestyle, that caused Sir Syed to move out of the house and start living with his friend Haji Ismail Khan, where he soon breathed his last.

In 1896 Shibli first expressed a desire to leave the Aligarh college but was persuaded by the principal of the college, Theodore Beck to stay. Finally after the death of Sir Syed Shibli Nomani resigned from the Aligarh college in 1899. It was in 1905 after return from Hyderabad that Shibli Nomani joined Nadvat ul Uloom at Lucknow as the secretary of the institution. As at other institutions, Shibli threw himself with all his zeal to build Nadva into a quality institution and introduced new subjects and curriculum. He also started the journal Al Nadva that revolutionized the thinking of Ulema and broadened their outlook. At Nadva some of Shibli’s distinguished students were: Saiyed Sulaiman Nadvi, Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, Maulana Masud Nadvi – the same people who later gave concrete shape to Shibli’s dream of Dar ul Muannifin at Azamgarh.

It was during his decade long sojourn at Nadva that Shibli visited Bombay and the nearby princely state of Janjirah in 1907. That is where he wrote the classic ‘Sher al ajam’, the history of the Persian poetry, and his treatise on ‘Islam and tolerance’.

However some of his critics at Nadva opposed Shibli for the modern syllabus that he institutionalized there as too modern. In fact for some of his compositions in ‘al Kalam’ some of his opponents charged him even with apostasy, just as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was similarly charged for his Aligarh College movement. It is an irony that at the Aligarh college some of Shibli’s critics considered him as too conservative, while at Nadva some of his critics considered him a radical. Finally in 1913 Shibli Nomani resigned and left from Nadva after a decade of dedicated service to the institution.

Shibli and Maulana Azad

It was during his stay in Bombay that Shibli Nomani met the then youthful Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was then the editor of the Urdu journal ‘Lisan-ul-sidq’. Soon Shibli and Azad became close friends and colleagues and Azad spent some time at Nadva. Shibli invited Azad to join him in writing the magnum opus ‘Sirat ul Nabi’, considered Shibli Nomani’s landmark achievement, even though he did not live long enough to complete it. Such was Azad’s devotion to Shibli that after Shibli’s death when Syed Sulaiman Nadvi asked Azad if he will like to serve as a honorary fellow at the Dar ul Musannifin, Azad is reported to have said: “ I will willingly serve even as a porter”.

Shibli returns home to Dar ul Musannifin, Azamgarh

In 1913 at the age of fiftysix, after being away from his hometown of Azamgarh for thirtyone years, and having lived and worked all over India and having travelled abroad extensively, Shibli Nomani returned to settle down in Azamgarh. In Azamgarh he soon established Dar ul Musannifin (abode of writers) - that is today also known as Shibli Academy. In the short time before his death in November 1914, despite poor health Shibli did much to give a concrete shape to the new institution. It is a tribute to Shibli’s illustrious life and work that his students built his dream institution into a major center of learning and research related to Islam, Islamic civilization, Indo-Islamic culture and the Indian culture itself.

Shibli’s legacy

Shibli Nomani was a visionary and a restless soul who travelled wide and lived in places remote from his home in pursuit of learning, spreading knowledge, building institutions and bringing about a revolution in the thinking of Ulema, learened scholars and ordinary Muslims. Shibli was one of the most ardent nationalists devoted to his nation and to freeing it from the yoke of colonialism. At the Aligarh college he dedicated himself to providing modern education to Muslims. His letters to sir syed Ahmad Khan from Istanbul, Cairo and other places show his deep concern that Muslims study sciences. He admitted the importance of Western learning but was not prepared to ignore oriental subjects or belittle the merit of Islamic sciences. He disagreed with those who wanted to emulate the western ethos so much that it could destroy the identity of Muslims.

Shibli’s spirit of national integration is demonstrated by the manner in which he established a school in 1883 in his hometown of Aligarh, and named it ‘National School’; it is now a large post-graduate college with an enrollment of about 9,000 students. He instructed that the students in this school speak English language by the time they reach Standard V. A century ago Shibli was of the opinion that much of the Muslim antipathy to Western learning arose because of their ignorance of European languages. He was not satisfied with mere writing, learning and attending conferences, but also believed in action. For example when in 1912 Burn, the chief secretary of United Provinces government initiated a move to introduce Urdu in Devnagri script, Shibli opposed it stoutly and fought for the preservation of Urdu in Nastaliq script. Also in 1912 he introduced a resolution in Delhi demanding withdrawl of books that created discord among Indians of diverse faiths from schools and colleges.

Shibli praised the Congress party for raising the demand of self-government. While Shibli believed that the Congress party may not best represent the interests of the Muslim community, at the same time he dismissed the claims of Muslim League as the exclusive representative of Muslims. He did not subscribe to the fears expressed by Muslim League that by virtue of their numerical superiority Hindus would overwhelm Muslims. Indeed men like Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Maulana Azad who were Shibli’s close younger colleagues and who were considerably influenced by Shibli may be viewed as his political successors.

Have we forgotten Shibli?

In the aftermath of Shibli Nomani’s death his favourite pupil including the renowned Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, dedicated themselves to nurturing and building on his legacy. Syed Sulaiman Nadvi completed Shibli’s unfinished ‘Seerat un Nabi’ and together with others built Dar ul Musannifin in Azamgarh into a most illustrious institution of learning, research and publications in the area of Islamic thought and civilization that it became in the next few decades.

However, after 1947 Shibli Nomani’s name has suffered neglect by people outside his close circle and outside the Muslim community of Eastern U.P. For instance the Muslim qaum has not given Shibli the al-India stature that others like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Maulana Azad with whom he cam be easily ranked among the Muslim luminaries of the last 150 years. Aligarh Muslim University and Nadvat ul Uloom, Lucknow, the two institutions that he served for so long with so much untiring zeal and devotion and where he made so much contribution have not done much to perpetuate his memory.

It was only recently that Aligarh Muslim University built a students hostel in his name; but they did not name any of their better institutes, eg the library or one of the colleges after Shibli. Similarly Nadvat ul Uloom did not name any of its significant organs after him. Hardly any Muslim community university has named any major awards in Shibli’s name. And hardly any alumni of AMU memorialize Shibli by organizing annual lectures in his memory. The unkindest cut is that when you enquire about Shibli from north Indian Muslims they indicate that he is a historical figure from eastern UP and Azamgarh. This despite the fact that Shibli spent 31 of his 57 years serving educational institutions of the Muslims all over India, away from his home base. Today we need to make up for lost time and take steps to give Shibli a place of pride among the all-India luminaries of the Muslim qaum of the last two centuries.

The writer a community activist in Washington DC, can be reached on

Maulana Shibli aur Aligarh : Prof. Zafarul Islam

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Muslim Education, Shibli Nomani and Nadvatul Ulama, Lucknow : Javed Ali Khan

Muslim Education, Shibli Nomani and Nadvatul Ulama, Lucknow

Dr. Javed Ali Khan, Department of History, Shibli National College, Azamgarh (UP) - India

The beginning of liberalism among the Indian Muslims in modern times dates back to the early nineteenth century when Mirza Abu Talib Isfahani(1752-1806) travelled to England and Europe and brought back his impressions about the British Parliament and the liberal character of the British constitution. He expressed the opinion that Indian Muslims must embrace those Western values, which are healthy and morally sound. About this time Shah Abdul Aziz(1746-1823) considered a compromising attitude with the British as necessary in order to arrest the declining fortune of the Muslims. Accordingly he called upon them to be resilient, permitted the study of English, and allowed them to seek employment of the East India Company in professions associated with public welfare. Another notable person, Abdul Raheem Zahri, a native of Gorakhpur, emphasized the need to acquire the New Learning of the West, with particular emphasis on the learning of English. Two other persons who spoke in favour of Western learning around that time were Lutfullah (1802-1854) and Shamsul Umarah (1783-1863). The latter considered acquisition of Western knowledge as the panacea of Muslim ills and backwardness. Well-versed in English and French languages, he started a centre of higher learning through the medium of Urdu. The school, known as Madrasa-i-Fakhriah (established in 1829) paid attention not only to theology but also to natural sciences.

Nawwab Nasiruddin of Awadh was also a patron of New Learning. Under his patronage Hakeem Mahdi Ali Khan laid the foundation of an English school. It was in this school that Sayyid Kamaluddin Haider, the famous historian of Awadh, studied. As is well-known Asadullah Khan Ghalib, the renowned poet, condemned old institutions and praised the material advancement of Western countries. Karamat Ali (d.1873), another noted Muslim scholar, was among those who advocated the learning of European languages so that the scientific knowledge of the West could dawn upon the Muslims.[1]

At the institutional level Dehli College, Dehli, pioneered the movement for new knowledge. It produced a galaxy of Muslim scholars and reformers such as Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), Muhammad Zakaullah(1832-1911), Muhammad Husain Azad(1830-1910), Nazeer Ahmad(1831-1912), and many others who were to contribute to Muslim awakening. However, the number of enlightened Muslims before 1857 was so small that it could not exert any appreciable influence upon the mind of the Muslim community.

Understandably the Muslims were conscious of the need of education and were working out means to redress their crestfallen position. In 1877 when Viceroy Lord Lytton visited Dehli to make arrangements for Darbar-i- Qaiseri, the Muslims of the city met him with a delegation and presented him a petition requesting him to withdraw the government’s decision to close Dehli College. But the request was turned down on the plea that since Lahore Presidency College was being upgraded to the status of a Degree College, hence

Dehli College was no longer required. In this way a reputed institution of learning was dissolved.2 However, the desire to build a grand Madrasa on the pattern of Dehli College continued to be cherished by the Muslims.

On closer examination it will appear that behind the apparent sympathy and concern for Muslim education, the British rulers were in fact keenly interested in strangulating the Muslim educational institutions. This can be said on the ground that the Calcutta Madrasah founded in 1770 by Warren Hastings received no attention. In Bengal, large number of mau’fi lands (tax free grant lands), which supported Muslim educational establishments, were confiscated by the government. It may be pointed out that the Trusts for educational institutions set up by the Muslim rulers and nobles were so extensive that according to Charles Grant they covered about one-fourth of the whole area of Bengal. To cite an example, Haji Mohammed Mohsin, a millionaire, created a Trust out of his vast fortunes. In 1817 the British took control of the Trust and maintained the Hooghly College from its income. The Trust was made to pay an annual salary of Rs.1500, besides lodging charges, to a British Principal, who knew nothing about Persian and Arabic. Out of an income of Rs.5260 it spent only Rs.350 for a small school, i.e., for Muslim education. Another example can be given of Wood Despatch of 1854 which suggested that worthy Muhammadan Madrasas be affiliated to the Universities, but the Calcutta Madrasah was left out of Calcutta University. Had the Madrasah been affiliated, the subsequent history of Muslim education in Bengal might have been different.3

The Muslim clamour for awareness and reforms at the religious plain was not an isolated phenomenon in Indian society during those times. Other religious communities of India were also establishing association and societies to bring about reformation. Among the Muslims in Bombay four societies (anjumans) had started functioning. These were Anjuman-i- Islam, Anjuman Ish’aat-i-Islam, Anjuman Ta’id-i-Musalmanan and Anjuman Isha’at-i-Ahl-i-Hadis. These societies were, however, able to play a limited role. In the United Provinces, which was considered the hub centre of Muslim culture and learning, there was no theological center, which could play a role on a national level.4

It is to be admitted that the education, which the Muslims were receiving had outlived its utility. It failed to meet the needs of a changing society and was unable to foster growth of a homogenous Muslim society. Maktabs and madrasas though numerous in number were in a woeful condition. There was not a single madrasa with a building that could match even an ordinary British school or college. Fooding and lodging arrangements were miserable. Students would generally take or bring food from assigned houses. Such a system naturally had a depressing effect upon their minds. There was no provision for encouraging bright students with stipends or scholarship. Children of wealthy families did not consider education necessary. Alumni of these madrasas were by and large crammers of religious treatises, and had little ability to fluently read, write or speak Arabic. They reveled in hair-splitting religious debates on trifle issues but lacked the ability to take part in intricate religious discourses, or undertake works of translation of the Holy Qur’an and other Arabic works, or boldly take part in defence and propagation of Islam. In the whole of India there was not a single madrasa with a well-equipped library where research in the field of Tafseer, Hadees, Fiqh, Usul-i-Fiqh, etc., could be undertaken. Contact with the Arab world having been virtually lost it had an adverse effect on the learning of Arabic language and literature as well as on other Islamic sciences. Little attention was paid to the study of mathematics and astronomy. History was not taught as a separate subject till late nineteenth century, and consequently, there was no textbook of history or Islamic history. The philosophical teachings that had been initiated as a response to Greek philosophy during early medieval times was still in vogue and no further progressive developments could take place. Muslim students were unaware of the grand contributions of Islam to mankind and human civilization, and how it delivered different communities and nations from oppression and tyranny.

Political factors were also responsible for this sordid condition of the Muslims. With the dissolution of Muslim states, the post of Qazi and Mufti and such other posts were dissolved. As a result purely religious knowledge lost importance. The learning of Fiqh and Hadis was virtually dropped Under the existing situation a thinking started growing among a section of the Muslims that the knowledge of Arabic was useless, and the imparting of English education can alone retrieve their lost position, although it was equally feared that the learning of English would breed heretical ideas and turn the Muslims into infidels or atheists.5

The blatant repressive measures taken against the Ulama following the failure of the war of independence of 1857 had a disastrous effect upon their confidence. Weakened and shattered they were unable to play the role expected of them. In all their actions they were looked upon with suspicion by the British government and humiliated in every possible way. Terror-stricken Muslims found themselves defenceless and most of them had to spend much of their time in proving their innocence. The confiscation of Muslim properties caused acute economic crisis, resulting in the closure of many maktabs and madrasas that hitherto functioned on grants and endowments of Muslim properties. Muslims were in general debarred from government jobs. All this bred so much of ill will and suspicion that in the early 1870’s when the British government established eight government aided madrasas, the Muslims did not cooperate in this venture and eventually the madrasas had to be closed.6

There were other grave issues. In many parts of the country creeping Hinduism had considerably eroded Muslim faith. Many a Muslim had such names as Ram Bakhsh and Lachman Singh. Often to settle Muslim disputes, non-Muslims were called to serve as arbiters. Ulama lacked courage to point out the error made by British courts in the pronouncement of judgment or understanding and interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence.

In various parts of the country state sponsored Christian missionaries were openly and aggressively preaching their faith. Records show that in 1893 in the region of North West Frontier Province and Awadh Christian missionaries had succeeded in converting eighteen thousand natives to the fold of Christianity.7 The Methodist Missionary Centre in the country had alone succeeded in converting seventy thousand people to the fold of Christianity. In all about fifteen lakh Indians converted to Christianity.8 Similarly a number of Hindu organizations were actively promoting their faith such as Gurukul Movement of Arya Samaj, Movement of Bharat Mahamandal of Sanatan Dharm, and Dharm Mahatsav on the pattern of Parliament of Religion.9 Under the existing circumstances it was feared that the Christian priests might as well try to raise a band of Ulama among the Muslims, who, working under the guidance of the British, would surreptitiously sabotage efforts of Muslim reforms. Such apprehensions grew up because many Muslims in their understanding of Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (pbh) had started citing books written by George Seal and William Muir.10

This situation naturally led to a fresh introspection of thought and behaviour among a section of the Muslims including the Ulama. It came to be acknowledged that the British owed their success not only to deceit and fraud but also to their better institutions and innovations in science and technology. Old values and thought, however, still continued to dominate the minds of the people. Those who held such views believed that the lagging behind of the Muslims was not because Islam was at fault, rather because the commitment to it was lacking.11 It was felt necessary to overcome the general despondency that prevailed among the Muslims. Hence, it was believed that a more strict adherence and commitment to Islamic values could revive the fortunes of the Muslims. All this found expression in the opening of a seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in 1866 by Muhammad Qasim Nanotawi, an alumnus of Dehli College.

On the other hand, a section of the Muslims led by Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), also a alumni of Dehli College, considered modern English education and acceptance of Western Science and knowledge as the remedy of the ills of the Muslims. The call for New Learning which in a way signalled the collapse of the old order, was not universally accepted in the beginning by the Muslims at large,12 but it certainly contributed to revolutionize the thought of some of the enlightened Ulama. The first noticeable beginning was made in the Arabic department of Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College by Maulana Luftullah who initiated emphasis on the learning of modern Arabic and modification of its syllabi.13 In Delhi, Maulana Sayyid Nazeer Husain Muhaddis Dehlavi, who was known for his eloquent lectures, also worked to influence the mind of the people.

The educational ideals of Darul Uloom Deoband and Anglo-Mohammedan College, Aligarh, were diametrically opposed to each other. The protagonist of the Aligarh School questioned whether theology and theosophy could play any significant role in the reconstruction of the society in accordance with the requirements of modern times. But Aligarh College could not satisfy those who sought both temporal as well as ecclesiastical gratification. Its British Principal and the European staff were accused of having given birth to a lifestyle, which had an unsavoury effect upon the mind of the Muslim students and tended to make them careless towards religious obligations. Even Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan during the last years of his life expressed dissatisfaction towards the growing Westernizing trends in the college campus.

Enlightened Muslims elsewhere were also making efforts to create educational awareness. One such person was Maulana Hakeem Sayyid Muhammad Zahoorul Islam Fatehpuri(1858-1921). He laid the foundation of Madrasa Islamia in Fatehpuri in 1883. In 1890 in this madrasa an English Middle Section was opened and arrangements were also made for technical education. In 1891, Zahoorul Islam along with Maulvi Abdur Razzak(1866-1948) endeavoured to associate the functioning of this madrasa with Muslim Educational Conference, Aligarh. But the proposal was not accepted. Thereafter, Zahoorul Islam, supported by Maulvi Abdul Ghafoor(Deputy Collector, 1867-1937) of Kanpur, set-up a committee in Kanpur and initiated yearly meetings to discuss the problems of the Muslims.

It was about this time in 1310 Hijri/1893 on the occasion of Dastarband( investiture of academic gown and turban to the students on becoming a Hafiz) in Madrasa Faiz-i-A’am, Kanpur, the idea was first mooted that an association of Ulama be formed in the country to ponder over the problems of the Muslim society and to devise means to uplift the depressed Muslim society. The prime mover of such a proposal was Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Ali Mungeri. On this occasion Maulana Mushtaque Ali, a teacher of

Madrasa Islamia, Faizabad, was entrusted with the task of travelling to different parts of the country in order to gather public opinion in this regard. Accordingly, he travelled far and wide and even went on voyage to Makkah and Madinah.14 His visit abroad was of momentous importance for it was to open a new chapter in the hitherto broken Indo-Arab intellectual relations. During his visit to Aligarh Mushtaque Ali met Muhammad Shibli Nomani, Maulvi Ismail and Maulvi Khalid Ahmad. When the aims and objectives of the association were placed before Shibli, he readily accepted it for he saw in the proposed programme a vision of his own thought and a mission for which his distress soul had been yearning at Aligarh. His father, Sheikh Habibullah, also readily joined him in the New Movement. In fact, during this period, not only in India but also in Britain, Europe, America and Africa there was a growing demand of competent Ulama who could preach the message of Islam in English to the people who wanted to lead a righteous life. It may be pointed that a certain European king offered to give Rs.2000 and a medal as a reward to any person who could write the history of Arabs before the advent of Islam. But no one came forward.

After a preliminary round of meeting in the house of Sheikh Faiyaz Ahmad, a wealthy merchant, the first meeting of Nadvatul Ulama, a word especially coined to represent an association of Ulama or Muslim scholars, was held on 22 -24 April 1894, in Madrasa Faiz-i-A’am, Kanpur.15 Its objectives had the blessings and support of many distinguished Islamic scholars and dignitaries.16 Even the advocates of English education such as Nawwab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, Sayyid Mahmood, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Waqar-ul-Mulk welcomed the programmes and mission of Nadvatul Ulama.17 Initially its membership was open to all Muslims provided he led a life according to the Islamic Shariat, paid an annual amount of Rs.2 or more, and worked to promote Muslim fraternity. But later it was stipulated that only those persons who either belonged to the Ulama or Mashaikh class, or were masters of English, Persian, Mathematics, Medicine, or were excellent orators, could be nominated by the executive committee of Nadvatul Ulama.[18]

In the first inaugural session Shibli proposed the name of Maulana Lutfullah as the Chairperson of the meeting, which was unanimously accepted. Shibli conducted the meeting and placed before the assembly the draft of the Dastur-ul-Amal of Nadvatul Ulama, which was also accepted unanimously. A majlis(committee) consisting of twelve members was constituted for the drafting of syllabus and Shibli was nominated as one of the members.19 Thereafter, Shibli lectured on the beginnings of education in Islam, how the study of rational sciences developed, the framing of Dars Nizamiyah, and the short-comings of the then current madrasa syllabus. He further called upon the scholars to modify the teaching methodology and pay attention to the study of Philology, Adab, Holy Qur’an and Qur’anic sciences.20 All this marked the beginning of Shibli’s active participation which continued almost till the end of his life, working and lecturing untiringly for the objectives of Nadvatul Ulama.

The aims and objectives of Nadwatul Ulama, according to Shibli, were to promote learning based upon reason and intellect, to produce a band of scholars who could selflessly work to establish harmonious relation among different Muslim groups and successfully meet the challenges posed by the critics of Islam. In view of that scholars were expected to be well-versed in English; Arabic and Persian so that they could effectively preach the message of Islam within the country as well as in foreign lands.21 Shibli also aimed at raising the honour and prestige of Ulama. It was emphasized that during meetings and deliberations Ulama were not to stand up in honour of any wealthy person or dignitary. They were expected to live up to the expectations of the people as role models worth emulation. It further called upon the people to eradicate heretical practices and thought and to lead a life meticulously in accordance with the shariat. Muslims were to abstain from unmindful spending on occasions of marriage, festivals and other rituals. Orphans were to receive special attention. Shibli and Maulvi Muhammad Shah strongly advocated the education of girls and the need to pay attention to problems of health and hygiene.22 It was decided that Nadvatul Ulama shall hold annual session to enable Muslim scholars from India as well as abroad to participate in its deliberations. This would serve as a platform to resolve the crisis of the Muslim Ummah and where people could also chalk out means for the material advancement of the Muslims. It was also announced that the institution shall have no political objectives and its students will be law-abiding and loyal to the government.

The Nadva Movement from its very inception represented the greatest aspiration of the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent. Many Muslims enthusiastically came forward with suggestions and heartily extended moral and financial help to make the Movement a grand success. For example, Maulvi Mamluk Ali, a former teacher of Dehli College, along with Shibli Nomani, were among the earliest to point out that the Madrasa campus should have a decent landscape, hostels, and a rich library with books of all sciences in Arabic. Mamluk Ali also proposed that the government should be asked to put the income from awqaf (endowment property) under the control of the Muslims and its money be utilized for education. For the governance of awqaf a committee should be formed consisting of Muslim elders with the consent of the government. He also proposed that the property of those Muslims who died heirless should be acquired for educational purposes of the Muslims. He further suggested that government grant-in-aid should be sought for running of madrasas and rejected the fears that the spread of English education would harm the study of Islamic sciences.23 It was soon felt that in order to sustain the spirit and objectives of the Movement it was necessary to open a learning centre. Accordingly in September 1898 a maktab was opened which was officially started on 6 December when the Nadva society was registered.24 It developed rapidly and by 1901 it came to be known as Darul Uloom. For its governance a committee with the name of Majlis Darul Uloom was formed and its rules and regulations (Dasturul-ul- Amal) were framed by Shibli. This Darul Uloom or Madrasa Nadvatul Uloom was started in a rented house in a street of Golaganj, Lucknow. The building, which belonged to a Hindu ra’is was later purchased for Rs.9000. But it could not properly serve for use as lecture rooms or for boarding purposes. Moreover, Shibli had the vision of a grand building, the like of which he had seen in Aligarh and Constantinople.

Meanwhile, Shibli, after having left Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College, Aligarh, on account of ill health, financial constraints and strained relations with British government, was forced to leave for the State of Hyderabad. But Shibli by this time had decided to dedicate his whole life to the cause of Nadwa.25 In a meeting held on 1 October 1902 Shibli was chosen as a member of the syllabus committee on recommendation by Maulalana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani and Masih-uz-Zaman Khan. It was also about this time that the need of releasing an academic journal from Nadwa was felt by Shibli. The idea was accepted but some people were not prepared to accept him as the editor of the journal. As a result after some delay the first issue of Al-Nadva was published with Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani and Shibli Nomani as its editors in August 1904. The aim of this journal was to promote Islamic sciences and to highlight the growth of knowledge attained during medieval times, drawing a comparison with that of modern times. Urdu scholars such as Deputy Nazeer Ahmad and Abdul Haleem Sharar highly praised the journal. The journal, which mostly contained articles written by Shibli revolutionized the thinking of the Ulama and opened new vistas of knowledge before them. It mentally persuaded the people to reject the obsolete and unreasonable traditional thinking and made them aware of the current problems. It helped the students to learn and develop the art of writing. Through its column a number of young scholars were destined to win fame such as Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi, Abdus Salam Nadwi and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

Some other developments also took place during this time. On 16 March 1903 Shibli’s name was proposed for the post of Mua’tamid-i-Majlis Darul Uloom. He was, however, unable to accept the offer on account of various reasons. The same year Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Ali Mungeri, considered as the prime founder of Nadvatul Ulama, tendered his resignation, which was not accepted. The following year he again submitted his resignation during the Madras session (1904) and the members were left with no other choice than to accept it. The resignation reflects the unrest and internal crisis that had started brewing up. Of this session Shibli was made the Chairperson. The highlight of the session was the presence of delegates from Somaliland and Aden and an impressive speech delivered by Shibli on Khatm Nabuwat.[26]

Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Ali Mungeri’s place was taken by Maulana Masih-uz-Zaman who held the post of Nazim(secretary) till 21 April 1905. Thereafter, Maulana Khalilur Rahman Saharanpuri was made Mua’tamid Aliyah. For the smooth running of the institution three other mu’atamids were appointed to look after correspondence, financial matters, and education. Shibli was made Mu’atamid-i-Ta’alimat, i.e., in-charge of educational matters and student-teacher relationship. In this capacity Shibli served Nadvatul Ulama from April 1905 to July 1913.27

Shibli was enthusiastically welcomed at Nadwa. Students expressed their joy by organizing meetings and writing poems in his praise. The subsequent history of Nadvatul Ulama for over eight years is marked for consolidation and progress. During this period a modified syllabus and the learning of modern Arabic was introduced. Steps were taken to promote the study of English, Hindi and Sanskrit. Eminent teachers with specialized knowledge were appointed.28 Students studying Sanskrit and Hindi were given special stipend. The task of translating the Holy Qur’an into English was undertaken and a special period was allocated for training students to write fatawas (religious decrees).29 Shibli infused a new spirit in the life of the students. They were taught vocal rendering of the Qur’an, essay writing, study of History, extempore speech, and the art of oratory. Students were encouraged to participate in debates and deliberations on various topics and current issues related to national and international matters. For its promotion a body by the name of Al-Bayan was established and supported by Darul Ma’lumat and Kutub Khana - a place where journals, magazines and books were readily available to the students.30 Shibli donated his personal collection of books to the Kutb Khana and encouraged others to donate books. In this task his cherished pupil, Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, played an important role. Attention was paid on Waqia Nigari or news reporting. Students were taught to disdain fanciful imagination, and to develop the skill of realistic writings and on subjects considered wry. Duration of study- courses was also determined and textbooks were prescribed. For example, Primary Education was to be of three years, and Middle Education was to be of five years. Shibli endeavoured for the introduction of religious sciences in government schools under the supervision of Nadva. At the same time he demanded recess on Friday for prayers. He supported the proposal made by Maulana Muhammad Sulaiman of Phulwari(Patna) to send outstanding students to Egypt.31 Apart from religious sciences Shibli was equally interested in introducing the teaching of modern sciences. He introduced a book on physical science in Arabic written by a woman. In the annual session of Nadva held in 1910 at Delhi, Professor Dr. Ziauddin and Professor Firozuddin lectured on science and even showed some practical demonstration. Shibli proposed award and stipend to meritorious students to enable them to go to Anglo-Mohammedan College, Aligarh, and study Mathematics under Professor Ziauddin and others.[32]

It was largely owing to the efforts of Shibli and Col. Abdul Majeed Khan that Nadva was able to procure 32 bighas of land on the banks of river Gomti from the British government. On this piece of land Sir John Perscott Hewitt, the Lieutenant Governor of Awadh and Agra, laid the foundation of a new building with boarding facilities on 28 November 1908.33 He praised the syllabus prepared by Nadwa and called upon the Muslims to support the Nadva Movement. On this occasion a grant of Rs.500 per month was also announced for the study of English and Mathematics by the government .In order to strengthen the financial resources of the institution, Shibli persuaded the ruler of the State of Bhopal, Sultan Jahan Begum, to provide a monthly grant of Rs.50, which was later on increased to Rs.200. On the persuasion of Shibli and Maulvi Ghulam Muhammad Shimalvi, the Nawwab of Bahawalpur gave a handsome grant of Rs.50000 for the construction of building. It was also largely on account of Shibli’s effort that provision of a reserve fund in bank account was introduced for safe financial transaction.

In order to raise funds and to propagate the aims and objectives of Nadva, Shibli along with other members, visited different cities. For example, in 1896 he went to Ghazipur along with Amanatullah Ghazipuri, Maulvi Abul Khair, Shah Sulaiman Phulwari, Maualana Sayyid Zahoor-ul-Islam Fatehpuri and others. From Ghazipur, the delegation went to Patna where Shibli stayed in the house of Hakeem Abdul Bari and held several rounds of talk with Hakeem Abdul Bari, Maulvi Sayyid Fakhruddin and other dignitaries of the city. Another meeting was held at Khanqah Emadiyah of Maulana Shah Rasheedul Haque in which Shibli Nomani, Maulana Shah Muhammad Sulaiman and Shah Amanatullah spoke. But perhaps the most memorable meeting was held at Patna College in which about four thousand Muslims attended the gathering to hear Shibli.34 Later, a delegation headed by Shibli, in which Maulana Shah Muhammad Sulaiman Phulwari also participated, went to Peshawer and Kohat.35 In 1905 a delegation went to Bhopal and met the Begum of Bhopal. In 1912 Shibli and Maulana Sayyid Abdul Hai travelled to different places to publicize the benefits and mission of Nadva. In this regard Shibli even suggested formation of a deputation to meet the Raja of Mahmudabad and Raja of Jahangirabad. The result of all this was that apart from monetary benefits much of the misgivings with regard to Nadva as spread by the opponents of the Movement, were also removed.

The establishment of boarding and fooding facilities and provision of stipends with well-set norms of education attracted students from far off places such as Yangon, Peshawer and Chittagong. Students, both rich and poor lived and dined together. This instilled a spirit of fraternity among the students. Special attention was paid on cleanliness and performance of obligatory prayers. In the evening students took part in physical exercises and played football, volleyball, etc - all under the watchful eyes of the teachers. To impress upon the teachers and students eminent scholars and dignitaries were invited. One such personality to visit was Allama Rasheed Reza of Jamia Azhar, editor of Al-Manar, Egypt, and a disciple of the famous Egyptian reformer Muhammad Abduh. Another distinguished visitor was Sir Agha Khan. The reputation of Nadva fascinated two parents of Oman and Kuwait to send their children for education. An English man, Kirpatri, who had embraced Islam, also joined Nadva. A British neo-Muslim by the name of Sheikh Muhammad who belonged to Mombasa and was well-versed in all the languages of Africa, came from Bombay to learn Arabic at Nadva so that he could go back to Africa and preach Islam in African languages.

In 1906 during the annual session of Nadvatul Ulama held in Benares (Varanasi), an academic exhibition was held. It was the first of its kind in modern times in India in which rare manuscripts; royal farmans, paintings, astronomical instruments and other rare articles were displayed. It had a profound effect on the minds of the people and helped in understanding the rich cultural heritage of India and of Islamic culture. It was in this session that Maulana Abul Kalam Azad delivered a speech in which he emphasized that the success of the Muslims lies in the proper understanding of the Qur’an. Thereafter, Shibli spoke eloquently on Qaumi Taraqqi, which reeled around the personification of Muslim identity and called for the adherence to the principles and preaching of Islam. Of the students Maulvi Abdul Bari and Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi gave speeches. This was the first performance by madrasa students in public gatherings and was highly appreciated by the people.

At Nadva Shibli groomed a number of students who proved themselves to be worthy students of a worthy teacher. The foremost name that can be taken is that of Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi who followed the footsteps of his intellectual mentor and carried forward Shibli’s mission. Another important name is that of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who served as sub-editor of Al-Nadva from October 1905 to March 1906. Although his stay at Nadva was short, yet the brief association with Shibli sharpened his wit and writing skill and inculcated in him much of Shibli’s political thinking. Another name worth mentioning is that of Maulana Abdus Salam Nadvi, an eminent writer of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy, whose scholarship Shibli had prophesized. Some other scholars who benefited from Shibli were Maulana Ziaul Hasan Ali Nadwi and Maulana Abdul Bari Nadvi. In a short period of time Nadva was able to produce a band of English knowing students who were able to get government service.36 Under Shibli Nadva became the voice of the Muslims. Most of the Indian Ulama paid their attention towards it. The famous Arabic scholar Dr. Harvez described Nadva Madrasa as the best in the whole of United Province for Arabic studies, and emphasized that it was the lone institution where teachers were trained to lecture.[37]

It was Shibli Nomani and Maulvi Abdul Wahab who first drew the attention of the Muslims towards the incorrect and mischievous writings of British scholars in history books in order to disparage Islam and Muslims. To repudiate the false allegations a separate department bearing the name Saighah-i-Tassih-i-Aghlat-i-Tarikh-i-Islami was opened with Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi as its Secretary in 1910. Information from newspapers and other writings were to be collected to point out the historical errors. For this purpose Shibli personally wrote a number of letters to Muslim teachers in different parts of the country, but unfortunately none of them replied.38 Thereupon, Shibli himself shouldered the task and pointed out two such authors, Morrisdon and Delafos, whose books were taught in Calcutta, Allahabad, and other Universities. Urdu newspapers such as Watan and Paisa gave considerable coverage to the matter, and even some English newspapers highlighted the news. But the Universities paid no attention. Consequently, Shibli sent a reminder to the Registrar of Allahabad University asking him to remove A. Morrisdon’s book from the courses of study and that C.F.Delafos book be included only after necessary modification. The result of all this was that Morrisdon personally came to Lucknow for talks with Shibli and assured him of removing the objectionable portion.39 Errors were also pointed out in two Geography books of Allahabad University in which incorrect Christian population of the world was given. Shibli also strongly rejected the criticism made by some books in Hindi and Marathi that Islam was spread by force, and was critical of the exaggerated information given by Romesh Chander Dutt in respect to the achievements made by Indians during ancient times.40 Probably all this made Shibli perceive the idea of establishing Dia’rah Ta’alif or Writers’ Circle whose Fellows were to devote themselves exclusively to research and writing on a pattern similar to European academies.

Shibli used Nadva as a platform to initiate programmes for the defence and propagation of Islam. It was felt that Islam had not been properly projected and presented before non-Muslims. During contemporary times a major problem before the Indian Muslim community was the threat posed by the Arya Samaj Movement. Another menace that emerged in the region of Punjab came from a new creed called Qadiyani. Shibli expressed his views on this issue in an article called Hifazat-wa-Ish’at-i-Islam. In order to denounce counterfeit claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani, Shibli lectured on Khatm Nabuwwat during his visit to Amritsar. Imitating the example of Arya Samajists Shibli was of the opinion that Muslim volunteers should be trained and a permanent department should be opened for this purpose and its branches with maktabs should be opened in all the districts to keep an eye on the developments. Shibli realized the necessity of raising a separate fund so that the Muslim volunteers could perform their duty free of monetary worries.41 He also suggested publication and distribution of brochures enumerating the principles of Islam and the message of Holy Qur’an in simple Hindi. Perhaps, it was with this end in view that he had hitherto vociferously advocated the study of Sanskrit and Hindi in Nadva.

Shibli wanted Nadva to be declared as a religious centre of the Muslims of India with branches spread all over the provinces. To this suggestion, after deliberation, opinion was expressed that its possibility depended on the support extended by different sectarian groups of Muslims. Unfortunately for lack of coordination the scheme could not materialize. Had it been so it would have been of great religious and political significance, resulting in a strong leverage for dialogue with the British government on matters concerning the Muslims.42

Shibli not only preached but also practiced. Once he got the information from a merchant, Safaed Khan, that in a remote village of Jamalpur near Shahjahanpur, a Muslim Rajput ra’is was contemplating of converting to Hinduism along with his men. The people of that village accordingly appealed to the Ulama to come to their help and reply to the queries that the Muslim Rajput was making. Shibli, along with some students of Nadva, went to Shahjahanpur. From there he was unable to go further because of his amputated leg. Hence he requested the people to carry him in a litter to that village. But no one came to his help. Thus his three days stay at Shahjahanpur went in vain, for ultimately the ra’is became a Hindu.43

Under the banner of Nadva Shibli vigorously worked for the cause of Waqf-ala-al--Awlad, an issue, which hitherto Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan had also tried to raise before the government. By his speeches, lectures, writings, and documentary evidence Shibli succeeded in presenting the true merit of Waqf. His views and efforts were supported by Sheikh Abdul Qadir (Barrister), Choudhary Sultan Ahmad (Barrister), Maulvi Abdul Hai (Ra’is of Saharanpur), Nawwab Imadul Mulk, and Mr. Jinnah. While arguing in the Indian council in support of the bill Nawwab Abdul Majeed especially thanked Shibli for his efforts in exposing the importance of the Waqf according to the Islamic Shariat and giving it the force of a movement.44 Eventually the bill was passed but by then Shibli was not alive to see his effort bear fruit.

But Shibli’s life at Nadva was not very smooth and he had to steer his way amidst troubled waters. Opposition to the Nadva Movement started from almost its early years of inception in 1896 and the men who took active part in spreading the mischief belonged to Rohilkhand led by Maulana Ahmad Reza Khan. He wrote a number of treatises in opposition to Nadva, which led to the growth of an extremist group called Jadwa. Differences ranged from petty issues such as why chairs were placed and expensive lightning arrangements made in meetings to more serious matters such as framing of the syllabus, mode of teaching, why Sayyid Rasheed Reza was invited and government aid accepted, and many such issues. Even Shibli’s former teacher and intellectual mentor, Maulana Farooq Chiryakoti, differed with him on some matters. Lieutenant Governor of United Provinces, Sir Antony Mac’donal, also expressed suspicion over the ulterior motives of Nadva.

Those who felt that reforms needed to be carried in Madrasa teaching and in Dars Nizamiyah were Maulana Altaf Husain Hali, Maulana Ahmad Reza Khan Brelvi, Maulana Abdul Ghani, Maulana Muhammad Yunus Khan, Hafiz Shah Muhammad Husain Allahabadi, Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani, and Maulana Mufti Muhammad Abdullah Tonki. But they were unable to make a unanimous decision. As a result, in practice, the old courses continued to be taught for various reasons.45 This was resented by Shibli.46 The relations between rival groups turned so bitter that in the Madras session (1904) certain opposition members circulated a printed ‘Gaali Namah’(abusive pamphlet).

The first serious difference came on the surface when Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Ali Mungeri, the first nazim who held moderate views, resigned in 1904. Although apparently he resigned on health grounds, in reality it were the underlying differences that forced him to quit. Maulana Masih-uz-Zaman who succeeded him also resigned in April 1905. The syllabus committee, which was set up time and again and consisted of such reputed men as Maulana Hafeezullah, Maulana Qayyum Hyderabadi, Maulvi Abdul Hai, Maulvi Abdullah Tonki, Maulana Hafiz Abdul Qadir, Maulvi Muhammad Farooq Chiryakoti and Shibli Nomani, was unable to draft a prospectus which could genuinely satisfy Ulama holding divergent views on the subject.

Much of the active opposition to Shibli started since 1908 because of his radical views and curtailment of a number of books on maqulat (rational sciences). His views regarding the learning of English were supported by such men as Maulana Abu Muhammad Abdul Haque Dehlavi, Maulvi Sayyid Sharfuddin(Barrister,Patna) and Sheikh Ghulam Sadiq(ra’is, Amritsar) However, firm opposition sparked off when he started promoting the study of English and also introduced the study of Sanskrit. From the very beginning Maulana Khalilur Rahman, Maulana Abdul Haq Haqqani, Maulana Shah Sulaiman Phulwari, Munshi Ehtesham Ali and few others expressed the fear that English education along with the study of modern science and philosophy would expose the students to the ills of Western Culture and would make the Muslims apostate.47 In 1900 when a resolution was passed to introduce English as an optional subject, it met with stiff opposition and some members threatened to dismantle the institution. Subsequently when English teaching was introduced for an hour, two landlords who had endowed some of their property to Nadva withdrew their deed.48 The determination with which Shibli discouraged excessive attention paid to maqulat (rational sciences) and mantiq (logic), replacing them with the study of Holy Qur’an and Diniyat, which he believed to be a better way of understanding and preaching Islam, was not welcomed. But Shibli braved his way to make drastic changes in the courses of study. The number of books on philosophy and logic were reduced, and books on Adab and Tafseer(Qur’anic commentaries) were increased. English was made compulsory along with Geography and Mathematics.49

The three muatamids could not work in cohesion. Except for Shibli who had left all the worldly affairs for the cause of Nadva, the other two muatamids took more interest in their personal professions. They, however, left no opportunity to find fault in the working of Shibli. On the other hand Shibli expected from them to pay greater attention to the needs of the institution. But this offended them and they considered it as interference in their working.

The fame and popularity, which Shibli had earned, made many of the members of Nadva envious of him. One of his well wishers Nawwab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, had earlier forewarned him that as soon Nadva will earn reputation he will be hounded by the maulvis. And, the man who did utmost damage to Shibli was Maulvi Khalilur Rahman. He was an ambitious man who had started behaving arrogantly as the Nazim of Nadva. His first opposition to Shibli was seen on the occasion of the laying of foundation stone ceremony of the building in Nadva in 1908 when he opposed the consensus sought for the placement of the issue of Waqf-ala-al-Awlad before the government. The following year in a meeting he demanded the dissolution of the post of Motamadi-i- Darul Uloom held by Shibli. His proposal was, however, not accepted. Later in 1913 the post of muatamids was dissolved without bringing it in the agenda of the meeting and was passed by the local members, a process which was unlawful according to the statutes of Nadva.50

To build public opinion against Shibli objections were raised on certain portions of his books, Al-Kalam and Ilm-ul-Kalam. It was further stressed that Shibli’s living was not in strict conformity with what was expected of an Alim and that he was not a proper person to head a religious institution. He was accused of leading a life-style, which tended to make the students go astray. Above all, it was alleged that Shibli was at heart a member of the Aligarh Movement who had joined Nadva to destroy it. In fact there were men with conflicting thoughts, for some of them wanted to make Nadva a constituent part of Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College, Aligarh. But, Shibli, despite his support for English education, stood firmly for the maintenance of separate identity of Nadva.

Meanwhile the conspirators led by Khalilur Rahman worked in a planned and determined manner to oust Shibli. In a meeting of the Managing Body they succeeded in increasing the strength of the members from 35 to 51, thereby numerically reducing the supporters of Shibli in the Managing Body. Shibli was aware of his precarious position but he did not conspire or indulged in machinations against his adversaries.51 He, however, wrote a letter to Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani in June 1910 asking him to come to Nadva to resolve the crisis. In his letter, he drew attention towards the financial irregularities committed by some of the members, and pointed out that for the past four years auditing had not been conducted, nor income and expenditure report published in Al-Nadva, as was the practice. He further blamed that all construction work was done without the approval of the Construction committee or the Financial Committee and its meetings had not been called for the past four years.52

Subsequently, in a meeting without the prior notification of the agenda to be discussed, Khalilur Rahman suggested setting-up of a committee to probe the religiosity of the students of Darul Uloom. Shibli remained a silent spectator. Thereafter, it was demanded that Shibli should also be asked to give explanation as Mua’tamid-i-Darul Uloom. All this had a telling effect upon Shibli and he decided to disassociate himself from Nadva. He wrote letters in quick succession to Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani apprising him of the situation and rejected the blame that he had interfered in the functioning of Maulvi Khalilur Rahman, Maulvi Abdul Hai and Munshi Ehtesham Ali.53

The rivals of Shibli then announced a date of hearing. A week ahead of it they made an extensive publicity of the matter throughout the city. On the schedule day many dignitaries of the city were also invited so that they could view the scene of Shibli’s dismissal. But God had something else in store. Shibli, a celebrated writer and historian, accustomed to knock out his adversaries with irrefutable facts, entered the assembly hall with calm and steady composure with a copy of the constitution of Nadvatul Ulama. As soon as the proceedings of the meeting started Shibli questioned the nature and legality of the meeting, pointing out that it was not at all held in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. The assembled members could not come up with a proper reply.54 Ultimately the meeting ended in a fiasco.

The incident brought considerable disgrace to Nadva. At this juncture Colonel Abdul Majeed, the foreign minister of the State of Patiala, interceded to bring about understanding between the two groups. Meanwhile in May 1912 Shibli relinquished the responsibilities as the editor of Al-Nadva. In 1913 a new problem cropped up owing to Maulvi Abdul Kareem, a newly appointed teacher at Nadva. He was an intelligent and talented person, which prompted the opposition members to project him as equal to Shibli in thought and action. Consequently, he was made editor of Al-Nadva. But soon his writing on Jihad landed him in trouble. As soon as the writing came to light it was feared that it would earn the wrath of the British government to whom the word Jihad evoked instant suspicion and fear. In haste, in order to hush up the matter and to win the goodwill of the government, the muatamids of Nadva including Shibli, by a unanimous consent suspended Maulvi Abdul Kareem for two days. But objections to this decision were raised by several members of the Managing Body of Nadva who revoked the suspension of Mauvli Abdul Kareem on grounds that it was legally beyond the purview of muatamids to do so. In view of that, a second meeting was proposed and its decision was to be reported to the Deputy Commissioner. But in the meantime Munshi Ehtesham Ali and perhaps a couple of other members met Deputy Commissioner and apprised him of all that had happened. From the talks they gauged that the Commissioner wanted stringent action to be taken against Maulvi Abdul Kareem. Hence, they suspended Maulvi Abdul Kareem for six months. Thus it is strange that the members, who were not prepared to accept Abdul Kareem’s suspension for even a day or two, handed him six months of suspension letter. For this ultimate action many people held Shibli responsible, although he had nothing to do with it and had not gone to the Commissioner’s office with other members.55

Dejected by the events Shibli left for Bombay and from there sent his resignation letter on 9 July 1913. Immediately after, Maulvi Sayyid Abdul Hai and Munshi Ehtesham Ali also resigned from their posts. But their resignations appear to be a part of an ulterior scheme, for in the meeting of the Managing Committee (18-20 July 1913) Maulana Khalilur Rahman was made full-fledged Nazim, and Maulvi Sayyid Abdul Hai and Munshi Ehtesham Ali were made Deputy Nazim. Maulvi Abdullah Tonki was given free hand in his working.56

The news of Shibli’s resignation created nationwide unrest among the Muslims. At Nadva students organized a meeting and sent telegrams requesting Shibli to withdraw his resignation. Letters of its kind also came from various individuals. But Shibli stood his ground, although he stated that service to the cause of Nadva shall continue to remain the mission of his life. From Bombay Shibli went to Hyderabad where the Nawwab of Hyderabad required his presence for the proposed project on the translation of Holy Qur’an in English. Moreover, having relieved himself from the affairs of Nadva, Shibli set himself to the task of compilation of Siratun Nabi, biography of Prophet Muhammad (pbh).

However, since Shibli had been so passionately associated with Nadva, he could not desist from coming back to Lucknow in December where the students warmly greeted him. Speaking on the occasion he recited a couplet, which reflected his inner feeling that his end was near, and the hope of the mission of his life rested with the students. At Lucknow, on request by the students, he started giving short lectures to them on Bukhari Shareef after sunset. The officials of Nadva disliked this and they issued a notice forbidding the students to attend the lectures. This agitated the minds of the students. Another event which contributed to heighten anger and bitterness was holding of miladshareef(holding of celebration on Prophet’s birthday). It was customary of the students to hold this yearly programme wherein Shibli would lecture on the life and preachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbh). At first attempts were made to prevent the programme from being organized, but then out of fear of general resentment, permission was granted with certain restrictions. Meanwhile, a notice was issued dissuading students from participation in political gatherings. This escalated the brewing tension, and students declared a general strike. Since the strike took place at a time when the Indian Muslims were enraged on account of the Balkan Wars and War of Tripoli, coupled with the demand of upgrading Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College into a University, the strike became a matter of grave concern to the whole nation. Contemporary newspapers such as Zamindar(Lahore), Hamdard(Delhi), Muslim Gazette(Lucknow) and Al-Hilal(Calcutta) wrote in support of the students and Shibli. Young Muslim revolutionaries such as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Muhammad Ali, Sayyid Hasrat Mohani and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan who drew much of their inspiration in life from Shibli, came forward in support of the students. Khwaja Wahiuddin, a ra’is of Lucknow, through his writing in Al- Hilal criticized the tackling of the situation by the members of Nadva and was critical to those who put the whole blame on Shibli.

In the meantime former students of Nadva who lived in Lucknow laid the foundation of Old Boys’ Association. Its secretary Maulvi Masood Ali Nadvi ably conducted the strike, which continued for over two months. Demonstrations and protest meetings were held in various parts of the country. In a bid to resolve the crisis and bring about reforms in the working of the institution Shibli wrote to many of his friends and students such as Nawwab Sayyid Hasan Ali Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulvi Masood Ali and Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi. Some of their replies were intercepted by the officials of Nadva. They misconstrued the contents, and Shibli was accused of having fomented the whole trouble. Members of Nadva who were in favour of reforms formed Majlis-i-Islah-i- Nadva in Lucknow in April 1914 and its branches were opened in different parts of the country. The man who did yeoman service to this cause was Maulana Abul Kalam Azad through the columns of Al-Hilal. Hakeem Ajmal Khan, the noted physician and freedom-fighter also joined hands with him in this venture. After several rounds of talks and meetings at Delhi, the members succeeded in persuading the students to call off the strike. On 24 May 1914 a general meeting was called in Delhi under the aegis of Majlis-i-Islah-i-Nadva, and a new Dastur-ul-Amal of Nadva was drafted. Shibli was invited to attend the meeting, but he expressed his inability to go on account of poor health and being preoccupied with the writing of Siratun Nabi in Bombay. He, however, through his letter called upon the members to work in harmony with each other. He also suggested that two or three persons should be entrusted with all the responsibilities and their decisions should be acceptable to all provided it gets the approval of the Managing Body. Later in a meeting held on 18 March 1915 Majlis-i-Islah-i-Nadva accepted most of the principles for which Shibli had been raising his voice. But Shibli did not remain alive to see the day.

Nadvatul Ulama, Lucknow, owed its origin to the collective efforts of a group of enlightened Indian Ulama who had the good wishes of some of the Arabian Ulama as well. The prime movers of the Movement were selfless workers who showed no interest in projecting themselves as the founders. This is why in later years a controversy arose regarding the real founder of Nadva. Be that as it may the growth of this institution belies the general myth that the Indian Muslims were absolutely conservative and refused to change. After 1857 in the field of knowledge no other Movement had gained such popular support as that of Nadva Movement. Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam, Lahore, Anjuman Islamia, Punjab, Anjuman Islamia, Amritsar, Majlis Moin-ul-Nadva(Bihar), Anjuman Moin-ul-Nadva ,Meerut, and a number of other schools and orphanages owed their existence to the spirit generated by Nadva. Sir John Hewitt, Lieutenant Governor, highly praised Nadva and its syllabus, and described it as a blend of past educational thought and methodology with that of modern learning suited to the aspirations of the people. Its progressive thought attracted English knowing Muslims to attend its deliberations. In its annual session held in Calcutta in 1904 a number of Hindus such as Raja Dagpat, Maharaja Natwar and Banerjee Gosh attended its meeting. The famous Arabic scholar, Dr. Harvez, described it as the best madrasa of United Provinces for Arabic studies of contemporary times, highlighting the point that Arabic was the medium of instruction and where teachers were also trained how to lecture. For all this remarkable growth of education it was Shibli Nomani who galvanized the latent energy of the Muslim Ummah. His speeches and lectures were eagerly awaited and heard with rapturous attention, so much so that often his verses rendered in gatherings were immediately printed and purchased by the people. Such was his reputation that in 1899, Allama Sayyid Rasheed Reza, whose name has been mentioned earlier, proposed the name of Shibli Nomani for the reform movement in Egypt.57 Hakeem Ajmal Khan praised Shibli as a learned and enlightened scholar and said that Nadva owed all its development to the efforts of this untiring soul who worked heart and soul for its uplift. His efforts deserve commendable praise if we take into consideration that he worked with an amputated leg. It is indeed an undeniable fact that Shibli was ever ready to sacrifice the pleasures of life for the sake of Nadva, nursing the ambition of seeing Nadva develop into a University of Islamic Religious Sciences – an institution where scholars could lecture fluently in Arabic and English.

As it is to be seen Shibli fell victim to a long drawn internal strife and unscrupulous behaviour of his rivals, a feature quite common in most of the madrasas of the Indian sub-continent. The crisis, in fact, reflects the conflict between the conservative forces and the liberal progressive thinking. The strike of the students was a manifestation of some basic flaw in the working of the institution. The men who opposed Shibli were self-conceited, shortsighted and obsessed with racial superiority. They were not prepared to loosen their control over the institution and showed no serious concern to resolve the conflicting issues. It were these men who had hitherto opposed the establishment of Darul Musannefin at Nadva. On the other hand Shibli had lofty ideals of democratic principles. He believed in consensus of the general people in the running of the administration, and wanted transparency in financial dealings of the institution.

Nevertheless Shibli was not free of weaknesses. He was outspoken and unrelenting in his behaviour and thought and was very much self-conscious of his ability. He disliked meeting people during his study-hours. Some of his letters bear harsh tones, which must have been irksome even to his well-wishers, although it must be remembered that they arose out of his anxiety for the promotion of Nadva. It was on account of this intense zeal that he could not instantly break off all ties with Nadva after his resignation. Overwhelmed by the thought that he could still serve Nadva, howsoever informal it may be, he returned back to Lucknow. On hindsight it may be said that Shibli should not have done so, for subsequently it landed him in a fresh controversy ultimately leading to the strike by the students. In one of his writings he explicitly states that he had in no way instigated the strike, but reiterated the point that to many people the strike was an expression of the genuine demands of the students. His objection to Abdul Kareem’s writing was undoubtedly for reasons of political expediency and in the interest of Nadva. Perhaps, Shibli could have written better on this topic, but he should not have termed the writing of Abdul Kareem as abhorrent.

To many people Shibli’s living was not in conformity with the traditional mode of living adopted by the conservative Ulama. But it must be remembered that being a writer, poet, historian, educationist, and a person with a broad vision, he could not devote himself exclusively to Imamat or teaching and preaching in a hospice. In his thought and action he did not discard traditionalism but accepted it with modernity of thought. In fact, he was a representative of his age – an age of transition, which was poised for a new beginning, and Shibli was among its harbingers.

The immediate effect of Shibli’s resignation on the fortunes and prestige of Nadva was disastrous. The strength of the students was reduced to mere 32 students. The publication of Al-Nadva suffered a chequered history and it had to be closed in 1916. It was restarted after great effort in 1940. The study of Sanskrit and Hindi was discontinued. This resulted in a great loss in so far as its learning would have initiated the study of comparative religions among the Muslims. For Shibli, the departure from Nadva was a boon in disguise, for had he not left Nadva, the scheme of Siratun Nabi, his magnum opus, as well as the foundation of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy might not have materialized.


1. Javed Ali Khan, Early Urdu Historiography, Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna, 2005, pp.43, 54-72.
2. Maulvi Muhammad Ishaque Jalees Nadvi, Tarikh-i- Nadvatul Ulama(Vol.1), Daftar-i- Nizamat Nadvatul Ulama, Lucknow, 1983, p.38.
3. Javed Ali Khan, op.cit., pp.66-67 ; S.M. Husain, Islamic Education in Bengal, Islamic Culture,Vol.8 (1934),quoting report of the Calcutta University
4. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, Entazami Press, Kanpur, 1894, p.27.
5. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, Entazami Press, Rampur, 1899, p.10.
6. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, op.cit., 1894, p.46. This information has been provided by Mamluk Ali, a teacher of Dehli College, who had served in
two such madrasas. The subjects taught in these madrasas included Adab, Mathematics and Ma’qul.
7. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, op.cit., 1894, p.50. It may be noted that on 22 June 1813 a bill was passed in the House of Commons that those
priests who wish to go to India with the intention of converting Indians to the fold of Christianity can go. As a result, 29 missionary Societies
and Associations started working (names given in Rudad) and 12 American Christian Societies.(Rudad-i- Nadvatul Ulama, p.90).
8. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1896, p.98.
9. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, Calcutta, 1901(December), Mahmudul Mat’ba, Kanpur, p.66.
10. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama,(Ed). Shibli Nomani, Asi Press, Lucknow, 1907, p.67.
11. Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revivalism in British India: Deoband (1860-1900), Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1982, p.56.
12. It did not satisfy many Muslims. The inauguration of Mohemadan Anglo Oriental High School by William Muir (24 May 1878) was frowned upon
by many Muslims because it was he who had made insinuative remarks about Prophet Muhammed (pbh) in his book.
13. He himself made great effort to learn English and was able to read out the telegrams in English. See Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, Hayat-i-Shibli,
Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy, Azamgarh, 1999, p.302.
The places he travelled in India included Nageena(Bijnor), Najeebabad, Etawah, Aligarh, Jhansi, Bhopal, Bombay and Berar.

14. For a detailed discussion on this point, see Rudad-i- Nadvatul Ulama, Kanpur, 1894, pp.158-160.
Some of them were Fazl Rahman Ganj Muradabadi, Haji Imadudaullah Muhajir Makki, Mawlana Lutfullah, Abdul Hai, Maulana Shah Sulaiman
Phulwari, Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani and Munshi Athar Ali (Ra’is of Kakori).
15. Muhammad Ishaque Jalees, op.cit., pp.104-111; Rudad-i- Nadva, 1901, p.68.
16. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1904, p.22.
17. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, op.cit., p.310.
18. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, op.cit., 1894, p.50.
19. Maulvi Muhammad Ishaque Jalees Nadvi, op.cit., p.90.
20. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, op.cit., 1894, p.34.
21. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, Kanpur, 1894, pp.46-47.
22. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, Bans Bariely, 1896, pp.66-67.
23. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, Mahmudul Mat’ba, Kanpur 1901 (December), p.10. The letter bears the following message

Maulana Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi writes in Hayat-i-Shibli:

24. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1904, p.110.
25. Maulvi Shams Tabrez Khan, Tarikh-i-Nadvatul Ulama (Vol.2)1st edition, Daftar-i- Nizamat Nadvatul Ulama, Lucknow, pp.39-40. It may be noted
that Maulana Khalilul Rahman Saharanpuri was the son of Maulana Ahmad Ali Muhaddis Saharanpuri who had been the teacher of Shibli
Nomani. Maulana Sayyid Abdul Hai was made mua’tamid-i-murasalat(i.e., that of correspondence) and Maulana Muhammad Ehtesham Ali was
made mua’tami-i- mal (i.e., that of financial matters).
26. The English department consisted of four persons: Tirmiz Husain (M.A. Head Master), Baqar Husain (Second Master), Deen Muhammed (Third
Master) and Abdul Jaleel (Fourth Master). Shamsul Ulama Mufti Abdullah Tonki and Maulana Sher Ali taught logic and philosophy. Adab was
taught by Maulana Farooq Chiryakoti and Sheikh Muhammed Tayyab Makki Rampuri. Other teachers were Sheikh Umar (of Bhopal), a master of
Hadees, and Maulana Hafeezullah (of Ghazipur, Madrasa Chasm-i-Rahmat).
27. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1904, p.98.
28. Ibid, 1907, p.20.
29. Maulvi Muhammad Ishaque Jalees Nadvi, op.cit., p.192. For Al-Bayan, see Rudad-i- Nadvatul Ulama, 1907, p.20.
30. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1912, p.113.
31. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, op.cit., pp.491-92. But Shibli was not satisfied with this outward manifestation. When the partitioned walls raised from
the ground became visible on the plane surface, Shibli out of intense impulse went to the site (February, Friday,1910) along with all the
students and teachers and said to the assembled people that let us now lay the real foundation. Accordingly everybody approached the
structure meant for the study of Tafseer. Labourers were asked to stand aside, and the people themselves started bringing bricks and other
building materials. Shibli also joined them and carried bricks to the mason. He then prayed for the prosperity of Nadva. He would often visit the
site, sometimes alone and sometimes along with his companions. This building witnessed a grand celebration when Allama Sayyid Rasheed
Reza and Sir Agha Khan visited Nadva at the behest of Shibli.
32. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1897, pp.34-35.
33. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1910, p.61.
34. In a short period of time Nadvatul Ulama was able to produce a band of English knowing students. For example, Ziaul Hasan Alvi, who later completed his education at Aligarh became the first Inspector of Arabic Madrasas in 1916 in the State of Uttar Pradesh. Maulana Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi owed his knowledge of English to Nadva and with its knowledge was able to work in Europe. Maulana Abdul Bari Nadvi was able to translate many English books of modern Philosophy, Psychology and Morality into Urdu. This earned him the Professorship of Philosophy in Jamia Usmania University. Maulvi Zainul Abdeen Nadvi and Maulvi Ahmadullah Nadvi were able to go to America and England respectively. Some other persons whose name can be mentioned in this regard are Haji Moinuddin Nadvi and Maulvi Masood Alam Nadvi.

35. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1904, p.120.
36. These were Maulvi Muhammad Yaseen, Professor at Patna College, Maulvi Sheikh Abdul Qadir (M.A.), Professor at Deccan College, Pune (Bombay), Muhammad Abdul Aziz, Principal, Islamia College, Lahore, and Muhammad Ebraheem Qureshi (L.T.), Madras (Madras University). Some persons of Allahabad were also approached. See Rudad Nadvatul Ulama, 1912, p.78.
37. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1912, pp.79-87.
38. Ibid., pp. 89-90, 91.
39. His call met with success and about 150 Muslims enrolled themselves as members to offer financial assistance.
40. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1904, pp.157-8.
41. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1912, pp. 163-64.
42. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1910, pp. 75-76; Rudad…, 1912, p.126.
43. Ibid., 1894, p.92; Tarikh-i Nadva, Part ll, p.48.
44. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, op.cit., p.392.
45. Tarikh-i-Nadva, Part ll, p.64.
46. Rudad-i-Nadvatul Ulama, 1912, p.112.
47. Ibid., 1907, p.73.
48. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, op.cit., pp.641-42; Makatib-i-Shibli, Part ll, Matba’ Ma’arif, Azamgarh, 1971, pp.98-99
49. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, op.cit., p.641.
50. Ibid., p.642.
51. Ibid., p.643.
52. Ibid., pp.644-45. Actually some of the members of the Managing Committee assembled in another room and forwarded the argument that they are empowered to make and unmake laws. To this Shibli pointed out that even for such a decision the constitution stipulates that fifteen days prior notice should be given to all the members
53. Shibli gave clarification of his position in one of his letter accusing his rivals of playing a double role in respect to Abdul Kareem. For details see Hayat-i-Shibli, pp.647-650; Makatib-i-Shibli, Part l, p.305.
54. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, op.cit., pp.643-645.
55. Maulvi Muhammad Ishaque Jalees Nadvi,Tarikh-i-Nadvatul Ulama, Daftar Nizamat Nadvatul Ulama, Lucknow, 1983,p.90.
56. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi, op.cit.,p.650.
57. Maulvi Muhammad Ishaque Jalees Nadvi, op.cit., p.90.

Maulana Shibli Nomani : Maulana Abdul Majid Dariyabadi

Maulana Shibli Nommi
By Maulana Abdul Majid Dariyabadi

(The article is a courtesy from "Tahzeeb", monthly journal of Aligarh Old Boys Association of Karachi.)