1. Hamīd al-Dīn al-Farāhī
Al-Farāhī was born in 1863 in Phriha (hence the name Farāhī), a small village in Azamgarh district (Uttar Pardesh, India). He was a cousin of the famous theologian-historian Shiblī Nu‘mānī (d. 1914), from whom he learnt Arabic. He studied Arabic literature withFayd al-Hasan Sahāranpūrī (d. 1887), who was considered a master in this field at that time. At the age of twenty one, he took admission in the Aligarh Muslim College to study modern disciplines of knowledge. Here he also learnt Hebrew from the German Orientalist Josef Horovitz (d. 1931). After graduation from Allahbad University, he taught at various institutions including Aligarh and Dār al-‘ulūm, Hyderabad.
Whilst teaching at the Dār al-‘ulūm, al-Farahī proposed the setting up of a university where all religious and modern sciences would be taught in Urdu. Later in 1919, his vision materialized in the form of Jāmi‘ah Uthmāniyyah, Hyderabad.In 1925, he returned to his home town Azamgarh and took charge of the Madrasah al-Islāh. Here, besides managing the affairs of the Madrasah, al-Farāhī devoted most of his time in training a few students. Among them, was Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, who was destined to become the greatest exponent of his thought after him. Farāhī died on 11th November 1930 in Mithra, where he had gone for treatment.
For almost fifty years, al-Farāhī reflected over the Qur’an, which remained his chief interest and the focal point of all his writings. His greatest contribution is to re-direct the attention of Muslim scholars to the Qur’ān as the basis and ultimate authority in all matters of religion. He stressed that the Qur’ān should be practically regarded as the mīzān (the scale that weighs the truth) and the furqān (the distinguisher between good and evil), a status which it invests on itself. Thus Ahādīth cannot change or modify the Qur’ān in any way. They should be interpreted in the light shed by this divine book and not vice versa. It was as result of this status of the Qur’ān that he insisted on the univocity of the Qur’ānic text and rejected that variant readings be regarded as the Qur’ān per se.
It was his deep deliberation on the Qur’ān that led him to unfold its nazm (coherence) in a unique way. By taking into consideration, the three constituents of nazm: order (tartīb), proportion (tanāsub) and unity (wah@dāniyyah), he proved that a single interpretation of the Qur’ān was possible. This alone was a far reaching consequence of the principle of Qur’ānic nazm. Serious differences in the interpretation of the Qur’ān which have given rise to the menace of religious sectarianism are actually the result of disregarding thematic and structural coherence in the arrangement and mutual relationship of various Qur’ānic verses and paragraphs. Each sect has adopted its interpretation because isolating a verse from its context can associate multiple meanings to it. It is only the coherence of the Qur’ān, which, if considered, leads to a definite and integrated understanding of the Divine Message.
Al-Farāhī also made another significant contribution by rewriting and reconstructing most sub-disciplines of the Arabic language needed to study the Qur’ān.
Almost all of al-Farāhī’s works are in Arabic. Except for a few, most of them are in the form of notes and unfinished books. He could only complete a few of them. Foremost among them is a collection of his interpretation of fourteen sūrahs of the Qur’ān by the name Majmū‘ah tafāsīr-i Farāhī. In his Mufradāt al-Qur’ān, he explained some difficult words and constructions of the Qur’ān. He elucidated the nature of oaths and adjurations in the Qur’ān in his book entitled Al-Im‘ān fī aqsām al-Qur’ān. In his book, Al-Rā’y al-sahīh fī man huwa al-dhabīh, he elaborated upon the philosophy of sacrifice and by furnishing evidences from the Qur’ān and the Torah convincingly refuted the claim of the Jews that it was Isaac (sws) not lshmael (sws) whom Abraham (sws) had intended to sacrifice. He re-laid the principles of rhetoric needed to study the Qur’ān in Jamhurah al-balāghah and outlined some special Qur’ānic styles and constructions in Asālīb al-Qur’ān. The arguments he presented to verify the principle of coherence are soundly enlisted in Dalā’il al-nizām. His complete mastery of Arabic and Persian can be seen from his poetical works in both these languages.
Besides these scholarly dissertations, there are at least twenty other unfinished works which need to be completed and developed further.
2. Amīn Ahsan Islāhī
Islāhī was born in 1904 at Bamhūr, a small village in Azamgarh (U.P.), India. He passed out from the Madrasah al-Islāharound 1922. The teacher which influenced him the most during his student life at the Madrasah was‘Abd al-Rahmān Nigrāmī (d. 1928?), himself a versatile genius. Nigrāmī’s attention helped him in developing a profound inclination towards Arabic literature. After graduating from the Madrasah, he entered the field of journalism. For a while, he edited a newspaper Madīnah at Bijnawr and also remained associated with Sach, a newspaper edited by the luminary ‘Abd al-Mājid Daryābādī (d. 1977).
From 1925-1930, he remained with al-Farāhī like a shadow. It was in this formative period of his life in which he developed a deep understanding of the Qur’ān and learnt from al-Farāhī the principles of direct deliberation on the Book of Allah. After al-Farāhī’s death, Islāhī studied Hadīth from a celebrated scholar of this discipline, ‘Abd al-Rahmān Muhaddith Mubārakpurī (d. 1935). In 1936, he founded the Dā’irah-i Hamidiyyah, a small institute to disseminate the Qur’ānic thought of al-Farāhī. Under the auspices of this institute, he brought out a monthly journal, al-Islāh, in which he translated many portions of al-Farāhī’s treatises written in Arabic.
Islāhī was among the founder members of the Jamā‘at-i Islāmī, a religious party founded by the eminent Islamic scholar, Abū al-A‘lā Mawdūdī (d. 1979), in 1941. In 1958, he abandoned the Jamā‘at, after serious differences arose between him and Mawdūdī on the nature of the constitution of the Jamā‘at.
After leaving the Jamā‘at, he finally got the chance to fulfil his cherished goal of writing a commentary on the Qur’ān. He also launched a monthly journal Mithāq in which portions of this commentary, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān,were published. In 1961, he established a small study circle Halqah Tadabbur-i Qur’ān for college students to whom he taught Arabic language and literature, the Holy Qur’ān and the al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh of Imām Muslim. He also taught Shāh Walī Ullāh’s Hujjatullāh al-bālighah and Ibn Khaldūn’s Muqaddimah to some pupils.
It was on the 29th of Ramadān 1400/ 12th August 1980 that the great day arrived – the day when a monumental effort reached its culmination: the Tadabbur-i Qur’ān had taken twenty-two long years to complete. In the Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, he produced a masterpiece of tafsīr which does not simply reflect the principles of his illustrious mentor, al-Farāhī: it also bears the stamp of originality. It is indeed a unique work that has ushered in a new era in the field of scriptural interpretation. Islāhī proved from a Qur’ānic verse that the Almighty has divided the Qur’ān in seven discrete groups keeping in view the preaching mission of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). Each of these groups has a theme and sūrahs are arranged in a group keeping in view this theme. Within a group, the sūrahs themselves generally occur in pairs with regard to the subject discussed in them. Each sūrah also has a specific theme which is the most comprehensive statement of its contents.
In 1981, Islāhī founded the Idarah Tadabbur-i Qur’ān-o Hadith, which remained until his death (15th December 1997) the centre of his intellectual activities. A quarterly journal Tadabbur started publication in 1981 as its organ. He gave weekly lectures on the text of the Qur’ān. Later, he took up deep study on the principles of Hadith and began teaching al-Mu’attā’ of Imām Mālik in weekly sittings to a close circle of students and associates. After completing al-Mu’attā’, he also taught some portions of Imām al-Bukhārī’s al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh.
Besides the Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, Islāhī authored a number of books in Urdu on various topics of Islam. They include Tazkiyah-i nafs (Purification of the Soul), Haqīqat-i shirk-o tawhīd (The Essence of Polytheism and Monotheism), Da‘wat-i dīn awr us ka tarīqah-i kār (Islamic Message and the Mode of its Preaching), Islāmī riyāsat (The Islamic State), Mabādī tadabbur-i Qur’ān (Principles of Understanding the Qur’ān), Mabādī tadabbur-i Hadīth (Principles of Understanding the Hadīth), Islāmī riyāsat mayn fiqhī ikhtilāfāt kā hal(Solution of Juristic Differences in an Islamic State) and Islāmī qānūn kī tadwīn (Codification of Islamic Law).
Islāhī also translated al-Fārahī’s commentary consisting of fourteen sūrahs of the Qur’ān, as well as the following books by him from Arabic: Fī man huwa al-dhabīh (Which of Abraham’s son was Sacrificed?) and Aqsām al-Qur’ān (Oaths of the Qur’ān).
www.amin-ahsan-islahi.com is a resource site on his life and works.
3. Jāved Ahmad Ghāmidī
Jāved Ahmad Ghāmidī was born in 1951 in a village of Sāhīwāl, a district of the Punjab province. After matriculating from a local school, he came to Lahore in 1967 where he is settled ever since. Hedid his BA honours (part I) in English Literature from the Government College, Lahore in 1972 and studied Islamic disciplines in the traditional manner from various teachers and scholars throughout his early years. In 1973, he came under the tutelage of Amīn Ahsan Islāhī (d. 1997), who was destined to who have a deep impact on him. He was also associated with the famous scholar and revivalist Abū al-A‘lā Mawdūdī (d. 1979) for several years. He taught Islamic studies at the Civil Services Academy for more than a decade from 1979 to 1991.
Ghāmidī has written and lectured widely on the Qur’ān, Islamic law and various other aspects of Islam. He is the founder-president of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences (www.al-mawrid.org) and is the chief editor of the Urdu Monthly “Ishraq” (www.ghamidi.net/Ishraq.html) and the English Monthly “Renaissance” (www.monthly-renaissance.com). He is also the founder of the Mus‘ab School System (www.musab.edu.pk). He appears regularly on various tv channels to discuss Islam and some contemporary issues as a part of his campaign to educate people about Islam. His talks and lectures can be accessed online from www.tv-almawrid.org.
Ghāmidī has drawn heavily from the Qur’ānic thought of his two illustrious predecessors, Hamīd al-Dīn al-FarāhīandAmīn Ahsan Islāhī presenting many of their views in a more precise manner. However, many of his contributions to the Islamic thought are original.
Both these features can be witnessed in his ongoing annotated translation of the Qur’ān, al-Bayān. It takes the reader close to the classical Arabic of the Qur’ān in which ideas are conveyed with brevity and terseness. Words and concepts which are understood are suppressed and left to theperspicacity of the reader. To achieve this brevity, various devices are employed in classical Arabic which are not found in most other languages. Ghāmidī has tried to unfold the meaning of the divine message by taking into consideration these devices within the text of the translation.
Another original contribution of Ghāmidī is his categorization of the contents of religion. According to him, the Qur’ān itself divides the contents of Islam in two categories: al-Hikmah and al-Sharī‘ah. Whilst the former refers to topics related to the philosophy of religion, the latter to those that relate to law. Ghāmidī further classifies these two categories into sub-categories. The former comprises two sub-categories: Faith and Ethics and the latter comprises ten sub-categories: The Sharī‘ah of Worship Rituals, The Social Sharī‘ah, The Political Sharī‘ah, The Economic Sharī‘ah, The Sharī‘ah of Preaching, The Sharī‘ah of Jihād, The Penal Sharī‘ah, The Dietary Sharī‘ah, Islamic Customs and Etiquette, Oaths and their Atonement. In each of these categories, Ghāmidī has made unique contributions in interpreting the directives of the Qur’ān. Examples include his views on the specific nature of the preaching mission of Abraham’s progeny, the punishment of apostasy, the testimony and diyat of women, the etiquette of gender interaction, slavery in Islam, the requisites of citizenship, inheritance laws and the general and specific directives of jihād.
Ghāmidī has also contributed to the science of hermeneutics. He has enunciated foundational principles of understanding Islam in his essay, Usūl-o mabādī(Fundamental Principles). These principles take into account the specific nature of the texts of the Qur’ān and Hadīth. One distinctive feature of the approach that pervades these principles is what can be summed up in the form of a dictum: the Hadīth should be interpreted in the light shed by the Qur’ān and not vice versa.
An important contribution of Ghāmidīis the distinction he has made between sharī‘ah and fiqh. They are generally rather loosely regarded as synonymous. Whilst the former is divine, the latter is a human endeavour and thus the two must be distinguished from one another. In his seminal work on Islam, Mīzān, he has attempted to decipher the sharī‘ah from the sources of Islam.
Another prominent contribution of Ghāmidīis his concept and definition of the word Sunnah. Whilst categorizing it to be distinct from Hadīth, he has laid down certain principles to precisely determine its corpus. By applying these principles, he has actually come up with a list of contents of the Sunnah.
Ghāmidīhas also presented an integrated framework of the concepts and terms of Islam in his essay Haqīqat-i dīn (The Essence of Religion). This framework in itself is a representative of a complete interpretation of Islam in contrast with the two other prevailing interpretations of Islam in the Muslim ummah: the tasawwuf-based interpretation and the jihād-based interpretation.
Burhānand Maqāmāt are two of Ghāmidī’sother books. The former is a treatisein which contemporary religious thoughts have been critically analyzed, while the latter is a collection of religious and literary essays.