Ideal Scholar

Exemplary Model

According to Dr. Usha Sanyal, the picture presented by the Urdu-speaking biographers of Imam Ahmad Raza Khan (may Allah be pleased with him) is of a man who embodied in every act and thought the best in the scholarly tradition of Sunni Islam.

Because the Imam modeled his life and work around on his vision of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), he in turn became a model for emulation and the center for a movement of revival and reform. Lucette Valensi describes the image of the ideal scholar embedded in a 15th century biological dictionary from the Maghreb:

.... the learned man is one who has evinced since childhood a passion for learning and a capacity for understanding the sciences; one who is endowed with an infallible and powerful memory; one whose ability to endure [long hours of] study exceeds the the norm; one who excels in not one but a great number of branches of learning; one who exhibits a subtle intelligence. He makes himself known particularly by the solving of an enigma: the paradigmatic anecdote that one looks for here is the presentation by the Master of a problem that the other students are unable to solve, indeed that even the Master is unable to solve, and that is impeccably resolved the talented young man.

The learned man must also, Valensi goes on to say, have Mystic knowledge of God, and discharge an important function in his community. Most important, he must be both 'cosmopolitan', in touch with the sources of high religious tradition, and embedded in his society. This permits him to mediate, through his voluminous writings, between the universal and the local, for his corpus is the product as much of his local milieu as it is of a universalistic Islamic tradition.

Reading Valensi, I [Dr. Usha Sanyal] see a remarkable likeness with the image of Imam Ahmad Raza Khan  (may Allah be pleased with him) conveyed by Maulana Zafar ud-Din Bihari (may Allah be pleased with him) and other biographers. In his life, his followers found a model for their own.

Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) was an authority on both the rational, traditional branches of knowledge and was recognized as a versatile genius of his age. In his youth he was a perfect master of the different arts and sciences and he left a rich academic memorabilia in all the branches of knowledge before his demise at the age of 65 years.
The rational aspect of the academic knowledge of Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) is very important and interesting to our modern age. His valuable research and written work took an analytical view and a critical survey of the scholastic and modern philosophers also the discoveries, research and practical findings of scientists to which he pointed out their shortcomings and mistakes.

He wrote an estimated of 1000 books and treatises in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu on more than 50 branches of knowledge. Very few have been published and many are lying unpublished in Bareilly. The most voluminous work is the collection of Verdicts i.e. Fatawa-e-Ridawiyya. In 1324/1904, he had completed its seven volumes, which afterwards increased up to 12 volumes of 26x20/8 size and each volume containing more than 1000 pages. 

Ahmed Raza Khan was a genius writer. His first book was the Arabic commentary of "Hidaya al-Nahv" (Arabic grammar), which he wrote at the age of 10. The second book was "Dau al-Nihaya" in Arabic, which he wrote in 1285/1868 at the age of 13. In 1305/1887 at the age of 30 years he has completed 75 books and treatises. In 1327/1909 this number increased up to 500. Apart from these contributions he had written annotations and commentaries on more than 150 books pertaining to various branches of learning. Some of these papers are of such a high degree that the bibliography consists of books innumerable.