In-depth knowledge

We hear about religious scholars, sages, mystics and saints who are simultaneously linguists, economists or scientists. That is to say they are cognizant of all physical and metaphysical secrets. Alahazrat Imam Ahmad Raza Khan (may Allah be pleased with him) possessed this kind of versatility. He was the fountainhead of our culture whose ideas and thoughts are among the most potent in Islamic history. 

Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) interacted on a day-to-day basis with a dispersed set of people who sought his advice regarding all kinds of matters, big or small and he set some hours in the late afternoon for this purpose in the same way that Sayyid Nuri Miyan (may Allah be pleased with him) had done.

When a middle-aged man came to Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) saying that after many years of childlessness, he had six children only to loose five of them, and that he now had only a three-year old daughter left, Imam Ahmad Raza said:

Next time you are expecting an infant, come here and tell me within two months of conception. Also tell me your wife and mother’s names. Thereafter, insha’llah, arrangements will be made. Make sure everyone in your household is punctilious in offering prayer, and after every prayer the Ayat al-Kursi should be repeated, and apart from the daily prayer (namaaz), the Ayat al-Kursi should be repeated thrice a day; before sunrise, before sundown, and at bedtime. Even woman who do not have permission to perform prayer [i.e., are menstruating] should repeat this ayat, but on such days they should say it with the intention not of repeating an ayat (literally 'sign' verse of the Quran] of the Quran but of praising Almighty Allah. And, on the days they are permitted to read the prayer (namaaz), they should also read the ‘qul’ three times thrice a day (before sunrise, before sunset, and before sleeping). [Detailed instructions on the position of the hands follow.] There is an elderly man here who makes lamps (chiragh), get him to make you one, and light it from the time of conception takes place right until the time of birth. As for the daughter you already have, if she gets ill, light a lamp for her as well. The lamp will guard against sorcery (sihr), misfortune (aseb) and disease. And, as soon as a new child is born the Azan should be repeated in its ear seven times, fort times in the right ear and three times in the left ear. There should be absolutely no delay in doing this, because if you delay, Satan enters [the child’s body]. For forty days after birth, the child should be weighed against grain, and [the equivalent weight of grain] given in alms. After that, this should be done once a month until it’s one year old; once every two months until it is two years old and once every three months until it is three. In it’s fourth year, this should be done once every four months, and so too in its fifth year. In its sixth year, it should be done every six months, and from its seventh year on, once a year. Do this for your daughter as well, since she is in her fourth year, weigh her every four month. Repeat the Azan out loud in her ear for seven days at Maghrib, seven times on each occasion. And for three evenings, the Surat al-Baqara should be read by a qualified reader (kwan) in a loud voice that will reach every corner of the house. At night the door of the house should be shut while saying 'Bismi’llah', and the same when opening the door in the morning. When going to the bathroom, one should say the Bis’millah outside the door and enter with one’s left foot first, and when leaving, one should extend one’s right foot first. When taking off one’s clothes or bathing, one should say Bis’millah first, and when approaching one another, both husband and wife should remember to say this first. If you observe all this advice, insha’allah, no harm will befall you.

Alahazrat Imam Ahmad Raza’s (may Allah be pleased with him) lengthy response shows the seriousness which he viewed the persons problem, but also his very deep in-depth knowledge of this science, without discarding the Sharia. The ingredients of the cure were, essentially simple: punctiliousness in observing the namaaz (prayer), repetition of certain verses of the Quran (repetition of Ayat al-Kursi being widespread as a cure), awareness of the details of every personal deed, and the correct way of performing it, and finally the giving of alms on a extensive scale. A distinctive feature of the Imam's response, which recalls Denny’s comment that reciting the Holy Quran is in a sense a magical act, and that reciting a certain verse of the Quran repeatedly would ward off problems at hand. [Denny, 'Islamic ritual' in Martin (ed.) Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies]

This was made especially clear when, on another occasion, Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked whether one could receive baraka (grace) only after death or also during one’s lifetime. He replied that grace may be accrued both before and after death, and indicated to the Surat al-Mulk [referred to as Sura Tabaraka in the text], which he explained, intercedes for the person who prayed to it. The sura was portrayed anthropomorphically (behavior to inanimate objects) in the female gender:

Nothing exceeds this sura’s ability to save [the dead] from the punishment of the grave and to convey peace and tranquility. If the punishing angels wish to come to the reader of this great sura, she [the sura] stops them from doing so. If the punishing angels try to come from another direction, she hinders them from there. "He is reading me", she says. The angels say, "We have come at His command, whose kalam [speech] you are." Then the sura says, "Wait then, and don’t come near him until I return." And then the sura puts up such a fight on behalf of the reader at Almighty Allahs court, pleading for his pardon…. If there is a delay in the pardon being granted, she argues, "He used to read me, and You haven’t forgiven him. If I am Your kalam, tear me out of Your Book". The Eternal, All-powerful Lord replies, "Go. I have forgiven him." The sura immediately goes to heaven and she collects silk cloths, pillows, flowers and perfumes from there, and brings them to the grave. "I got held up coming here", she explains. "You didn’t get worried, I hope?" And she spreads out the cloths and the pillows, while the punishing angels, commanded by Almighty Allah, go away.

While Imam Ahmad Raza Khan (may Allah be pleased with him) attached considerable importance to the 'magical' act as a cure to problems, he also emphasized on numerous occasions the role of individual effort, and of internal 'purity of heart' and reason in achieving the desired result. Just as a Pir could not by himself ensure the progress of the disciple unless the disciple had the right intention, so also with the removal of obstacles. His Eminence, Hazrat Maulana Khushtar Siddiqui Qadiri Razvi has also stressed this point to his disciples on numerous occasions, on having the 'right intention'.

If the seeker was pure of heart, Almighty Allah would never fail him and Imam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) cited a hadis qudsi (Divine Saying) in which Almighty Allah is reported to have said,"……And if he draws nearer to Me by a hands breath, I draw nearer to him by an arms length; and if he draws nearer to Me by a fathom, I draw nearer to him by a fathom; and if he comes to Me walking, I will come to him running". Thus, clearly indicated, the duty was on the individual seeker to make the first move towards Almighty Allah before he could be helped.

In the same way, Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) cautioned his listeners not to undertake the fast of Hajj, or go into seclusion toward the end of Ramadaan (e’tikaf), for the wrong reasons. They must first perform these deeds for Almighty Allah, not for themselves, although good would come to them as a result of having done them. And when judging the actions of others, they must be careful not to entertain doubts about others sincerity as long as a possibility existed that were well-intentioned. They had to be constantly watchful over the heart, ever given to disobedience (ma’asi) and reprehensible innovation (bi’da). A time could come when a person became completely blind to the truth.

The Malfuzat reveal the wide variety of questions that Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him) dealt with in these daily conversations, and, some related to personal appearance, such as the permissibility of dying one’s hair black, wearing one’s hair long if one were a man or wearing rings of various metals. Other questions related to ritual practice, such as the correct manner of performing ablution (wuzu) before prayer, the performance of prayer itself, or the etiquette (adab) to be observed in the Mosque. Sometimes conversation turned to marital relations, or to relations with non-Muslims, beliefs about the dead, their intercession with the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) on behalf of the living, the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) knowledge of the unseen, all these and several other matters were discussed repeatedly.

In terms of religious authority in Imam Ahmad Raza Khan's Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him) life, particular in reference to the role of a ‘Pir’, it is clear that he exercised considerable personal religious authority over his followers, as did his Pir and other saintly scholarly men over him. What were the possible sources of this authority?