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Early Days

On the outskirts of Delhi near the tomb of Khwaja Nizamuddin there lived some seventy years ago a godly person in the house on top of the red gate of the historical building called Chaunsath Khamba. His name was Maulana Mohammad Ismail.

Maulana Mohammad Ismail

The. ancestral home of Maulana Mohammad Ismail was in Jhanjhana in the district of Muzaffarnagar. But when after the death of his (Ismail) first wife he married again in the family of Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh Kandhlawi who belonged to the same ancestry as him he visited Kandhla frequently and it became a second home to him.

The family of Siddiqui Sheikhs of Jhanjhana and Kandhla had been known for generations for piety and learning and was held in high esteem in the neighborhood. The lines of descent of Maulana Mohammad Ismail and Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh Become one six generations upwards. with Molvi Mohammad Sharif. The lineage runs as follows: Maulana Mohammad Ismail son of Ghulam Husain son of Hakim Karim Bakhsh son of Hakim Ghulam Mohiuddin son of Molvi Mohammad Sajid son of Mofti Mohammed Faiz son of Molvi Mohammad Sharif son of Molvi Mohammad Ashraf son of Sheikh Jamal Mohammad Shah son of Sheikh Baban Shah son of Sheikh Bahauddin Shah son of Molvi Mohammad Sheikh son of Sheikh Mohammad Fazil son of Es Sheikh Qutub Shah.

Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh

Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh was among the most outstanding pupils of Shah Abdul Aziz. Besides being a distinguished teacher author and legist he was also a Unani physician of a high order and possessed a thorough knowledge of both the rational and traditional sciences. He had a great command over Arabic Persian and Urdu poetry as well as is borne out by his commentary of Banat Su'ad in which he has translated every line of Hazrat K'ab into Arabic Persian and Urdu verse. He left behind about 40 books in Arabic and Persian of which Shiyamul Habib and Mathnaawi Maulana Rum Ka Takmial are more famous.

Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh had taken ba'it at the hand of Shah Abdul Aziz. A glowing proof of his sincerity and selflessness was that though he was a renowned spiritual mentor himself on the death of Shah Abdul Aziz he felt no hesitation in taking ba'it at the hand of the latter's young deputy Syed Ahmad Shaheed who was about 28 years his junior in age and in seeking guidance from him. Mufti Sahib was born in 1748 and died in 1831 at the age of 83 years. All his sons and grandsons were men of learning and position. Scholarship and religiousness have been the characteristics of this family Molvi Abul Hasan's Mathnawi Gulzar-i-Ibrahim which forms a part of his well-known work Bahr-i- Haqiqat is a poem of rare spiritual feeling. Till recently it was very popular. His son
Molvi Nurul Hasan and all the four grandsons Molvi Ziaul Hasan Molvi Akbar Molvi Sulaiman and Hakim Molvi Ibrahim attained to fame as worthy representatives of their celebrated ancestors.

Maulana Muzaffar Husain

Mufti Saheb's nephew Maulana Muzaffar Husain who was a most favorite pupil of Shah Is'haq and a deputy of Shah Mohammad Yaqub and had also been favored with the company of Syed Ahmad Shaheed was a very pious and godly person. He never touched anything that was of doubtful purity in the eyes of the Shariat. Incidents of his humility and prayer and fullness are still fresh in the memory of the people of the neighboring areas and serve as a reminder to the glorious days of the earliest decades of Islam.

The maternal grand-daughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain was married to Maulana Mohammad Ismail. It was his second marriage which was solemnized on October 3 1868. Maulana Mohammad Ismail was the tutor of the children of Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh who was related to Bahadur Shah Zafar the last of the Mughal Emperors. He lived as we have seen. in the house on top of the red gate of Chaunsath Khamba. Close to it was a small mosque with a tin shed in front which used to serve as the parlor of Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh and owing to it it was called Bangle Wali Masjid.

The Maulana was spending his days in obscurity and even Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh had no idea of his high station till he had a personal experience of how the Maualna prayers were granted by God. Worship Zikr (repeating the Names praise and Attributes of the Lord) attending to the needs of the travelers and teaching the Quran giving instruction in the Faith were his sole occupation in life. He used to take down the load from the heads of the thirsty laborers who passed the way place it on the ground draw water from the well and give it to them to drink and then offer two Rak'ats of Salaat expressing gratitude to the Lord that He had given him the opportunity to serve His bondsmen though he did not deserve it. He had attained the state of Ihsan.

Once as he requested Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi to teach him Sulook the latter remarked "You don't need it. You have already attained the objective that is to be reached through this method. It is like a person who has read the Quran saying that he should also read the elementary text book of Arabic because he had not begun with it".

The Maulana was very fond of the recitation of the Quran An old wish of his was that he went on grazing the goats and reciting the Quran. He was very particular about some member of his family keeping vigil in the night. His second son Maulana Yahya used to study till midnight and then the Maulana himself got up and Maulana Yahya went to bed and for the last part of the night he woke up his eldest son Maulana Mohammad.

The Maulana never bore a grudge against anyone. His detachment with the world was so complete that it had made him attached to everybody. All the persons who came into contact with him were impressed by his piety sincerity and selflessness. Leaders of the different warring groups of Delhi held him in the highest esteem and put an equal trust in him though they disliked each other so much that none of them was willing to offer Salaat behind the other.

The link with Mewat too was established in his lifetime. It is related that once he went out in the hope of finding a Muslim whom he could bring to the mosque and offer Salaat with him On meeting some Muslim laborers he inquired from them where they were going.? "We are going in search of work" they replied. "How much do you expect to earn?' asked the Maulana. The laborers thereupon told him about the daily wages they generally received. "If you get the same here " the Maulana asked "What is the use of going elsewhere " The laborers agreed and the Maulana took them to the mosque and began to teach the Salaat and the Quran. He would pay them their wages every day and keep them engaged in their lessons. In a few days they developed the habit of offering up Salaat. Such was the beginning of the Madrassa of Bangle Wali Masjid and these laborers were its first scholars. After it about ten Mewati students always remained in the Madrassa and their meals used to come from the house of Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh.

Death of Maulana Mohammad Ismail

Maulana Mohammad Ismail died on :26th February 1898 in Khajoor Wali Masjid at the Tiraha of Bahram in Delhi. The number of mourners at his funeral was so large that though long bamboo poles had been tied to the either side of the bier to enable them to lend a shoulder to it many people did not get a chance during the entire route of three- and-a-half miles from Delhi to Nizamuddin.

Muslims belonging to various sects and schools of thought who never got together joined the procession. The Maulana's second son Maulana Mohammad Yahya narrates that my elder brother Maulana Mohammad was a very soft-hearted person and had a most obliging nature. Fearing that he might invite someone to lead the funeral service behind whom people of another sect or group refused to offer the prayer and thus an unpleasant situation arose I stepped forward and said that I would lead the service. Everyone then offered the prayers peacefully and there was no dissent or commotion.

Owing to the vast concourse of men the funeral service had to be held a number of times and the burial was delayed. During it a venerable person and another man known for his spirituality had a vision that Maulana Mohammad Ismail was saying "Send me off soon. I am feeling ashamed The Holy Prophet is waiting for me

The Maulana had three sons: Maulana Mohammad from the first wife and Maulana Mohammad Yahya and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas from the second who was the maternal granddaughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain The Maulana had married her after the death of his first wife.

Maulana Mohammed Ilyas

Maulana Mohammed Ilyas was born in 1885 His childhood was spent in maternal grandfather's home in Kandhla and with his father at Nizamuddin. In those days the Kandhla family was the cradle of godliness and piety so much so that reports of the high religiosity nightly devotions and Zikr and Tilawat of its members both male and female would seem imaginary and fictitious to the faint-hearted men of our time

The ladies used to recite the Quran themselves in the Nafl prayers as well listen to its Tarawih and other Nafl prayers. standing behind the male relatives The month of Ramadan in particular was the springtime for the Quran. It was read for long hours almost in every home The limit of absorption was that sometimes the ladies forgot to pay attention to purdah and would not become aware of the coming of outsiders in the house at a time of urgent need.

The Quran with its translation and commentary in Urdu and Mazaahir-i-Haq Mashariq ul Anwaar and His-i-Haseen formed the limit of the education of the ladies. Deeds and accomplishments of the families of Syed Ahmad Shaheed and Shah Abdul Aziz were the most popular themes of conversation and facts regarding these illustrious men of God were on everybody's lips. Instead of the stories of kings and fairies ladies of the household related these to the children.

Ammi Bi Maulana Ilyas's maternal grandmother

The Maulana's maternal grandmother Amtus Salam who was the daughter of Maulana Muzaffar Husain and was known in the family as Ammi Bi was a very pious lady. About her Salaat the Maulana once observed "I saw her likeness of Ammi Bi's Salaat of Maulana Gangohi"

During the last phase of her life Ammi Bi's state was that she never asked for food and ate only when someone placed before her. It was a large family and there was always so much to do. If the thought of having her meal! did not occur to her in the midst of domestic chores she simply went hungry. Once someone said to her "You are so old and weak. How do you manage to without food ?" "I draw sustenance from my Tasbihat (remembrance of Allah) was her repy"

Bi Safia Maulana Ilyas's mother

The mother of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas Bi Safia had learnt the Quran by heart and attained great distinction in it. It was a regular practice with her to recite the whole of the Quran and additional ten Juze (part) every day during Ramadan. She thus completed forty recitals of the Quran in that month and was so fluent in it that her household duties did not suffer on account of it. See generally kept herself engaged in some work while doing the recitation. Apart from the month of Ramadan her daily routine of worship included: DURUD Sharif 5 000 times; Ism-i-Zaat Allah 5 000 times; Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim 1 000 times Yaa Mughnee-u 1 100 times La illaaha illallaah 1 200 times Yaa-Haiyyu Ya Qaiyum 200 times Hasbiallaah wa ni'mul Vakil 500 times; Subhan Allah 200 times; Alhamdu lillaah 200 times; La ilaaha illallaah 200 times; Allah O-Akbar 200 times; Istighfar 500 times; Ofwwizu amree illallaah 100 times; Hasbunallaah wa ni'mul Vakil 1000 times; Rabb-i in-ni maghloobun fantasir 1 000 times: Rabb-i-inni masanni-az-zurru wa anla ar-hamur rahimeen 100 times; Laa ilaaha enta subhanaka in-ni kunzu minaz-zalimeen 100 times. In addition she recited a Manzil (1/7) of the Quran everyday.

Like all other children in the family the Maulana Ilyas began his education in the maktab and according to the family tradition learnt the Quran by heart. The learning of the Quran was so common in the family. that in the one-and-a-half row of worshippers in the family mosque there was not a single non Hafiz except the Muezzin. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas was Ammi Bi's favorite child. She used to say; to him. "Ilyas I feel the aroma of the holy Companions in you. " Sometimes placing her hand on his back she would say "How is it that I see figures resembling the holy Companions moving along with you?

From his childhood there was present in Maulana Mohammad Ilyas a touch of the religious ardour and fervent feeling of the blessed Companions which had led Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan to remark that "when I see Mohammad Ilyas I am reminded of the holy Companions. Eagerness and enthusiasm for Faith were ingrained in his nature. Even in his early days he sometimes did things which were much above the common level of the children. Riazul Islam Kandhlawi a class fellow of his in .he Maktab says that "when we were reading in the Maktab he Maulana Mohammad Ilyas once came with a stick and said "Comes Riazul Islam let us do Jihaad against those who do not offer up Salaat

Stay at Gangoh

In 1893 his elder brother Mohammad Yahya went to live at Gangoh with Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas used to live with his father at Nizamuddin and sometimes with his maternal grand-father's family at Kandhla. At Nizamuddin his education was being neglected owing to the over- fondness of his father and his own excessive occupation with prayers. Maulana Yahya thus requested his father that as the education of Mohammad Ilyas was suffering he might be allowed to take him to Gangoh. The father agreed - and Maulana Mohammad Ilyas came to Gangoh in 1896 or early 1897 where Mohammad Yahya began to teach him regularly.

Gangoh in those days was the seat of Sufi-saints and savants the benefit of whose company was constantly available to Maulana Mohammad Ilyas. A greater part of his impression able age was spent there. When he went to live at Gangoh he was 10 or 11 years old and at the time of Maulana Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi death in 1905 he was a young man of about 20. Thus he stayed with Maulana Gangohi for about 9 years.

Maulana Mohammad Yahya was an ideal teacher and benefactor. He wanted his brother to derive the utmost advantage from the society of those illustrious men. Maulana Mohammad Ilyas used to tell that when the Ulema who had been the favorite pupils or disciples of Maulana Gangohi came to Gangoh his brother would often stop the lessons and say that his education then lay in sitting with them and listening to their conversation.

Usually Maulana Gangohi did not take bait from children and students. It was only when they had completed their education that he allowed them to take the pledge. But owing to the exceptional merit of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas he at his request permitted him to do the bait at his hand.

Maulana Mohammad Ilyas had been born with a loving heart. Such a strong attachment did he develop for Maulana Gangohi that he felt no peace without him. He would often get up in the night go and see the Maulana's face and return to his bed. Maulana Gangohi too had a great affection for him. once Maulana Mohammad Ilyas told his brother of severe headache after which he could not bend his head even to the extent of performing the Sajdah on a pillow for months. Maulana Gangohi son Hakim Masud Ahmad who was his physician had a peculiar method of treatment. In certain diseases he forbade the use of water for a long time which was :unbearable to most of the patients. But with the strength of mind that was so characteristic of him Maulana Mohammad Ilyas abided strictly by the advice of his physician and abstained from drinking water for full seven years and during the next five years he drank it only sparingly.

There was little hope that he would be to resume his education after the discontinuation owing to illness. He was very keen to take it up again but his well-wishers would not allow. One day as Maulana Mohammad Yahya said to him what he would in any case do by studying he retorted "What will I do by living?" Ultimately he succeeded in resuming his studies.

The death of Maulana Gangohi occurred in 1905. Maulana Mohammed Ilyas who was at his bedside during the dying moments and reciting the Sura of Ya-Sin was so deeply affected by it that he used often to say "Two shocks have been most painful to me. One was of the death of my father and the other of the death of Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. " In 1908 Maulana Mohammad Ilyas went to Deoband where he studied Tirmizi and Sahih Bukhari from Maulana Mahmood Hasan. The latter advised him to approach Maulana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri for spiritual guidance and instruction since his mentor Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi was no more and thus he completed the various stages of Sulook under Maulana Saharanpuri's supervision.

Absorption in prayers

During his stay at Gangoh after the death of Maulana Gangohi Maulana Mohammad Ilyas generally remained silent and spent most of his time in meditation. Says Maulana Mohammad Zakaria "We read elementary Persian from him those days. His practice then was that he sat cross legged and in utter silence on a coarse mat behind the tomb of Shah Abdul Quddus. We presented ourselves for the lesson opened the book and placed it before him indicating with the finger where we were to begin from on that day. We would read aloud and translate the Persian verses. When we made a mistake he would shut the book with a movement of the finger and the lesson came to an end. It meant that we were to go back prepare the lesson thoroughly and then come again . . . ................. He used to offer Nafl prayers much and often at that time. From Maghrib till a little before Isha he devoted himself exclusively to Nawafil. His age then was between 20 and 25 years.