Shah Wali Allah



Qutb al-Din Ahmad ibn 'Abd al-Rahim, popularly known as Shah Wali Allah, lived at a critical juncture of Muslim history. India had enjoyed the peaceful and prosperous rule of the Mughals for more than 200 years, but by the time of Shah Wali Allah, mutually hostile principalities had begun to emerge. Many of the newly emerging quasi independent states were the result of the rising influence of the militant Maratha, Sikh and Hindu communities and Muslim power and glory in the sub-continent, as in other parts of the world, were gradually eroded. It was at this time of utter despair and despondency for Muslims that Shah Wali Allah was born.

Shah Wali Allah was able to diagnose, at an early period of his life, the malaise of his society. In his view, it consisted of: (i) lack of strong faith, (ii) disunity in the Muslim ranks, and (iii) acute moral degeneration. He tried to redress lack of faith by presenting a rational interpretation of Islam. He intuitively presented rational arguments side by side with traditional dialectics. Shah Wali Allah addressed the disunity by attempting to bring about reconciliation between the diverse schools of law and theology. Shah Wali Allah knew very well that, without purification of the heart, it was not possible to overcome the moral degeneration which permeated the individual and collective life of the Muslim community and he advocated tasawwuf, which, for him, meant a direct approach to the heart. His father Shah 'Abd al-Rahim (d. 1131/1719) had initiated him into the realm of spirituality.

Shah Wali Allah adopted both short-term and long-term measures for rebuilding the culture, polity and ideological orientation of the Muslims. The thrust of his reform movement ranged from matters of belief to social structure, from politics and statecraft to economy, from legal and juristic concepts to philosophical and metaphysical ideas. He addressed himself to the needs of this world but at the same time did not forget to respond to the requirements of ultimate success in the Hereafter.

The principles of Qur'anic exegesis, which he set forth in al-Fawz al-Kabir, introduced a new dimension in the science of tafsir. He emphasized a direct approach to the Qur'an. Prior to Shah Wali Allah, because of the notion that the Qur'an may not be translated, Qur'anic scholarship had been an exclusive domain of specialists. Shah Wali Allah took a bold initiative and translated the Qur'an into Persian, the lingua franca of the Muslim literati in the sub-continent. Thereafter it became increasingly possible for ordinary people to understand the teachings of the Qur'an. A growing number of scholars concentrated their efforts in explicating the message of the Qur'an. 'Ubayd Allah Sindhi, one of the most prominent exponents of Shah Wali Allah's philosophy, expressed the view that after being imbued with the philosophy of Shah Wali Allah, one can understand the overall message of the Qur'an directly from its text and can be satisfied with it without being compelled to seek any external aid.

   The Qur'an had always been regarded as the primary source of legal doctrines, yet later jurists tended to regard only approximately five hundred verses as legally important. Even men like Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505 /1111) had not considered it necessary for a mujtahid to master the rest of the verses. Further, the classical exegetes tended to assign a certain strict context to each verse of the Qur'an. Shah Wali Allah emphasized that the Qur'an was applicable to the entire human thought and experience, emphasizing the essential comprehensibility of all the verses of the Qur'an, including those assigned by the exegetes to the category of mutashabih.

After a comprehensive survey of the contents of the Qur'an, he classified its themes under five subjects: (i) ahkam (injunctions); (ii) mukhasamah (dialectics); (iii) tadhkir bi ala' Allah (reminding man of the Divine favours); (iv) tadhkir bi ayyam Allah (reminding man of God's interventions in history); and (v) tadhkir bi al-mawt wa ma ba'd al-mawt (reminding man about death and the life thereafter). This classification clarified many misunderstandings of the Qur'an as well as a number of problems in the sequence of the verses, their inter-relationship and thematic coherence. Many 'ulama' had been neglecting dialectics of the Qur'an and thus were unable to appreciate the discourse of the Revelation which was addressed to all mankind, belonging to either of the following categories: (i) the faithful, (ii) the people of the Book, (iii) the polytheists or atheists, and (iv)  the hypocrites.

Shah Wali Allah's approach to the Science of Hadith is characterized by his view that the Sunnah is essentially a commentary on the Qur'an itself, rather than something independent of it. An intensive analysis of the Prophet's traditions led him to see an organic relationship between the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Further, he brought out the rational and beneficent considerations underlying the directives of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He also took note of the severe criticism made against Ahl al-Sunnah by the rationalists, partly under the impact of Hellenistic philosophy in the classical period of Islamic thought. He advocated the traditional point of view of the former and supported it with strong rational arguments.

   Shah Wali Allah adopted a method of interpreting the traditions of the Prophet in which he has shown an evolutionary process in the lives of all Prophets from Ibrahim up to Muhammad (peace be upon them), in that they received Divine guidance gradually and commensurate with the onward progress of human civilization. He looked upon the teachings of all Prophets as a continuous commentary on the ever-unfolding process of revealed guidance. Moreover, unlike many other jurists, Shah Wali Allah did not assign to ijma' (consensus) a categorical position as an independant source of law. He had, rather, a restricted conception of ijma'. He recognized the binding character of the consensus based on the rulings of the early caliphs, especially Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman, the three immediate successors of the Prophet (peace be upon him), on any interpretation of the Qur'an or the Sunnah. He granted this special status to these Companions on grounds of their close association with the Prophet and their temporal proximity to him. Any other consensus which took place at any later period was, in his opinion, not of the same consequence in as much as it does not bind Muslims of any other era or area to any particular view. Thus, Shah Wali Allah gave ijma' a somewhat diminished position. According to him, ijma' is an explanatory source and an authentic interpretation of the Qur'an by those whose understanding is less fallible than of others for the reasons we have stated earlier. The fourth source of law, according to the generally held view of jurists, is qiyas (analogy). Again, this is not recognized by Shah Wali Allah as an independent source because it is integral to our process of understanding the Qur'an and its interpretations that are either embodied in the Sunnah or can be derived from the collective understanding of the Companions in the Best Era (khayr al-qurun).

 In the field of law and jurisprudence, Shah Wali Allah had a remarkable ability to reconcile the differing views found among Muslims and explain them with reference to the basic principles that may be deduced from the Qur'an and be plausible on rational grounds. He mentions this ability as a great Divine favour to him. Shah Wali Allah did this with theology and mysticism as well. This is evident, for instance, from his synthesized version of the doctrines of wahdat al-wujud (unity of existence) and wahdat al-shahud (unity of manifestation).

The evolution of classical Kalam from the end of the second century hijrah onwards had taken place mainly in response to the intellectual challenges posed by the Hellenic metaphysics. The expansion of the Muslim State beyond the Arabian Peninsula, and the resultant interaction between Muslim intellegentia and the Persian and Byzantine civilizations and Greek thought had given rise to a number of intellectual debates. New questions betrayed an attitude of skepticism towards some of the very basic postulates of Islamic worldview. Muslim scholars accepted this challenge and responded to it vigorously. They delved into the Hellenic intellectual legacy, and not only articulated the position of Islam in response to the new questions, but also undertook a critical examination of the Greek logic and other important tools of their dialectics. In this process the scholars of Islam sought to establish the superiority of the Islamic Weltanchaaung on the one hand, and to expose the fallacies underlying certain assumptions of Greek philosophy on the other.

   These Muslim scholars, known as mutakallimun, resorted to articulating their position in the intellectual terms which they shared with the main exponents of Greek philosophy. As these discussions went on, a distinct corpus of knowledge emerged and the bulk of literature thus produced by Muslim scholars came to be known as `I1m al-Kalam. In this process there appeared a galaxy of scholars who contributed to the development of `I1m al-kalam and in the course of time diversified those discussions. Notable among them were such luminaries as al-Juwayni (d. 478/1085) al-Ghazali (d.505/1111), al-Ash'ari (d. 324/936), al-Maturidi (d. 333/944), al-Shahrastani (d. 548/1153) and many others. The last prominent representative of these intellectual giants was Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606/1209). The later mutakallimun developed their themes in scholastic discussions more or less on the same pattern. With the passage of time, it became fashionable for Muslim scholars to be immersed in highly formalised discussions of a theoretical nature in utter disregard of their diminishing value for their own ethos.

   Shah Wali Allah realized the futility of the prevalent formulations of Kalam and felt the pressing need to introduce a new approach in this discipline. In his preface to Hujjat Allah al-Balighah he stated: "[T]he mustafid [Muhammadan] shari'ah has now reached the threshold of an era in which it is destined to appear in the perfect garment of demonstrative proof". In his new formulation of Kalam, which he named ilm asrar al-din ('Science of the Subtle Meanings of Religion'), he presented his own framework derived from principles enunciated in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. On the basis of empirical evidence, he provided fresh and sustainable rational foundations along with the speculative reasoning of the classical mutakallimun. The main subject of his Kalam was an enquiry into the wisdom underlying the injunctions of Islam. The most original trait of his discourse was that he related the entire body of injunctions to the fundamental objective of the universal mission of the Prophets and Messengers of God, namely, preparing man to countenance the Ultimate Reality. This predominant objective in the Divinely ordained Prophetic dispensation is to be realised through the purification of the soul and reformation of morals which provide the sole guarantee for human salvation and eternal bliss. All his discourses on Kalam emphasize that life here and the Life Hereafter are not different or mutually exclusive, but merely different stages in one interminable journey pervades. His Kalam is an amalgam of shari'ah and tariqah, philosophy and metaphysics, reason and tradition, intuition and imagination. He endeavoured to make iman bi al-ghayb (belief in the unseen) appear to perceptive minds as a kind of iman bi al-shuhud (belief in the seen).

   The corpus of Kalam which had evolved often lacked the coherence and consistency required of a well-organized and full-fledged discipline. The questions dealt with by the mutakallimun, in a great many cases, had no logical or sequential relationship with each other. The point of culmination in these discussions was a severe criticism and strong rebuttal of the premises of Greek thought by men like al-Ghazali and al-Razi.  Shah Wali Allah re-stated the fundamental postulates of the Islamic belief system within the framework of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, provided external evidence drawn from pure reason, empirical observation and intuitional imagination to reinforce the propositions derived from Revelation and tradition. While the expositions of earlier mutakallimun had exclusively focused on questions of belief ('aqidah), Shah Wali Allah sought to substantiate the inimitability (i'jaz) of the shari'ah (revealed code of law)  by establishing an organic link between 'aqidah and shari'ah. He emphasized the inimitability of the latter in as much as it responds to the diversity of the varying conditions of human life. Avoiding as far as possible a discussion of what he considered the archaic issues of early theology such as the eternity of the Qur'an and free will, pre-determination, and the indivisibility of Divine Essence and Attributes, his approach consisted chiefly in presenting the rationale of the injunctions of Islam on the premise of their compatibility with human nature. By developing this comprehensive approach to Kalam, Shah Wali Allah’s contribution was that he put in bold relief not only the rationality of belief, but also established a necessary nexus between the ordinances of the shari'ah and the innate urges of human nature.

One of the striking features of the writings of Shah Wali Allah is his stress on the necessary relation between the creation and the Creator which consistently pervades all his thinking. Whether the subject of his discussion is highly spiritual or purely mundane, the consciousness of the Ultimate Reality is always uppermost in his mind. This characterizes all his discussions including those pertaining to such questions as the evolution of man as a moral being or man's role as an active member of the society. This also characterizes his analysis of human instincts and behaviour, or his survey of the development of human society even when it is in the nature of an empirical enquiry.

   Shah Wali Allah essentially looks at the entire contingent phenomena as a manifestation of God's creational power. Shah Wali Allah viewed man as a microcosm, and the cosmos is merely an extrapolation of man's needs, hopes, aspirations and ideals, on the universal scale. To him, man is the central agent in the Divine scheme of life who has been granted the necessary faculties —instinctive, aesthetic, rational and intuitional — to actualize a just, peaceful, humane and theo-centric civilization here, which would ultimately lead to true and lasting bliss in the Hereafter.  He established that the evidence of revelation is in full conformity with the axioms of reason and observation through inductive reasoning. In this connection his spiritual imagination complemented his rational thinking. But the focal point in this synthesis of religio-rational dialectic is the Qur'an which remained the ultimate source of his thought. In his opinion, without reference to the Absolute there could be no conception whatsoever of the creation.

In his discussions on the genesis of man and the creation of the universe, Shah Wali Allah developed three main terms namely ibda' (creation ex nihilo), khalq (creation), and tadbir (governance). Ibda' is creation out of sheer nothingness. Khalq is to create something out of an existing substance. Tadbir is to manage and employ a set of created things so as to derive the required benefits which are conducive to universal balance. With reference to these concepts, which signify different stages of the Divine creative process, Shah Wali Allah discusses the created phenomena.

In explaining the doctrine of 'universal soul' (al-nafs alkulliyyah), Shah Wali Allah says that deep and profound thought on the diversity of universal phenomena leads human intelligence to the notion that God has created a universal soul ex-nihilo. From this 'universal soul' or 'universal genus' emanate all existents. But the relationship between the Creator ex-nihilo and the 'universal soul' cannot be explained in terms of this material world. There is unity between the Creator and the 'universal soul'. But this unity is neither real, nor comprehensible to the finite human intelligence. The highest degree of perception attainable by human intellect is this 'universal soul' where it is able to combine all diversity of existence on one point. At this point the voyage of human intellect ends. This unique relationship between the Creator and the 'universal soul', which is called ibda' by Shah Wali Allah, is far beyond the grasp of the human mind.

Shah Wali Allah's position on the problem of existence was to reconcile the well-known doctrine of wahdat al-wujud (Unity of Existence) of Ibn 'Arabi (d. 638/1240) and wahdat al-shuhud (unity of manifestation), which was put forward by Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1034/1624) in the course of his criticism of the doctrine of Ibn 'Arabi. Shah Wali Allah maintained that there was no significant disagreement between the two ideas, but simply a problem of semantics. Both, according to him, ultimately arrived at the same conclusion.

   Explaining his stand on the problem of Existence, Shah Wali Allah said that when we look at the things in existence, we find both common and distinctive features in them. For example, all human beings share the characteristic of humanness although in several other respects they are distinct from one another. At the same time, being a man or a horse distinguishes one from the other. But all the existents do have a common feature of existence. Both the 'contingent' (mumkin) and 'essential' (wajib) have the characteristic of existence. 'Existence', however, does not merely mean 'to be'. It rather signifies the 'Reality' on the basis of which we regard something as existent. This 'Reality' itself exists without any external cause, giving it its existence. Since this 'Reality' is the cause of all existence, therefore, it must, of necessity, exist by itself. Hence its existence is all-pervading. For if this 'Reality' were not there, every other thing would have been nonexistent. Now all other things that exist (other than this Essential Reality) are merely accidental. For without the Essential Existence they would disappear into sheer nothingness. This is the nature of all the things of this world. They merely have an accidental existence, the only exception being the 'Real Existence'. Thus it is clear that existence is a common feature of all existents. If there is no existence then all things shall vanish. The mystics known as wujudiyyah or 'ayniyyah maintain that God consists in the existents, or that He has manifested Himself in these existents. There are other Sufis known as wara'iyyah who believe that the existence of all things that exist is contingent upon this Real Existence and that the Essence of God is beyond this cosmic phenomena. There are some statements attributed to Ibn 'Arabi which suggest that his position is closer to the school of 'ayniyyah or wujudiyyah, and Shah Wali Allah has taken these statements in a metaphorical rather than literal sense. It may be pointed out that on other occasions Ibn 'Arabi clearly draws a line of distinction between the 'Essential Existent' (wajib al-wujud) and the contingent existent (mumkin al-wujud) and discusses at length the five stages (tanazzulat) of determination. These stages, according to Ibn 'Arabi, are ahadiyyah, lahut, jabarut, 'alam al-mithal and nasut, all of which emanate from the 'Essential Existent' (i.e. God). Like many other Muslim thinkers before and after him, Shah Wali Allah offers an explanation of the ideas of Ibn 'Arabi which conform to the views held by the major theological schools of Islam. Shah Wali Allah interprets all such statements of Ibn 'Arabi, statements in which he identifies a unity between the creational phenomena and the 'Essential Existent', to mean unity of the latter with the 'universal soul'. This is so because the stages of existence beyond the 'universal soul' fall, in his opinion, outside the cognitive domain of human intellect.

According to Shah Wali Allah, the 'universal soul' constitutes the stage where a confluence takes place between substances and accidents, and there remains no disparity between them. He criticizes Greek philosophers for their lack of vision and for their failure to recognize this necessary level of existence which transcends all duality between substance and accident. A significant implication of this idea is the negation of any real incongruity between matter and spirit. This hypothetical dichotomy between matter and spirit has permeated human thought since the Greek times and has resulted in a number of misconceptions about the nature of man's constitution. Moreover, along with this concept of 'universal soul', Shah Wali Allah also recognizes a physical dimension of this soul, which he terms as alshakhs al-akbar (universum permagnum). The entire physical world with its length and breadth, according to him, constitutes this universum permagnum. All corporeal bodies stand in the same relation to it as waves belong to the ocean. The universum permagnum has tremendous power of imagination. This power of imagination is represented by what is called 'alam al-mithal, world of pre-figuration. It also has its own will power which resides in its qalb (mind). This mind is the centre or the throne ('arsh) of the 'universal soul'. The throne is like a mirror in which reflections of the Creator of universum permagnum (i.e. God) are constantly cast. Through these reflections the universum permagnum attains cognition of its Lord and naturally forms an image of Him. This image is known as al-tajalli al-a'zam (repercussus permagnum, or 'supreme theophany', or radiance). Shah Wali Allah asserts that the highest level of human conception of God, whether attained under the guidance of the Prophets or acquired, if at all, by following the course set by the philosophers, cannot go beyond a conception of this repercussus permagnum. This is the centre from where all human intentions, movements, and activities emanate.

The metaphysical thought of Shah Wali Allah should not be viewed in terms of any given system of philosophy which might have existed before his time. He has formulated his own perspectives on metaphysics, something which parallels his creative and original approach in other branches of thought. Some of his views on metaphysics appear to be similar to those of the Greek philosophers. A study of Shah Wali Allah's thought shows that several of his ideas have been influenced by the Aristotlean school. At the same time, points of similarity are also noticeable between him and Ibn 'Arabi and Ahmad Sirhindi. Shah Wali Allah, however, does not attempt, like many Greek philosophers and some Muslim thinkers influenced by them, to establish, on grounds of pure reason, the existence of God. On the other hand, he takes the Qur'anic approach to the problem and regards the idea of God as one that is naturally rooted in human conscience. This latent God-consciousness, according to him, is activated in the human mind and soul by the Prophets. It is they who, on the basis of revealed guidance from God, spell out the right attitude of man to his Creator, and then, in accordance with the requirements of space and time, the Prophets lay down the details of a definite course of action as per the Divine mandate. Thus he considers Revelation and Prophetic teaching to be the only reliable sources of the human conception of God.

   Shah Wali Allah criticizes the speculative approach of the Greek philosophers to a conception of Deity as the first cause productive of a series of causes and effects. In al-Budur al-Bazighah, he says:

One should not think that the ultimate being is actually necessary as the termination of a chain of emanations of contingent being, so that if an emanation were to emanate from the Ultimate Being and another emanation were to emanate from that emanation, then the first emanation would become an intermediate link between the last emanation and the Ultimate Being; and the last emanation would stand in need of the first emanation only, even if the latter stands in need of the Ultimate Being. No, it is not like that.

   The above passage shows a clear rejection of the typical philosophical concept of God in the Greek tradition as a mere speculative theorem or a mathematical idea out of which no message can be communicated to man.

Many educational, intellectual and spiritual currents of thought which arose in India in the late 18th century and which subsequently made any notable contribution in any branch of Islamic scholarship were impacted by the reformist ideas of Shah Wali Allah. The most outstanding centres of traditional Muslim education that flourished in the Sub-continent during the 19th century —Deoband, Farangi Mahal, Nadwat al-'Ulama', Aligarh, and others — have all claimed the intellectual and spiritual influence of Shah Wali Allah. His influence was also instrumental in the jihad movement which swept the entire sub-continent.


A Survey of Shah Wali Allah's Works

Shah Wali Allah’s main focus was on the Qur'an, Hadith, Kalam, socio-political and ethical philosophy and spiritual sciences.  He wrote extensively in Islamic studies, including Tafsir (Qur'anic exegesis), Hadith (traditions of the Prophet), Fiqh (law), usulal' Fiqh, (principles of jurisprudence), 'Aqa'id (beliefs), Kalam (scholastics), philosophy, Tasawwuf (spiritual sciences), history, biography, Arabic poetry, and grammar. He also wrote in the areas of sociology, politics, psychology and ethical philosophy.

 Studies on the Qur'an

Fath al-Rahman al Tarjamat al-Qur'an, Karachi, 1984. It is among the first popular renderings of the Qur'an into simple Persian language. It was completed by the author in Ramadan 1151 A.H.

Al-Fawz al-Kabir, Lahore, 1951, 52 pp. It is a concise, but extremely valuable treatise on the principles of Qur'anic exegesis. It is among the most popular works of Shah Wali Allah, which has made an outstanding contribution to the study and understanding of the Qur'an. Originally written in Persian, it has been translated into Arabic, Urdu, Turkish, and English languages. It was first published in Delhi in 1898 A.H.

Al-Fath al-Kabir (Arabic), Lucknow, 1314 A.H. It deals with the explanation of the difficult words used in the Qur'an, with terms that are usually called ghara'ib, i.e. words that are not quite familiar in the common diction.


Hadith Sciences

Al-Musawwa min Ahadlth al-Muwatta', It is a highly technical commentary in Arabic on this early collection of traditions compiled by Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.). It was first published in Delhi in 1293 A.H.

Musaffa Sharh-i Muwatta'. It is a commentary in Persian on the Muwatta'. It represents Shah Wali Allah's methodology in the teaching of Hadith. It was first published in 1293 A.H. in Delhi in two volumes. It has been translated into Urdu by Sayyid 'Abd Allah and was published from Calcutta in 1294 A.H.

Sharh Tarajim Ba'dAbwab al-Bukhan (Arabic), Hyderabad, 1949. In this treatise, Shah Wait Allah has discussed the wisdom of the topical headings adopted by Imam Bukhari for different chapters of ahadith of this important compendium of traditions compiled by Imam Bukhari (d. 256 A.H.). It was first published in Hyderabad (India) in 1323 A.H.


Law and Jurisprudence

Al-lnsaffl Bayan Sabab al-lkhtilaf (Arabic), Beirut, 1977, 114 pp. It is a juridical discourse on the compilation of the early compendia of ahadith, and the evolution of different schools of jurisprudence. It also discusses the nature of disagreement among the jurists and the principles of resolving various conflicting opinions so as to arrive at a synthetic view within the broad framework of Islamic jurisprudence. It was first published in Delhi in 1308 A.H. It was also translated into Urdu.

Iqd al-Jld ft Bayan Ahkam al-ljtihad wa al-Taqlid (Arabic), Delhi, 1925. This treatise discusses various dimensions of the issues involved in ijtihad and taqlid and presents a balanced view on this oft-discussed and much-debated question. It was also translated into Urdu.

Philosophy and Scholastics

Hujjat Allah al-Balighah (Arabic), Cairo, 1933. It is the magnum opus of the author and constitutes a highly significant exposition of the Islamic worldview. We shall separately present an introduction to this work in some detail. It was first published in Bareily (India) in 1286 A.H. A number of Urdu translations of this work have appeared. It has also been recently translated into English under the title: The Conclusive Argument from God by Marcia Hermansen, and the first part of the translation has been published by E.J. Brill at Leiden in 1996.

Al-Budur al-BQzighah (Arabic), Hyderabad, 1970. It is the second most important contribution of the author to a philosophical and rational interpretation of Islam after Hujjat Allah al-Balighah. It has also been translated into English by J.M.S. Baijon.

Al-Khayr al-Kathir (Arabic), Bijnaur, India, 1325 A.H. It is a brief work in which he attempts to explain the fundamentals of faith with an approach combining rational and traditional arguments.

Maktub-i Madam (Persian), Lahore, 1965. It is a long letter addressed by Shah Wali Allah to one Isma'il ibn 'Abd Allah Rumi. It deals with the metaphysical dimensions of the concept of existence. The work explains the position of the author on the problem of existence which syntheses the views of Ibn 'Arabi and Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi. This letter has also been included in al-TafhTmat al-Ilahiyyah.

Al- 'Aqidah al-Hasanah (Arabic), Lucknow, 1962, 72 pp. It is a plain and rational presentation of the fundamentals of belief in Islam. It has also been translated into Urdu.

Al-Muqaddimah al-Saniyyah fi Intisar al-Firqah al-Sunniyyah (Persian), Delhi, (n.d.). This work attempts a rational expose of the Sunni theological doctrines in comparison with the doctrines of the Shi'ah. This is in fact Shah Wali Allah's introduction to the Persian translation of a treatise by Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi entitled Radd-i-Rawafii.


Spiritual Sciences

Al-Tafhimat al-Ilahiyyah (Arabic and Persian) (Bijnaur India: 1936), 264 pp. This work is in two volumes and includes a number of stray writings of the author, in which he has explained subtle points of rational and spiritual import with regard to the teachings of the true faith. Some of these writings are in Arabic and others in Persian.

• Altaf al-Quds (Persian) Delhi, n.d. It deals with the basic principles of the spiritual sciences. It has been translated into Urdu (Lahore; 1975), and also English under the title: The Sacred Knowledge of the Higher Functions of the Mind (Lahore: 1982).

• Sata'at (Persian) (Hyderabad: 1970), 54 pp. It discusses various aspects and dimensions of Divine theophany and attempts to explain the nature of the abstract and material worlds and their respective characteristics. It has been translated into English and Urdu.

Fuyud al-Haramayn (Arabic) (Delhi: n.d.), 144 pp. Shah Wali Allah relates his spiritual experiences during his sojourn in Makkah and Madinah. It has also been translated into Urdu. The Urdu version was published in Lahore in 1947.

Anfas al- 'Arifin (Persian). It narrates the spiritual attainments of the author's forefathers and spiritual ancestors. It was first published in 1335 A.H. in Delhi.


History and Biography

• Izalat al-Khafa' 'an Khilafat al-Khulafa' (Persian), 2 vols. (Karachi; 1286 A.H.) It is a work on the early Caliphal model. Its contents have also been included in Anfas al- 'Arifin.

Qurrat al-'Aynayn fi Tafdil al-Shaykhayn (Persian) (Delhi: 1320 A.H.), 336 pp. It discusses the significant achievements of the first two Caliphs and their place in Islam. The discussion is substantiated by reference to the relevant verses of the Qur'an and traditions of the Prophet.

Al-'Atiyyah al-Samadiyyah fi al-Anfas al-Muhammadiyyah (Persian). It is a short treatise on the biography of Shaykh Muhammad Phulati, a saint and maternal grand-father of Shah Wali Allah. Details as to the place and date of publication are not available.

Al-lmdad fi Ma'athir al-Ajdad (Persian). It is a biographical account of some ancestors of the author. Its contents have also been included in Anfas al- 'Arfin.

Surar al-Mahzun (Persian), 24 pp. It is a short comprehensive biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It was first published in Tonk, India in 1271 A.H.

Al-Juz' al-Latif fi Tarjamat al-'Abd al-Za'if (Persian). It is a short autobiography of the author. It has been translated into Urdu by Muhammad Ayyub Qadiri and published in the monthly al-Rahim, vol. II. no. 5. October 1964. pp. 18-26.





Further biographical information on Shah Wali Allah can be found in the following sources:

al-Ghazali, Muhammad (2001), The Socio-Political Thought of Shah Wali Allah, The International Institute of Islamic Thought, Islamabad.

Bakhsh, Rahim (1955), Hayat-I Wali, n. p ., Lahore.

Mahmood, Fazle (1972), A Study of the Life and Works on Shah Wali Allah, n. p.,  Lahore.

Jalbani, G. N. (1981), Life of Shah Wali Allah, n. p. Delhi.

Mawdudi, Sayyid Abu’l A`la (1963), A Short History of the Revivalist Movements in Islam, n. p., Lahore.

Muztar, Allah Ditta (1979), Shah Wali Allah: A Saint Scholar of Muslim India, n.p. Islamabad.


Adapted with permission from Muhammad al-Ghazali’s The Socio-Political Thought of Shah Wali Allah published by The International Institute of Islamic Thought, Islamabad (2001).



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