There are many people in the Islamic history whose contributions will remain memorable. Moreover, history is unable to present someone as legendary as Alahazrat Imam Ahmed Raza Khan. Learned men are normally expert in one or few domains of knowledge but Alahazrat was a multi-dimensional genius.
Alahazrat is an eminent mufti and a distinguished jurist, besides being imam of Quranic pedagogy, and Hadith sciences. He was an expert of etymology and Arabic syntax, researcher, historian, poet, debater, writer, politician, economist, physician, scientist, educator as well as the producer of educators. He is a devoted lover of Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace and blessing upon him) and a religious director. A standard-bearer of truth as well as its identity, indeed mentioning all the qualities and achievements of Alahazrat is extremely difficult. Almighty Allah made Alahazrat, the imam of sciences and arts. Only in his collection of religious poetry, Hadaiyq-i Bakhshish (Gardens of Gifts), as many as 215 fields of knowledge have been demonstrated. [Fan-I Shaiyri aur Hassan-ul Hind, p.287]
Almighty belonged to a respected and sacred tribe. His family continued to see many leaders like Maulana Hassan Raza Khan, Maulana Hamid Raza Khan, Maulana Mustafa Raza Khan, Maulana Ibrahim Raza Khan, Maulana Hasnain Raza Khan, Maulana Rehan Raza Khan, Maulana Tehseen Raza Khan, Maulana Sibteen Raza Khan. Amongst these names, there is a name of flourishing flower of garden of Alahazrat, a brilliant star of shining sky of Alahazrat, Chief Justice of India (Qadi-ul Qada fil Hind), successor to Mufti-i Azam, Taj-ush Sharia Mufti Akhtar Raza Khan Qadri Azhari.
Taj-ush Sharia is son of Maulana Ibrahim Raza Khan Qadri Jilani, successor of Mufti-i Azam Hind Maulana Mustafa Raza Khan, representative of Hujjat-ul Islam Maulana Hamid Raza and source of inspiration and blessings and beneficiary of the knowledge and traditions of Alahazrat.
Blessings of all these legends are apparent in his personality as glorious quality and bounteous character. Mufti Abdur Raheem Bastavi narrates the blessings of the great personalities on Taj-ush Sharia in these words: He has got marvelous part of theoretical and practical perfections from all these renowned personalities. Comprehension and intelligence, memory and sacredness from Alahazrat, sharpness and grip on Arabic literature from Hujjat-ul Islam, profoundness in jurisprudence from Mufti-i Azam Hind, expert manner of speech from poised father Maulana Ibrahim Raza Khan. Therefore, he has all these qualities by succession that a leader of Sharia and Sufi order needs. [Foreword, Sharh Hadis-i Niyat, p.4]
Taj-ush Sharia was born on the 24th Zeqada 1362 AH / 23rd November 1943 AD, in Saudagran Street in the city of Bareilly, India.
His name is Muhammad Ismail Raza and customary name is Akhtar Raza. He uses Akhtar as acronym. Taj-ush Sharia, Janashin-i Mufti-i Azam Hind, Shaikh-ul Islam wa al-Muslimin are his famous titles.
Illustrious Family Linage
His Linage reaches Alahazrat in the following order. Muhammad Akhtar Raza Khan Qadri Azhari son of Muhammad Ibrahim Raza Khan Qadri Jilani son of Muhammad Hamid Raza Khan Qadri son of Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Qadri Barkati Barelvi.
He has four brothers and three sisters. Two brothers: Rehan-i Millat Maulana Rehan Raza Khan and Tanvir Raza Khan are elders whereas two Dr Qamar Raza Khan Qadri and Maulana Mannan Raza Khan Qadri are younger.
Education and Upbringing
When Taj-ush Sharia attended the age of 4 years, 4 months and 4 days, his respected father, Maulana Ibrahim Raza arranged for his Bismillah Khuwani (ceremony to begin Islamic studies). All the students of famous Madarsa Dar-ul Ulum Manzar-i Islam were invited to this auspicious event. His maternal grandfather, Mufti-i Azam Hind Maulana Mustafa Raza Khan Noori performed the traditional Bismillah Khuwani. Taj-ush Sharia completed recitation of the Holy Quran at home under the supervision of his pious mother, daughter of Mufti-i Azam Hind. His father taught him some Urdu books. Later, his respected father enrolled him in Dar-ul Ulum Manzar-i Islam. He completed his dars-i nizami there and then; he left for Al-Azhar University Cairo in 1963 where he was admitted in Faculty of Usul-ud Din and learned from expert teachers for 3 years. He completed his education from Al-Azhar University in 1966 AD/1386 HD. On achieving first position in his class, he was bestowed “Al-Azhar University Award” along with certificate presented by the president of Egypt during that time Cornel Jamaal Abdul Nasir. [Mufti-i Azam Hind aur Unkay Khulafa, vol.1, p.150]
Shah Mustafa Raza Khan Noori Barelvi, Mufti Syed Muhammad Afzal Hussain Razavi Mongeeri, Mufassir-e-Azam Hind Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Ibrahim Raza Jeelani Razavi Barelvi, Shaikh llama Muhammad Sammaahi, Maulana Mahmood Abdul Ghaffar, Rehan-e-Millat Maulana Rehan Raza Rehmani Razavi Barelvi, Mufti Jahangir Khan Razavi Azmi are the famous name among his teachers.
He was married to the daughter of Maulana Hasnain Raza Khan Barelvi.
Taj-ush Sharia started teaching from Dar-ul Ulum Manzar-i Islam Bareilly in 1967. In 1978, he became principal of Manzar-i Islam and head mufti of Dar-ul Ifta. He continued teaching for twelve years but had to leave it due to the workload though he still lectures senior student regarding rasm-ul mufti, and the books Ajjali-ul A’lam and Al-Bukhari at Markazi Dar-ul Ifta Bareilly.
Entrance in Sufi Order and Permission as Spiritual Successor
Mufti-i Azam Mustafa Raza Khan blesses Taj-ush Sharia with both spiritual guidance (bayt) and spiritual successorship (khilafat). He entered in Sufi order through Mufti-i Azam during his childhood and was blessed with khilafat and permissions of all spiritual orders by him at the age of 19 years in 1962 AD/1381 AH. Besides, He is also blessed with kilaafat of all spiritual orders by Mufti Burhan-ul Haq Jabalpuri, Syed Aal-e-Mustafa Barkati Marehrvi, Ahsan-ul-Ulama Syed Hyder Hasan Barkati, his respected father Mufti Ibrahim Raza Khan. [Tajalliyat-i Taj-ush Sharia, p.149]
In The Court of Sufi Master
Taj-ush Sharia was high ranked in the court of Muhammad Mustafa Raza Khan who had many hopes with Taj-ush Sharia which can be estimated by his pronouncement that he said on different occasions, “I have a lot of hopes from this young man.” Having handed over the responsibility of dar-ul ifta to Taj-ush Sharia, he said, “Akhtar Miyan! It is not time to sit at home, this crowd will not let you rest, therefore, it is for you to take care of this; I hand it over to you; (then he turned to people and announced) now all of you may turn to Akhtar Miyan, regard him as my successor.” During the last days, he announced Taj-ush Sharia as his successor by issuing a written statement.
At the end of Rohela rule in year 1816, after the control of Englishmen and leaving of Mufti Muhammad Ayuz for Rohelkhand (Bareilly), the seat of jurist of Bareilly was empty. In this critical and squally period, Mufti Raza Ali Khan took over the seat. This great tradition of issuing fatwa start from here in the family. [Maulana Naqi Ali khan Alaihir rehmah, Hayaat aur Ilmi o Adabi Karname, p.78]
But he started issuing fatwa, as written in Majmua Fatwa Bareilly, in 1831 AD. With the grace of Allah! This process still continues till today since 1831 AD which means this religious tradition has been continuing in the family for last 178 years. Mufti Raza Ali Khan, Maulana Naqi Ali Khan, Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan, Maulana Hamid Raza Khan, Maulana Mustafa Raza Khan, Mufti Ibrahim Raza Khan and now after them, Taj-ush Sharia, Mufti Akhtar Raza Khan has been performing this task beautifully since 1967 AD. [Fatawa Bareilly, p.22]
Taj-ush Sharia personally states about the beginning of issuing Fatwa: I already had joined the spiritual order of Mufti-i Azam from childhood. On my return from Al-Azhar University, I became involved in the task of fatwa due to my personal interest. At the early stages, I performed this task under the supervision of Mufti Afzal Hussain and other muftis and seldom presented myself before him and showed him Fatwa. After some days, my interest still increased and then I continuously presented myself before him. Due to the spiritual effect, I achieved immense benefits in a very short time that one cannot gain in a very long time by presenting himself before anyone. [Mufti-i Azam Hind aur Unke Khulafa, vol.1, p.150]
Fatwas of Taj-ush Sharia are the authority in all over the world. In those matters which are complicated and Ulema and muftis differ in opinions, the fatwa of Taj-ush Sharia is recognized decisive. Moreover, the fatwa having verification stamp by him is considered reliable amongst the educated class people. Beloved Allama Zia-ul-Mustafa Azmi says about his fatwa: “While studying fatwas of Taj-ush Sharia, it seems that we are reading the script of Alahazrat which is shown by a lot of evidences and references in it.” [Hayat-i Taj-ush Sharia, p.66]
Promoting truth and demoting falsehood is among those qualities of Razavi family which was not only accepted by Sunnis but strangers also confess it. Neither difference of relation and connections nor of wealthy and poor is seen in the matter of truth and right. Era of Alahazrat was a mischievous period, heterodoxy blew everywhere but he never surrendered against falsehood. Either it be the matter of cow slaughter or be the Hindu-Muslim Unity, it be Non-cooperation Movement or be Kilafah Movement, this faithful person kept evaluating the truth.
Speaking truth and fearlessness of Mufti-e-Azam is a glorious chapter of history. Either it be the Period of Shudhi Movement or be the dangerous period of sterilization, he never let the standard be down.
Allah the Lord of Glory has made the successor of Mufti-e-Azam a reflection of his ancestors. His fearlessness and speaking truth needs to be followed. Temporary experiences, criticism, pains and disasters, even the hardness of imprisonment could not deviate him from right path. He never issued fatwa according to the will of opulent or government, and always followed the truth and right. He did not make the difference either of relations or of age. But always followed the bright and splendored traditions of ancestors. Shaikh-e-Alam hazrat Allama Shah Fakhr Uddin Al-Ashrafi, successor of Kachhochha Sharif writes:
“Allama (Huzoor Taaj-ush-Shariah’s way)… being orthodox under pressur and being steadfast is the great quality that impressed me a lot.” [Tajalliyat-e-tajush Shariah, p.251]
Two events are quoted here.
On third Hajj in 1986/1406 Hijri, Saudi government arrested him without any reason. He showed the truth speaking and fearlessness, which is his distinction. Taj-ush Sharia personally mentioned the highlights of Saudi rudeness:
“Briefly that on asking continuous questions they did not tell me my crime for what I am arrested, but replied that your matters is not important. Even after that they delayed to release me and without my prosecuting they deprived me from visiting Medina Sharif, and after 11 days when I was transported to Jeddah in handcuffs till we reached the airport and even I was not allowed to offer the Zuhr prayers, that’s why my Zuhr prayer became Qazaa.” [Mufti-e-Azam Hind aur Unke Khulafa, vol. 1, p. 150]
On this fanatical behavior of Saudi government, arrest of Taj-ush Sharia without any reason and depriving him from visiting Medina Sharif, a wave of anger ran through the Muslim World. Sunni Muslims started protesting against Saudi government all over the world. Newspapers and magazines also disapproved his reasonless arrest. At last, the sacrifices of Sunnis worked, Saudi government bowed, King Fahad announced in London: Muslims of all sects will be allowed to worship on their way in the two sanctuaries. He was also given one-month special visa for umrah. The efforts of Allama Arshad-ul Qadri in this regard are memorable.
Allama Badar Uddin Ahmed Qadri writes about the straight-forwardness of Taj-ush Sharia over truth:
“I attended the annual Urs Ceremony of Khuwaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer. There was a gathering for Qul Sharif at the home of Sayed Ahmed Ali Sahib on 6th Rajab 1409 Hijri/13th February 1989 AD. Allama Akhtar Raza Azhari and Maulana Mufti Rajab Ali of Naan-para and other Ulema were also present there. Maulana Idrees Raza Khan Son of Maulana Hashmat Ali Khan was addressing the gathering. While addressing, Maulana quoted a sentence:
‘Our Master, Beloved Mustafa (peace and blessing upon him) will cover us under “Kaali Kamli” (small black sheet). Taj-ush Sharia stopped the speaker and said: Say “Nuri Chadar” (sheet of divine light). Maulana stopped his speech on this Sharia correction and praised Taj-ush Sharia for that. After that, he cleared that “using the word “Kamli” implies a small object that is not allowed to be attributed towards the Prophet. As all this came to my language and is unlawful so I do repent before Allah, may Allah forgive me.” After saying these words, he completed his speech. [Atya-e-Rabbani Dar Maqaalat-e-Noorani, p.23,24]
Devotion and Piety
Taj-ush Sharia has a good character and great qualities. Besides numerous qualities like wisdom and cleverness, ablution and purity, evaluation of good character, good nature and social availability, mildness and forbearance, sincerity, modesty and prudency, patience and contentment, loyalty and uprightness are present in his personality. He is also a paragon of devotion and piety. Semblance of his piety were observed on the following events.
Maulana Ghulam Moin Uddin Qadri writes: Pir Sayed Tahir Geelani loved Taj-ush Sharia a lot. Taj-ush Sharia visited Pakistan on his (Pir Syed Tahir’s) insistence. He was welcomed on Wahigah border with salute of seven tanks like president of a state. He was staying with his relative Shaukat Hasan. Breakfast was organized in a place on the way where there were English-style tables. He said: I will not eat food with legs spread in this manner. He then set on the chair with rolled up legs according to Sunna. Seeing all this, the slogan of “Hail to the piety of Bareilly” raised among the audience. [Tajalliyat-e Taj-ush Sharia, page. 255]
Maulana Mansoor Fareedi states the circumstances of his travel: “Respected friend Qari Muhammad Sadiq Hussain says that I was on the duty to serve Taj-ush Sharia and was proud on my luck that I had an opportunity to kiss heavens. Suddenly my sight went towards his palms. I was shocked for a moment. His Eminence was in a deep sleep but his fingers had movement. I got focus of Maulana Abdul Wahid Fatehpuri who was present there and other people, all of them went astonished and surprised. The matter was that his fingers were moving like as he was reciting tasbih on his fingertips. I kept watching this scene until he awoke. After watching this entire situation, my heart said: He is seemingly asleep but his heart is awake. [Tajalliyat-e Taj-ush Sharia, p. 314]
Besides being a True Lover of the Prophet, in-practice scholar, incomparable jurist, great Muhaddis, Speaker, and learned poet, Taj-ush Saria is also a miraculous saint. It is known that his consistency is the most significant miracle.
Mufti Abid Hussain writes: On 22nd June 2008, respected friend Qari Abdul Jaleel of Madarsa Faiz e Rasool narrated; Hazrat Azhari Mian Qibla was invited five years ago to deliver a speech in the conference of Dastarbandi, at Dar ul uloom Hanafia Zia ul Quran Lucknow. There was no rain those days. The days of intense starvation were passing. People requested him to pray for rain. He offered namaz-e istesqa (prayer for rain) and prayed. Hazrat just kept praying that it rained and everyone got wet in the rain. [Tajalliyat-e Taj-ush Sharia, p.229]
Ghulam Mustafa Najm-ul-Qadri (Mumbai) writes: A bigoted non-Muslim businessperson had a shop beside the shop of a disciple of hazrat in Maisur. He was trying that Muslim would sell him the shop and leave. He exceeded to the humanity teasing misdemeanors and crossed the ethical limits in his struggle. Being helpless, the disciple made a phone call to Hazrat and told about the circumstances and made him aware. Hazrat said: I pray for you here, you recite “YA-QADIRU” and specially after every namaz. On the 15th day of wazifa (reciting Ya Qadiru), the businessperson who made the Muslim helpless to sell his shop, himself agreed to sell his shop to the Muslim! He sold the shop and Muslim purchased it. “One who came to prey became the prey.” That disciple of hazrat is living a pleasant life. [Tajalliyat-e Taj-ush Sharia, p.175-6]
A person of Hibli constructed a palace with the investment of millions, when he resided there, he had a peace- destructive experience that house sounded like storming in the night. Being scared and helpless, they had to leave their new house to the old one. Meanwhile, whoever hired the house, they listened that sound and left the house. The house was empty for a long time; upon this, the program of Hazrat was arranged in Hibli. Master of house agreed the management team that hazrat would stay in my large house, he accepted the other responsibilities of hospitability. Hazrat visited Hibli and stayed for some hours in that house and offered the two prayers of Fajar and Isha with Jamat there. The virtue of this short stay appeared such that the house became peaceful and void of any problem-creating spirit.
Taj-ush Sharia is the best representation and complete reflection of his great grandfather, Alahazrat. The written achievements and the mode of writing of Alahazrat are not worthy to be introduced. Taj-ush Sharia is a perfect reflection of Alahazrat in the field of writings. His scripts and researches consist of different sciences and arts. Certain mode, authentic way of proofing, abundant references, series and continuity in his writing makes it a masterpiece. In the light of his books, he seems to be unique and unmatched in the era. Fatwa that emerges from his magnificent hand make us feel that Alahazrat writes it. His writings are full of proofs and reference that shows the reflection of Alahazrat.
Taj-ush Sharia also has complete grip and expertise on Arabic literature. His Arabic books, specially “Taliqaat e Zahra” over Sahih Bukhari and Arabic translations of the books of Alahazrat, are the clear evidence of our claim.
About one of his translations, Sheikh Abdullah bin Fid’iq Hashmi of Makkah says: This book is quiet useful and contains important debates and topic. Both the students and teachers need this.” He entitles Taj-ush Sharia as Fadilat-ul Imam-ush Shaikh Muhammad Akhtar Raza Khan al-Azhari, al-Mufti-ul Azam fi al-Hind.
Dr Isa Ibn-e Abdullah bin Maani Humairi (former director board of awqaf and religious affairs Dubai and principal of Imam Malik College for Sharia and Law Dubai) says after writing two and half pages of comments: “Al-Shaikh al-Arif bi-Allah Al-Muhaddis Muhammad Akhtar Raza Al-Hanafi Al-Qadiri Al-Azhari.”
Shaikh Moosa Abduhu Yousuf Ishaqi (teacher of Fiqh and Islamic arts, Somalia) writes: Ustaz-ul Akbar Taj-ush Sharia fadil-ush Shaikh Muhammad Akhtar Raza.”
Shaikh Waathiq Fawaad al-Ubaidi gives his views over a translation in these words: This research script of Hazrat Taj-ush Sharia that is in the negligence of Shaikh Sakir Muhaddis of Egypt is according to the Quran and Sunnah. His Eminence has done this with continuous efforts and hardworking. When I checked the sources, I found all the references containing the logical and quoted evidences the Quran and Sunnah. In addition, he has quoted famous resources like imam Sabki, Imam Suyuti, Imam Raazi and Imam Aalusi etc. And he mentions Taj-ush Sharia in these words: Shaikhuna al-Jaleel, Sahib-ur Radd-e Qati’, Murshid-us Salikin.”