A Short Arabic Biography of ʿAllāmah Dr. ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm al-Nuʿmānī Chishtī by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Zāhidānī

I am posting a file of an Arabic biography of our shaykh. This is a more detailed biography than the one I wrote many years ago as a preface to one of his works. The work never got published and its title that I suggested but wasn’t completely approved. In fact, I would like to clarify that this piece also lists the title al-Imām al-Bukhārī bayna al-Ifrāṭ wa al-Tafrīṭ, which was my initial suggestion for the piece because I couldn’t think of anything better. Chishtī Ṣāḥib (and I know some of my colleagues) didn’t seem to approve of the title and didn’t feel it represented the purpose of the book, but it stuck and since the book was never published, it remained on the cover of the file. I have worked on several of the discussions of that unfinished work and published some of the research in English for a paper that should be out shortly in Turkey.

This biography, written by one of Haḍrat’s Irani students from Zahedan, does a wonderful job of capturing elements of his character and his thoughts despite its relative brevity.

Recommended Readings on the Ottoman Empire

In response to an informal enquiry about the Ottoman Empire, Sidi Firas Alkhateeb of Darul Qasim, provided the following brief response and permitted sharing it with our readers. Keep in mind, that this is not a formal write-up and was intended only to give some basic guidelines and resources. The question emerged from Sidi Firas’s wonderful series on the Ottoman Empire (linked here).


Question: (abbreviated)

I’ve been wanting to delve into Ottoman history for a while now, and the recent decision regarding the Ayasofya has really sparked my interest.
I’m wondering if there are any books you can recommend that provide an Islamic history of the Ottoman Empire. It is such a well-studied topic, with many books written on it, so I am hoping you can recommend whatever resources you have found beneficial. 


Answer (also abbreviated):

There is of course a ton of resources, both academic and otherwise on Ottoman history that are available. Navigating them is a bit of challenge, particularly keeping in mind the various shifts in historiography over the past 50 years or so.

Some general guidelines I would offer are:

  • Recognize that historical writing is entirely dependent on one’s framework. An economic historian will analyze his subject through the lens of economics and present it as the primary factor in answering why historical events occurred as they did. Similarly a social historian will prioritize social history, and same for intellectual, political, and military historians. Any book you read is only giving you a part of the picture.
  • Ottoman history is particularly problematic because of the languages necessary to study it. Ottoman Turkish was heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic and most Ottoman historians don’t really do their due diligence in studying those languages, so their readings can suffer. Furthermore, in the realm of Ottoman intellectual history, almost everything written by Ottoman ulema was written in Arabic proper, which many historians are not proficient in.
  • Recognize the gap between popular history and academic history. Popular history is mostly what you will find on the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon. It’s usually written by non-specialists and exhibits a very rudimentary (and often plainly incorrect) understanding of historical events and processes. On the other hand, academic history is written by experts in the field but can be overly specialized, and aimed at other experts to the point that it is mostly nonsensical to those not in the field.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, you should never accept any conclusions about the religion of Islam itself from non-Muslim academics under any circumstances. Western academia has an entirely divergent framework that is directly at odds with our tradition and beliefs. It is designed to be secular and atheist. It should never inform your own beliefs. Unfortunately even many Muslims who work in academia are heavily influenced by this framework and their conclusions about Islam are not to be trusted. At the end of the day, you have to take your deen from the scholars of Islam whose job it is to preserve the religion.

With that as a length disclaimer and introduction, I believe the following books can serve as a good introduction:

  • Halil Inalcik’s The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age – Not a perfect book, and outdated in some regards (particularly his analysis of intellectual history), but it can be a good starting point
  • Caroline Finkle’s Osman’s Dream – A pretty length overview narrative of Ottoman history from beginning to end. Focus on the political administration and sultans.
  • Abdurrahman Atçıl’s Scholars and Sultans in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire – This is a more academic book and perhaps can be a bit much for a beginner, but he does a great job of illustrating the importance of ulama on the early Ottoman state.
  • Hüseyin Yılmaz’s Caliphate Redefined – Also academic, with an emphasis on the idea of Ottoman political sovereignty. I find it to be a useful tool in understanding how the Ottomans may have conceived of their political project as being pretty different from everything before them.

Insha’Allah, this serves as a good introduction. As always, more important than studying history is learning a proper academic understanding of Islam itself, which should be the framework through which you understand the past anyways.

Firas (Alkhateeb)

Book Review: Al-Zubdah fī Sharḥ al-Burdah of ʿAlī al-Qārī

Al-Zubdah fī sharḥ al-Burdah. By al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī. Edited by Māhir Adīb Ḥabbūsh. Istanbul, Turkey: Dār al-Lubāb, 1438/2017. Pp 203. ISBN 9786058323865.

Reviewed by Mawlana Kamil Uddin, Darul Qasim

The mantle Burdah wears in Islamic literature is unparalleled. A glimpse of this is shown by ʿAbdullah Muḥammad al-Ḥabashī who lists out 48 pages of commentaries and marginalia for the Burdah in his encyclopedic bibliography, Jāmiʿ al-shurūḥ wal-ḥawāshī[1]. The actual title of this instrumental poem is al-Kawākib al-durriyyah fī madḥ khayr al-bariyyah (lit. The Radiant Planets in Praise of the Best of all Creation) written by the Sufi Poet of the Shādhilī order, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Būṣīrī (d. 697/1298). This commentary, titled al-Zubdah (The Choicest), selects from previous glosses and builds a direct bridge from poetry to prose for readers. A salient feature of al-Qārī’s (d. 1014/1606) writings is his ability to take complex topics and weave the thread of understanding through them; this work is no different. Ḥabbūsh edited this work using two manuscripts; the first was from King Saud University and the second from Waliyy al-Dīn Efendi Library in Istanbul which is an extension of Beyazıt Devlet Kütüphanesi (Beyazıt State Library).

In his 25 page introduction, Ḥabbūsh gives brief background information on al-Būṣīrī, his qaṣīdah, and the lasting effect this poem had on poetry that followed him. He also lists out 9 specific commentaries, 2 of which al-Qārī referenced often which are the commentaries of Jalāl al-Dīn al-Maḥallī (d. 864/1460) and ʿIṣām al-Dīn al-Isfarāyīniyy (d. 944/1538), as well as the commentary of Zayn al-Dīn Khālid al-Azharī (d. 905/1500) which was often quoted in the marginalia of the King Saud manuscript of al-Zubdah. Since the three aforementioned glosses have yet to be printed, the value of such a publication heightens. Ḥabbūsh also extracts what he considers controversial couplets that exaggerate the praise of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, listing them out in the following order; 80, 81, 135, 136, 149, 146, 75, 156, 43, and 154. He adds footnotes under some of these couplets explaining how they are problematic and critiquing al-Būṣīrī’s choice of words. However, he does not seem to adopt the reading al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī presents, one that is in line with Sunni creed and law. This is a problem because reading the sharḥ/ḥāshiyah genre requires one to be in sync with the previous research, which is why we see many authors writing glosses on their own texts (matn) because there is no commentator (shārīh) who could better rationalize that author (mātin).

Ḥabbūsh states that al-Qārī’s methodology of explaining contains three aspects. First he explains selected vocabulary (sharḥ mufradāt), followed by parsing (iʿrāb) unintuitive phrases, and concluding by giving a succinct, easy-to-read but eloquent understanding of the couplet. Sometimes al-Qārī switches the order but still touches on all three aspects. One of finest features of this commentary is al-Qārī’s ability to connect the poem to the Qurʾān and Hadith; this rhetorical concept is called iqtibās which literally means “the process of lighting one’s fire from that of another.” In the indexes listed at the end by the editor, I counted 122 ayahs from 52 surahs and 78 hadiths quoted by al-Qārī for a poem totaling 160 couplets. He was able to capture this light from other sources as well, for example he mentioned that couplet 58 was inspired by the eulogy of Fāṭimah, may Allah be pleased with her, for her father, the Prophet, peace be upon him. He also references the famous Majnūn in couplet 5 and al-Buḥturiyy (d. 284/897) in couplet 57, both of whom are famous for the art of panegyric in their own right. Al-Qārī also intertwines supplementary rhetorical and grammatical points along with theological and spiritual allusions (iīmāʾāt) throughout the commentary.

This edition also contains an 8 page bibliography (fihris al-maṣādir wal-marājiʿ) and an unfulfilling one page table of contents (fihris al-mawḍūʿāt). This text would have been enhanced for readers and researchers by including an index for the couplets, proper names and places, and a more expansive table of contents that gives an overview of the wide range of topics covered by both al-Qārī and al-Būṣīrī. One possible addition to the table of contents would be division of the poem into the ten sections (abwāb) mentioned on page 28. The editor ought to have included the full-length poem (qaṣīdah) in the beginning or end of the edition so that it can be read without pauses. It should be noted that the couplets are enumerated throughout the text and are in bold which make it easy to identify. Aside from the last two sentences at the end of the introduction and images of the first and last folios (lawḥah) there is no other information given about the manuscripts. Overall this is a welcome edition with accurate paragraphing, precise punctuation, and reliable referencing. Lastly, other editions of this work have been published since, one by Dār al-Imām al-Rāzī  in Cairo in 2018. Stamped on the title page is the claim Yuṭbaʿ li-awwal marrah alā arbaʿ nusakh khaṭṭīyah (Printed for the first time using 4 manuscripts).[2] Another one by Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah in 2019.[3] However, I have been unable to access these editions and thus cannot compare between them. The expectation is that they should be better but al-faḍl lil-mutaqaddim (special virtue is for the first).


[1] Al-Ḥabashī, A. Muḥammad, Jāmiʿ al-shurūḥ wal-ḥawāshī : muʿjam shāmil li-asmāʾ al-kutub al-mashrūḥah fī al-turāth al-Islāmī wa-bayan shurūḥihā, 5 vols. (Dār al-Minhāj, Jeddah, 2017), 1:659-707.

[2] Al-Qārī, M. ʻAlī and al-Khurāsānī, A. Muḥammad. al-Zubdah fī sharḥ al-Burdah. (Dār al-Imām al-Rāzī lil-nashr wal-tawzīʿ, Cairo, 2018).

[3] Al-Qārī, M. ʿAlī and Farḥāt, Ḥ. ʿAzīz. Sharḥ al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī ʿalā Burdat al-Būṣīrī. (Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, Beirut, 2019).

A Few Resources for Learning Punctuation Rules in Arabic Writing

Here are a few useful resources for students of the sacred sciences who want to understand the use of punctuation marks (ʿalāmāt al-tarqīm) in the Arabic language. Students will notice, for the most part, that the rules are similar to European languages.

The following work, authored by Aḥmad Zakī Pāshā (Bāshā), is the earliest work on the subject that I have come across. This edition was published by Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah’s publishing house and with his preface. It should suffice most students as a reference.

al-Tarqīm wa ʿAlāmatuhu fī al-Lughah al-ʿArabiyyah li Aḥmad Zakī Bāshā

A colleague at Darul Qasim suggested the following work by his teacher Shaykh ʿAbd al-Muʿizz al-Tūnisī, and friend of my own teacher Shaykh Ramzī al-Ḥabīb al-Tūnisī. The work is not available in pdf format but can be purchased here: “al-Inshāʾ wa ʿAlāmāt al-Tarqīm wa-l-Imlāʾ”

The following web page contains a brief overview of the punctuation marks and how they are used. It can be useful for a quick review:

علامات الترقيم في الكتابة العربية ومواضع استعمالها

An even more concise review of the marks can be found at the following webpage:

علامات الترقيم

If you know of other beneficial sources, please do share and I will add them to this list.

A Reading List on Deoband Studies

The following list was produced by Dr. Shoaib Rasheed on his blog, The Silent Admirer. I have reproduced the list here with the understanding that the list may grow over time and may need updating on this site. In any case, please do visit The Silent Admirer site and subscribe to his content:


Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

Wa ‘l-Salatu wa ‘l-Salamu ‘Ala Sayyidina Muhammad

The following is a list of academic books and papers in English on various topics within Deoband Studies. I hope to keep updating this page from time to time as I myself learn more and read new things. Direct links to PDFs of the writings have been provided when possible. If the link does not work, it may mean that it was deleted, and if so, please bring it to my attention, and I will try to find a new link for the same resource.


Overview

  • Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900, Barbara D. Metcalf, Oxford University Press, 2004. Note: Studying the history and intellectual thought of Deoband can be intimidating. There are numerous figures, all with similar-sounding names to keep track of. Furthermore, studying Deoband without understanding the historical, political, and intellectual context in which it developed will most-likely cause confusion at best, and cynicism towards the ulama at worst. Therefore, I highly recommend this book for the reader who has minimal knowledge of Deoband and wants to acquire a preliminary yet comprehensive introduction. The book introduces the reader to the historical setting out of which Deoband grew, as well as some of the other ideologies with which it found itself in conversation with such as Nadwa, Ahl-i Hadis, and Barelwis. It orients the reader to the founding figures of the Deoband, as well as its approach to certain defining topics such as Sufism, Law, and its views on what constitutes an ideal Islamic worldview.
  • The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change, Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton University Press, 2002.

Intellectual Thought

Sufism

Outside the Subcontinent

Women’s Issues

Tablighi Jamat

Miscellaneous

Collection of Arabic Morphology/Ṣarf Texts for Arabic Language Students

Students of Arabic Morphology (Ṣarf) will hopefully find the following links helpful to assist in their study of the subject. I collected these files for students at Darul Qasim and thought it would be useful to post them all together on the same page.

This is the current textbook being used for the Shaykh al-Hind Immersion program. Although far from the ideal textbook, it is nevertheless the best available work in English that follows the format of textbooks like ʿIlm al-Ṣīghah that have been used for centuries and have a proven track-record of effective instruction in Ṣarf. This text is followed by a study of the Arabic text Kitāb al-Maqṣūd and then Taṣrīf al-ʿIzzī, which is the culmination of the study of Ṣarf at Darul Qasim.

This work is a supplementary work for students of Ṣarf. It contains a large list of commonly used verbs and organizes them by their verb form and verb category, making it an essential companion and exercise guide. Along with the Hans Wehr dictionary and the Abwāb al-Ṣarf al-Jadīd, this work is a required purchase for my Ṣarf students at Darul Qasim.

This companion text for intermediate students of Ṣarf was a must during after-class group study and personal study time. As a student, I would use this book to help make sure that I practiced all the conjugation tables for every verb category and to check my recitations. I suggest students use this work to check their partner’s table recitations during takrār sessions.

This is the work that I was taught as a beginner student of Ṣarf. I found it to be quite good as a student and didn’t struggle with the Arabic as much as I thought I would. Due to my inability to acquire any English work that might have assisted my study of Ṣarf, I occasionally looked at the Urdu work Tashīl al-Ṣarf for help and for exercises. I still believe that if a student memorizes the definitions and rules from this book that they will have a satisfactory grasp on the science. Still, students should read other works beyond this text, like the Marāḥ al-Arwāḥ and al-ʿIzzī (and their various commentaries) for example, to appreciate the various different presentations of the science.

This is a succinct and easily accessible introduction to the science. Along with the al-Bināʾ and al-Amthāl texts covered in the Ottoman system, if someone studies this work and then follows it with al-ʿIzzī, they shouldn’t need a work like ʿIlm al-Ṣīghah. Students at Darul Qasim study this work before al-ʿIzzī and after Treasures.

This is a work that is studied before al-Maqṣūd and is often the first work in Ṣarf taught to students. Some instructors at Darul Qasim use this work as well as the al-Amthāl, so I am including links to the text and its commentary here.

This English work is not a translation of the Urdu work by the same name. I have not used this work extensively nor looked at it deeply to recommend it for students. That said, some students have reported that reading this work helped them out when studying Treasures.

I used this Urdu work last year with students to supplement the few exercises found in Treasures. One of the many improvements needed in a work like Treasures is a larger set of exercise and practice questions. This work provides a long list of ṣīghahs that can be used for testing students in and outside the classroom.

This work, along with its commentary, is the most advanced Ṣarf work taught at Darul Qasim. The linked pdf is a great edition published by Dār al-Minhāj, but it doesn’t have al-Taftāzānī’s commentary, which can be very useful for students as well as teachers. The Dār al-Minhāj print of the commentary is linked here.

Another useful work at a level similar to ʿIlm al-Ṣīghah. This Arabic edition of the work makes it accessible to non-Urdu speakers.

This work is not as beneficial to non-native speakers but teachers and native speakers will find it very helpful for extracurricular reading.

This is the Urdu/Persian version of the work described above, which is the Arabized version of this work.

I haven’t looked through these two works thoroughly enough to be able to comment on them. They seem to be a work in progress. A short perusal led to me link them here as I believe some people may find the various exercises to be beneficial.

Another Arabic work that is more aimed at native speakers but useful to have.

One of the works studied formally in the madrasah systems, I thought it would be useful to post this work so that students can look through it and get a sense of the content of other textbooks in the science.