Shah Wali Ullah, The Founder of Modern Islamic Reform / Revival Movements شاہ ولی اللہ- جدید اصلاحات

It took many years to cleanse Arabia of its “false idols.” It will take many more to cleanse Islam of its new false idols— sectarianism, bigotry, fanaticism & ignorance—worshiped by those who have replaced Prophet  Muhammad’s (pbuh) original vision of tolerance and unity with their own ideals of hatred and discord. But the cleansing is inevitable, and the tide of reform cannot be stopped.
شاہ ولی اللہ- جدید اصلاحات (اردو میں پڑھیں )
“They have set up their religious leaders and scholars as lords, instead of GOD…”(Quran;9:31)
“Have you seen him who has taken his own desire to be his god?” (Quran;25:43)

For fourteen centuries, the venerable scholars of great Islamic Madaris and  institutions around the world have claimed a total monopoly over the meaning and message of the Muslim faith. Everything from how to pray to when to fast, from how to dress to whom to marry, has been the sole prerogative of a group of learned old men cloistered inside dozens of clerical institutions and schools of law, whose self-appointed task it has been to divine the future of Islam by controlling its past. … No longer
The monopoly of Ulema as sole interpreter of religion is waning, with the cyber revolution every educated Muslim can get authentic information quickly with references at the web. They cannot be deceived anymore…. Ulema will further loose credibility if they don’t reform to change their attitude …
The Islamic Reformation, to return to the original Islam was initiated by Shah Wali Allah 300 years ago by translating Quran to make it within reach of ordinary educated Muslims, thus ending the sole monopoly of Ulema on sacred text .. The reformation process continues, its already here. …. We are all living in it. [ ]

Shah Walliullah [d.1762] believed that an emphasis of the Quranic teachings was made vital to Muslims, he translated Arabic Qur’an into Persian. Few Muslims spoke Arabic and so the Qur’an had not been widely studied previously. Some clerics criticized Shah Walliullah, but his work proved very popular. In addition to translating the Quran, Shah Walliullah wrote 51 books in Persian and Arabic. Amongst the most famous were Hujjat Allah al-Baligha and Izalah al Khifa.

His writings bought him great fame and prestige and enabled him to have influence in other areas too. One of his most important contributions to the Muslim community was his organisation of opposition to the Maratha Empire, who had captured large parts of India which belonged to the Mughal Empire before and had reduced the Mughal emperor to a mere puppet. It was partly his influence which helped to persuade Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan to intervene. He joined forces with local Muslim leaders and defeated the Marathas at The Battle of Panipat in 1761. He felt a debt to the Sufis for spreading Islam throughout India. He also appreciated Sufi spirituality. Waliullah built a bridge between Sufis and the Ulama (Islamic scholars).

In the eighteenth century, Islam in the sub-continent was faced with menacing problems, such as sectarian conflict, the low moral tone of society, poor understanding of the Holy Quran, and general ignorance of Islam. These were valid grounds for fearing that political disintegration would be accompanied by religious collapse. This did not happen, rather an era of religious regeneration was inaugurated, which was due more than anything else, to the activities of one man, Shah Wali Ullah [1707-1762]

Shah Wali Ullah was born on February 21, 1703 at Delhi. His father, Shah Abdul Rahim was a sufi and theologian of great repute. Shah Wali Ullah received his academic and spiritual education at the hands of his father, and later he taught at his father’s Madrassah-i-Rahimiyah for twelve years. He left for Arabia in 1730 for higher studies where he obtained his Sanad in Hadith. At that time, Muslims in India were divided into Hanafi, Sufi, Shia, Sunni and Mullah sects. While in Hijaz he decided to:

(a) reinterpret Islam,

(b) popularize Islamic values amongst the Muslims,

(c) present Islam in a rational manner.

Shah Wali Ullah’s single most important act was his translation of the Holy Quran into simple Persian, language of the land, to be understood by the people in the sub-continent. He studied writings of all schools of thought to understand their viewpoint, then wrote comprehensive volumes about what is fair and just and worked out a system of thought, belief and values on which all but the extremists could agree. Thus providing a spiritual basis for national cohesion.

Shah Wali Ullah trained students in different branches of Islamic knowledge and entrusted them with the teaching of students. He recommended the application of Ijtihad against blind Taqlid. He also interpreted Quran and Hadith in the context of times.

Shah Wali Ullah directed his teachings towards reorienting the Muslim society on the basis of social justice and removing inequalities and iniquitous distribution of wealth. He established several branches of his school at Delhi for effective dissemination of his ideas. In his book, “Hujjat-ullah-il-Balighah” pinpointed the causes of chaos and disintegration of the Muslim society. These were:

(a) Pressure on Public treasury, the emoluments given to various people without doing any service to the State.

(b) Heavy taxation on peasants, merchants, workers and as a result tax evasion was rampant. According to Shah Wali Ullah, a state can prosper only if there were light and reasonable taxes.

He wrote open letters to:

(a) Mughal rulers to give up their corrupt and inefficient practices.

(b) Soldiers for forgetting to inculcate within themselves the spirit of Jihad.

(c) Artisans, workers and peasants and reminded them that on their labors the economic prosperity of the state depends.

(d) The Emperor to teach a lesson to the Jats threatening the Mughal empire and also wrote to him not to give jagirs to mansabdars who were not loyal to the state.

(e) Masses to be conscious of their duties and not to indulge in the accumulation of wealth.

Shah Wali Ullah tried to reconcile the basic differences amongst the different sections of the Muslims and considered the government as an essential means and agency for the regeneration of his community. He wrote to Ahmad Shah Abdali “to give up the life of ease and draw the sword and not to sheath it till the distinction is established between true faith and infidelity…”. His efforts resulted in Maratha debacle at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali and Najibud Daula in the third battle of Panipat in 1761.

Shah Wali Ullah’s teachings created a new awareness of the present dangers and what the future had in store for the Muslims of the sub-continent. This was a psychological preparation for the revolution of 1857-58, a revolution which in some ways was perhaps the most fortunate thing to have happened from the Muslim point of view, because in spite of their great sufferings, it turned their mind to new remedies.


  1. Islam: Contemporary Challenges in 21st Century & Reformation: