Hazrat Moulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanvi (August 19, 1863 – July 4, 1943) (Urdu: اشرف علی تھانوی) was a prominentIndian Sunni Muslim scholar of the Deobandi school.
During his studies at Darul Uloom Deoband, Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi asked Hazrat Moulana Gangohi to train him in the spiritual disciplines as well. Hazrat Moulana Gangohi, however, advised him to wait until the completion of his traditional studies. Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi remained restless and looked for a way to ask Haji Imdadullah Muhaajir Makki (who is the spiritual guide of Hazrat Moulana Gangohi), to recommend him to Hazrat Moulana Gangohi. When Hazrat Moulana Gangohi departed for Hajj, Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi sent a letter with him to Haji Imdadullah, requesting him to persuade Hazrat Moulana Gangohi to initiate him into his spiritual order (tariqah).
After his graduation, Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi taught religious sciences in Kanpur for fourteen years. Over a short period of time, he acquired a reputable position as a religious scholar, of Sufism among other subjects. His teaching attracted numerous students and his research and publications became well known in Islamic institutions. During these years, he traveled to various cities and villages, delivering lectures in the hope of reforming people. Printed versions of his lectures and discourses would usually become available shortly after these tours. Until then, few Islamic scholars had had their lectures printed and widely circulated in their own lifetimes. The desire to reform the masses intensified in him during his stay at Kanpur.
Eventually, Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi retired from teaching and devoted himself to reestablishing the spiritual centre (khānqāh) of his shaikh in Thāna Bhāwan. Upon this transition, Haji Imdadullah said, "It is good that you have arrived in Thāna Bhāwan. It is hoped that people will benefit from you spiritually and physically. You should engage yourself in revitalizing our madrasah and khānqāh once more in Thāna Bhāwan. As for myself, I am always praying for you and attentive towards you."
Students and disciples
Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi’s students and disciples settled in all parts of South Asia. They include:
- Abdul Hai Arifi
- Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasimi, grandson of the founder of Dar al- ‘Ulum Deoband, Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi, and head principal of Dar al- ‘Ulum Deoband for over 50 years, from the early 1930s to the early 1980s
- Maseehullah Khan Sherwani (founder of Madrasa Miftah al- ‘Ulum in Jalalabad, India, and a leading spiritual figure of the past century)
- Muhammad Shafi Usmani, head mufti of Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband and later founder of Dar al-‘Ulum Karachi
- Abdul Bari Nadvi (renowned theologian and philosopher in India who taught modern philosophy at Osmania University in Hyderabad and translated the books of Western philosophers such as Descartes, into Urdu and left behind many literary tracts)
- Sulaiman Nadvi, researcher and student of Shibli Nu ‘mani who turned to Thanwi for spiritual reformation
- Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi, founder of Tablighi Jamaat
- Ahmed Khan Khalifa Majaz Molana Muhammed Masihulah Khan, Hyderabad, Pakistan
Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi was a prolific author of sermons, discussions, discourses, treatises, and books. Syed Sulaiman Nadvi said that Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi "was a translator and exegete (mufassir) of the Quran; he explained its injunctions and wisdoms. He removed doubts and answered questions pertaining to it." Among his works, the translation of the meanings of the Qur'an into Bengali is the most popular. Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thānwī was a scholar of hadīth(muhaddith) as well, and expounded its intricacies and subtleties. He was a jurist (faqīh) who issued thousands of legal rulings (fatawa) and addressed numerous legal problems in contemporary issues in Islamic law (fiqh). He was described[by whom?] as a moving orator (khatib) and hundreds of his speeches have been published and widely circulated.
While teaching in Kanpur, Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi was reported to have seen Abd Allah ibn `Abbas, the cousin of the Muhammad, in a dream. In this dream, he indicated to him that tafsir should become his primary task. Sayyid Sulaimān Nadwi said:
He not only memorized the words of the Quran but also memorized the deeper significance of these words. He was an exceptional reciter (qari) of the Quran, who had mastered the art of recitation. The uniqueness of his recitation of the Quran was such that each letter was uttered from its proper place of pronunciation (makhraj). There was no imitation or overly exertive effort to make his voice melodious. He would rather recite in his normal voice, which was full of inspiration and absorbed in reflection.
Views on politics
Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi debated, mainly using verses of the Quran, that political rule is only a means of instituting Islam in people's lives and not the purpose of life itself. All modern political notions that contradict the Quran and Hadith would have to be forsaken, and the pure political thought reflected in Quranic sources should guide Muslims in organizing and structuring their governments. He was the Murshid of Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and Mufti Muhammad Shafi who supported Mohammad Ali Jinnah during Pakistan movement.
Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi passed away at Thāna Bhāwan on July 4, 1943. His funeral prayer was led by his nephew, Moulana Zafar Ahmad Uthmānī, and he was buried in the graveyard of 'Ishq-e-Bāzān.