Qutubeallahabad Home Introduction Tasawwuf(Sufism) जीवनी हज़रत शाह मुहिबउल्लाह इलाहाबादी حیٰوۃ شیخ الکبیر حضرت شاہ محب اللہؒ الہ آبادی About Us Allahabad Gallery

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Shah Muhibbullah Allahabadi and the liberal tradition in Islam

Muhibbullah Allahabadi

Shah Muhibbullah Allahabadi and the liberal tradition in Islam 


The Age of Shah Jahan is distinctly marked by the emergence and efflorescence of certain liberal and syncretic trends in Indian Islam. The appeal to the deepest instincts of belief and worship and an abiding faith in the enternal verities, consistently made by a number of preeminent Muslim divines' who were unhampered by the trammels of deep prejudice, self-righteous pride and presumptuousness, served as the great cohesive force to achieve a wide measure of intellectual and spiritual integration and coherence.
Among such outstanding personalities of the period may be mentioned Miyan Mir, Mulla Shah, Shah Muhibbullah Alahabadi, Shah Muhammad Dilruba, Sarmad and Baba Lal who were the votaries of the pantheistic school of thought (Wahdatul Wujud). In contradistinction to this monist group, there existed the other school represented by Khwaja Muhammad Masum, son of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi Shaikh Abdul Huq Muhaddith Dehlawi and others who advocated he doctrine of Wahdat-ush-Shuhud (Unity of Manifestation) and strict compliance with the externalia of Islam. The votaties of this liberal school while clinging to the fundamental postulates of Islam, sought to establish a basic kinship among the adherents of various religious systems in India. To illustrate the point, it may be mentioned that Miyan Mir, the great Qadiri saint from Lahore, could lay the foundation of the Hari Mandir at Amritsar on the invitation of Guru Arjun without loss of faith. Dara Shikoh urged on the identity of Sufic and Vedantic philosophy and pronounced "Life lies concealed in every idol and, Faith lies hidden beneath Infidelity. As a liberal thinker Mulla Shah Badakhshi the successor of Miyan Mir believed in the fundamental uniformity of all religious beliefs.' He would pay respect to both the mosque and the temple and do homage in a temple by offering dandaut in the fashion of the Hindus. Sarmad spoke in the same strain when he said that there is no difference between a mosque and a temple. It is He and He alone who takes the form of the black-stone of Ka'aba in one place and becomes the idol of the Hindu in the other." Among the distinguished intellectuals, savants and divines, Shah Muhibbullah from Allahabad occupies a unique place. He rendered conspicuous services to the cause of the Sufi movement in India by rehabilitating the mystic doctrine of the Wahdat-ul-Wujud which had been assailed and repudiated by the persistent efforts of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Khwaja Mohammad Masum and others, though it had long remained the raison detre of the mystic movement.
The mystic discipline and its distinctive ideology had been considerably weakened by the ceaseless advocacy of the Sirhindi saints to under. mine the doctrine of the Tauhid-i-Wujudis and accord the primacy of importance to the s'tariat vis-a-vis the Tariqat.
Shah Muhibbullah deserves the credit of restoring confidence to the mystic community by infusing vigour into their spiritual organisation and clinging tenaciously to the basic essentials of the Sufi theosophy. He re-invigorated the Chishti Order. His vicegerents and disciples carried on both his mystic work and liberal traditions of tolerance and harmony among people professing different faiths and ways of life, conduct and worship. Shah Muhibbullah was born in 996;1587 at Sadrpur during the reign of Akbar, He claimed descent from Shaikh Farid Ganj-e-Shakar
of Pakpatan. He acquired the traditional learning of ulumi-din or ulumi zahiri (religious sciences) from Mulla Abdus Salam Lahori, a pupil of Mir Fathullah Shirazi. He then wandered from place to place in search of a spiritual mentor until he came in contact with Shah Abu Said, gran-
dson of Shaikh Abdul Quddus at Gangoh near Shahranpur. He was conferred Khilafat of the Chishti saints by Shaikh Abu Said Gangohi, and taking leave of his mentor, he returned home to Sadrpur, then proceeded to Radauli to pay homage to the shrine of Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi and lastly settled at Allahabad and attained great fame as a saint of the Chishti-Sabiri Order and a protegonist of the pantheistic philosophy.
He was acknowledged as an accomplished scholar of the two works of Ibnui Arabi, the Fususal Hikam and the Futuhat-i Makkiya, “Years of critical and patient study of these mystic classics gave him a rare insight into the thought of Ibnul Arabi”. He wrote a number of commentaries in Arabic and Persian and elucidated the pantheistic thought of Ibnul Arabi. These works include the famous Taswiya, Anfas ul-Khawas on the pattern of Fususul Hikam, Akhassul-Khawass, Sharhul Fusus, Haft Ahkam Manazil Akhas ul Khawass and the famous collection of his letters, Maktubat-e-Shah Muhibbullah Allahabadi He criticized the sufis who were detractors of Ibnul Arabi and those who took his words and ideas as unintelligible or were the effusions in ecstasy and trance but he maintained that they contained the summum bonum of the mystic ideology and intuitive experience.He rebutted the charge of deviation from the faith, even of heresy and atheism, apportioned by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi against the votaries of Wahdatul Wujud. Shah Muhibbullah took to the interpretation of the Quran on the basis of the pantheistic doctrine and enunciated the view that Tauhidi Wujudi is imperative in view of an inner logical necessity; It is a living force and a symbol of the inherent potentialities peculiar to Islam. Shah Muhibbullah gave a tremendous impetus to the study of Ibnul Arabi's works by ceaselessly expressing conviction in the efficacy and inevitability of the doctrine of Wahdat-ul Wujud in the realisation of she true significance of the ideals of Islam and to substantiated adherence to the mission of the Prophet.16 He quoted with approbation Khawaja Mohammad Parsa's exposition to signify the Fusus as the soul and
Futuhat as the heart of the faith.17 Many of the ulama who were opposed to the concept of Tauhid-i Wujudi were brought to the fold of its protagonists through his efforts. He had so assiduously undertaken to the exposition and orientation of the mystic doctrine of Wahdatul Wujud that he had earned the appellations of the Mujtahid' and the Shaikh Kabir' from his admires. 
In response to the observations of his critics that the Tauhid Wajudi is an aberration from the essence of Islam, he wrote a numbers of letters to his correspondents to dispel their misgivings. In regard to the negation which constitutes the first ingredient to the Islamic Creed, he added that even in the Quran the ingredients of negation and affirmation are quoted thirty-eight times. The emphasis on the Tauhid-i Wujudi in sufism envisages a principle of great social significance because it transcends all kinds of barriers and divisive instincts on religious and social affiliate ons and stratification
and leads to the fraternisation of the entire human race.
Another important aspect of the mystic and religious ideology of Shah Muhibbullah consisted of his rational approach to dogma and precept. It was not an absolute but a limited rationalism, within the
ambit of enlightened interpretation of religious prescription that characterised the rational outlook of Shah Muhibbullah, but he averred that the edicts of the shariat and the Islamic ideals were on reason. His ideas about Gabriel being identical with the mystical soul and that Gabriel was not external to Muhammad but that his breast was, in fact, the abode of the angel. are instances in point. Shah Muhibbullah had demonstrated the elasticism and the spirit of accommodation of Islam in a number of ways. He permitted his disciples to teach Suluk to the Hindus and draw parallels from the asloks of their scriptures to explain the sufi ideology. Shab Muhibbullah had advocated a tolerant attitude, devoid of prejudice and discrimination, against the Hindus. When asked by Crown Prince Dara Shikoh about his views as to allowing any discrimination between Hindus and Muslims in administrative affairs of the state, Shah Muhibbullah gave the following reply.
"The Faqir (i.e., himself) cannot give exhortations o anyone. Justice requires that the thought of the welfare of men should be uppermost in the minds of rulers, so that the people might be protected from the tyranny of officials. It does not matter if one is a believer or a non-believer. All human beings are the creatures of God. If one has such a feeling, he will not differentiate between a believer and a non-believer and will show sympathy and consideration towards both. It is in the Quran and the Futuhat has elucidated it that the Prophet was sent as a mercy unto all human beings.
The benevolent doctrine embodied in this direction to Prince Dara Shikoh, was essentially bound to help foster amity and goodwill between diverse creeds in India. He spelled out his views on the subject in candid and forceful terms.
According to Shah Muhibullah the mission of the Prophet of Islam was an elaboration of the epithet or "Mercy unto all human beings” and it signified the shedding of all discrimination based on religion. The Quran intended to embrace the entire human race within the ambit of its application: the Muslims and the non-Muslims were equal partners in the domain of Cod. In matters of state policies, programmed and opportunities, any consideration of the one being a Muslim or a non-Muslim
the pious or the sinner, is of no consequence since it would nullify the very purpose of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. He supported his views with the exhortation contained in the Fusus al-Hikam. Aurangzeb on his accession ordered the Shah's treatise, Tasviya to burnt as he was unhappy over the Shah's exposition of the Wahada ul Wujud and considered the publicity of the esoteric postulate as a source of defiling the beliefs of the Muslims. He also asked the Shah's successor, Shaikh Muhammadi to renounce his discipleship of his preceptor,
who was already dead but on the bold refusal of the Shaikh, Aurangeb did not persecute him. The mission of Shah Muhibbullah was carried on by his illustrious disciples, Qazi Ghasi, Qazi Yusuf, Muhsin Fani, Qazi Abdur Rashid, Shaikh Ahmad and Sayyad Muhammad, They became the founders and precursors of seminaries and schools of thought and stimulated the dissemination of the pantheistic ideology and the literature and learning of maqulat together with traditional religious sciences. It was perhaps due to the impetus furnished by Shah Muhibbullah that the Chishti silsilah appreciably regained its former dominant position and importance and assumed country-wide character in the 18th century under the leadership of Shah Kalimullah Jahanabadi who composed the Sharhe Taswiya, a fervent commentary on Shah Muhibbullah's Taswiyah. Shah Muhibbullah became the prime exponent of liberal tradition in the 17th century by rehabilitating the pantheistic doctrine in sufism and inspiring the ideals of catholicity, tolerance and a rational approach to dogma and precept.


  • 1. Dara Shikoh mentions Shah Mir, Mulla Shah, Shah Muhammad Dilruba, Shaikh
  • Taiyib Sirhindi and Baba Lal Bairagi among the saints and pentheists of his time.
  • Majma al-Behrain, p. 57.
  • 2. Baba Lal Bairagi was the founder of a creed which consisted in the worship of
  • one God without form or any exterior cult and drew much from the Vedantic
  • philosophy and sufism, Dara Shikoh held frequent meetings with him in which
  • metaphysical questions were discussed.
  • 3. History of Sikh Gurus, Hari Ram Gupta, p. 91.
  • 4. Dara Shikoh,Qanungo, p. 88.
  • 5. Dara Shikoh, Life and Works, Bikramajit Hasrat, pp. 87-88.
  • 6. Dabistan-i Mazahib. 391-92.
  • 7. Naghmal Sarmad, Arsh Malsiyani, p. 25.
  • 2. Mujaddid's Conception of Tauhid, B. A. Faruqi, p.
  • 9. Ma'athirul Kiran, p. 236; Tazkirai Ulamal Hind, Rahman Ali, p. 98; Hadaiqui
  • Harta fiya, 406.
  • 10. Igribas al-Anwar, 284; Mirat-ul Asrar (Ms.)
  • 11. Shah Muhibbullah of Allahabad and His Mystical Thought, Yusuf Husain, Islamic
  • Culture: Vol. 39, 1964, p. 316.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Manazir-i Akhass-ul-Khawas Manzar I.
  • 14. Maktubat-i Imam Rabbani, Vol. I, Epistle, 43.
  • 15. Taswiya (Ms.), Manazil Akhas ul-Khwas, Manzar .
  • 16, Manazil Akhas ul Khawass, Manzar I,
  • 17. Manazir-Akhass ul Khawass, Manzar l.
  • 18. Iqtibas al-Antwar , p. 284.
  • 19. Tazkira-i Ulama-i Hind, p. 175.
  • 20. Maktubat. Shah Muhibbullah Allahabadi, pp. 22-23.
  • 21. Shah Muhibullah of Allahabad and His Mystical Thought, Islamic Culture, 1964,
  • p. 320.
  • 22. Maktubat-i Shah Muhibbullah Ilahabadi p. 335.
  • 23. Maktubat-i Shah Muhibbullah, pp. 133-134.
  • 24. Maktubat-i Shah Muhibullah Ilahabadi, p. 335,
  • 25. Islamic Culture, Vol. 39, p. 318.
  • 26. Islamic Culture, 1973, pp. 55-56,
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