Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi (rahimahullah) – Part A
Hazrat Hakeem-ul-Ummah, Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi (rahimahullah), was a great Aalim and luminary of the recent past. He was born in the village of Thanabhowan in 1280 AH and passed away at the age of 83 on 16 Rajab 1362 AH (20 July 1943).
Hazrat Moulana Thaanwi (rahimahullah) had lost his mother at a young age and was thus raised by his father. Allah Ta‘ala had blessed Hazrat Moulana Thaanwi (rahimahullah) with piety from a young age. Hence, it is mentioned that when he was just twelve years old, he was already punctual on performing tahajjud salaah.
Allah Ta‘ala accepted Hazrat Moulana Thaanwi (rahimahullah) to serve deen. Hence he wrote many kitaabs in the various sciences of deen, including tafseer, hadith, tasawwuf, fiqh, tajweed, etc. In fact, Allah Ta‘ala blessed Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) with such barakah in his writing that he authored more than a thousand different kitaabs!
When we examine the life of Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah), we find that he firmly upheld the Shari‘ah and adhered to the blessed sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), and this was the reason for Allah Ta‘ala blessing him with widespread acceptance.
Below, we will examine a few incidents relating to the manner in which Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would conduct when traveling, as these incidents will shed light on the manner in which this great saint upheld the Shari‘ah and sunnah at all times.
Paying the Porters a Fair Fee
On arriving at the train station, when the porters would come to collect the luggage of Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah), then though the railway company had already fixed an amount as the recommended porter’s fee, he would speak to the porters and fix a fee which was pleasing to them. The reason for Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) doing this is that the fee recommended by the railway company was quite low. Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would explain his action saying, “The normal price which the railway company has fixed is not considered (as the porters are not the employees of the railway company, and were being forced to accept the low fee). In Shari‘ah, the thing that is considered is to pay the worker a fee for his service that he happily agrees upon.”
Paying the Baggage Fee
Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) was very particular regarding paying the baggage fee. Hence, he would never take any baggage on the train without first paying the baggage fee. If Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) had any doubt regarding his baggage being overweight, then he would immediately weigh his luggage, and if it was overweight, he would pay the extra amount.
It is mentioned that on one occasion, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) was traveling from Sahaaranpur to Kaanpur by train, and while traveling, he had some sugar cane with him. When Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) called the employees of the railway company to weigh the sugar cane so that he could pay for it with the other luggage, then they did not weigh it. The non-Muslim employee said to Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah), “Hazrat! You may take it on the train without paying for it. There is no need to weigh it. We will speak to the guard and arrange it with him as well.”
Hearing this, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) asked, “How far will the guard travel with me?” The man replied, “He will travel with you until Ghaazi Aabaad.” Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) then asked, “What will happen after Ghaazi Aabaad, when the next guard asks me whether I paid for the sugar cane?” The man replied, “We will tell the first guard to speak to the second guard, and he will speak to the next guard, and so on, until you arrive at your destination of Kaanpur.”
Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) responded, “No! My journey will not end at Kaanpur! Rather, there is another journey that I will have to make after that – the journey to the Hereafter. What arrangements will be made for my sugar cane on that journey?” Hearing this, all the people present were left speechless. Among these people was an educated Hindu person who had also observed the scene and overheard the conversation. He remarked, “Even in this day and age, there are certain pious servants of God who fear Him and thus exercise caution at all times.”
Paying for the Train Ticket
Just as Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) was extremely particular regarding paying for his luggage, he was similarly particular regarding paying for the train ticket. Hence, he would never travel on the train if he had not paid for his ticket. Similarly, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would not allow his associates to travel on the train if they had not paid for the ticket.
It is mentioned that on one occasion, a certain student arrived in Thaanabhowan to visit Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah). However, at that time, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) was boarding the train and was about to depart on a journey. The student wished to join Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah), but since there was insufficient time for him to purchase the ticket, he spoke to the guard who allowed him to board the train without a ticket.
Thereafter, when they arrived at the next station, which was Nanota, the student took out his money and began to pay the guard for the ticket. However, the guard did not wish to take the fee for the distance already traveled from Thaanabhowan until Nanota, and said, “It is a very small and insignificant amount, and you are a poor person.”
The student then came to Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) and explained to him what had transpired. Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) replied, “The guard is merely an employee of the railway company. He is not the owner of the railway company. Hence, he cannot forego the amount which you owe for traveling until this point, rather it is incumbent on you to pay that amount. Pay him the amount due for this distance so that the haq you owe to the railway company will be fulfilled and you will not have any outstanding rights of people upon you.”
At the time when Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) said this to the student, there was an Englishman seated in the same carriage, and hence he had overheard the entire discussion. After observing all that transpired, he remarked and said, “At first, I was happy with the guard for showing some sympathy and kindness to the poor student. However, after hearing the explanation which you gave to the student, I now realize that my happiness was actually incorrect as it was happiness over injustice.”
The Railway Conductors Having respect for Hazrat Moulana Thaanwi (rahimahullah) on Account of His Honesty
It is mentioned that on account of Moulana Thaanwi (rahimahullah) being so particular regarding paying for the luggage and ticket when traveling by train, and due to him also emphasizing upon his associates to be particular in this regard, that all the employees at the train station held him in high esteem and respected his trustworthiness and honesty.
In fact, their trust and respect for the honesty of Moulana Thaanwi (rahimahullah) was such that if they saw any person traveling to Thanabhowan, and he appeared to be one of the trustworthy associates of Moulana Thaanwi (rahimahullah), then they would not insist on checking his ticket or weighing his luggage. Similarly, they would not stop him for an inspection or bother him in any way. With great confidence, they would say, “This man is going to the Moulana in Thaanabhowan. The people who go there are such that they will never travel without a ticket or without paying for their luggage in full.”