who died on Friday, 31 December, at the ripe age of 86, was the most prominent Muslim personality in India during the last four decades and one of the most noted personalities of the World of Islam during the last half a century. He was a pristine blend of a number of qualities and characteristics which are seldom found in one single person: he was an enlightened alim, an eloquent preacher and a wise reformer. Moreover, he was one of the few non-Arabs today who had fully mastered spoken and written Arabic. The Muslim Ummah’s love and respect for him has been unequalled in recent decades. This was because of his composure and avoidance of fanatic posturing.
Maulana Abul Hasan, popularly known in India as ‘Ali Miyan,’ was born at Takia Kalaan, Rae Bareilly in North India in 1333H/1914. His father was Allamah Abdul Hayy Hasani, author of famous books like Nuzhatul Khawatir and Al-Thaqafah al-islamiyah fi’l-Hind. He was a descendant of Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed who had led a Jihad movement against the British occupation, established an Islamic state in the North Western Frontier (now in Pakistan) and fell martyr on the battlefield of Balakot in 1831.
Maulana Abdul Hayy died while Abul Hasan was only nine years old. His brother, Dr Sayyid Abdul Ali brought him up. He was a physician who practiced in Lucknow and looked after the Nadwatul Ulama as nazim. Abul Hasan studied at Darul Ulum Nadwatul Ulama and took special interest in Arabic literature. He took advantage of two Arab teachers at Darul Ulum: Khalil Muhammad of Yemen and Taqiuddin al-Hilali of Morocco who taught him modern spoken and written Arabic. Abul Hasan completed his Hadith studies at the Madrasah of Maulana Ahmad Ali at Lahore. After the completion of his studies, Abul Hasan joined Darul Ulum Nadwatul Ulama as a teacher of Arabic literature and Tafsir in 1934. He continued this for ten years. In 1948 he was selected for the membership of the administrative council of Nadwatul Ulama. Soon he became the supervisor of education in Darul Ulum in 1953 after the death of Allama Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi. In December 1960 he was elected as deputy nazim of Darul Ulum and as nazim on 18 July 1961 after the death of his brother who had held this position.
During the early period of his life, Maulana Abul Hasan was associated for some time with the Jama’at-e Islami founded by Maulana Abul A’la Maudoodi. Thereafter he felt inclined towards the Tableeghi Jama’at and remained associated with it all his life after that brief period.
In 1951 Maulana Abul Hasan founded the Payam-e Insaniyat movement to disseminate the message of love and amity among the people of India. He continued this mission to the end of his life.
At a very early period Maulana Abul Hasan started writing. He published his first book, Sirat-e Sayyid Ahmad Shahid in Urdu in 1938. Soon thereafter he started writing in Arabic and presented his first Arabic work, Mada khasira al-‘alam bi-inhitat al-Muslimin, about the loss to humanity due to the decline of Muslims. This remains one of his best and most popular books.
Maulana Abul Hasan established the Academy of Islamic Research & Publications within the framework of Nadwatul Ulama in 1959. This institution has since published hundreds of titles on various Islamic subjects in a number of languages.
Maulana Abul Hasan’s educational and academic preoccupations did not prevent him from taking active interest in the issues of his community. The disunity in Muslim ranks led him to call for the establishment of Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat in 1964 as a platform to bring together the leaders of all the major Muslim organizations and societies. A few years later Maulana Abul Hasan called for the establishment of the Muslim Personal Law Board to safeguard whatever Muslim laws were still operative in India. This body, which emerged in 1972, is still active and responsible to a large extent for the protection of Islamic family laws in India. The Islamic Literature Association was established in Makkah in 1984 under his chairmanship in response to a call he had given a few years back.
Maulana Abul Hasan won the highest awards of the Muslim World including the King Faisal award which he won in 1979 and the Muslim Personality of the Year award presented by the government of Dubai in 1998. Maulana Abul Hasan never accepted the monetary part of these awards. He at once donated them among schools and charitable institutions.
According to an estimate, the number of the books and treatises authored by Maulana Abul Hasan has crossed 170. Many of his books have been translated into various languages and continue to inspire people around the world.
Maulana Abul Hasan was a member of many societies and Islamic centres around the world including the Makkah-based Muslim World League, Islamic University of Madinah and Muslim World Conference. He was the chairman of the board of trustees of the Oxford Islamic Centre and chairman of many Islamic institutions and societies in India. His death leaves a void which will be hard to fill for many years.