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Hussein Ahmed Madani (6 October 1879 – 1957) was an Islamic scholar from the Indian subcontinent. His followers called him Shaykh al-Islam, Shaykh Ul Arab Wal Ajam to acknowledge his expertise in hadith and fiqh. He was among the first recipients of the civilian honour of Padma Bhushan in 1954. According to The Nation (Pakistan) newspaper, Deoband dignitaries started their struggle against the imperial subjugation of the Indo-Pak subcontinent at a time when nobody dared to utter a word against the British rule.
He was born in Bangarmau District Unnao where his father was a teacher. He was originally from Tanda District Faizabad. His father was Sayyid Habibullah, descendant of Prophet Muhammad.
In 1892, at the age of thirteen, he went to the Darul Uloom Deoband, where he studied under Mehmud Hasan. After completing the esoteric sciences, he became a disciple of Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, who later authorised him to initiate others in the Sufi path. Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi was also the pir (or spiritual teacher) of Mehmud Hasan and it was Mehmud Hasan who told Hussein Ahmed to become Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi’s disciple too. He was held among the senior khulafa (or successors) of Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi.
Through him his spiritual lineage goes back to Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari who was the originator of the Chisti-Sabiri branch of the Chisti order. This spiritual chain is however strongly linked with the Naqshbandi order of Sufism as well, because one of the ancestral pirs of Hussein Ahmed had also accepted Syed Ahmad Shaheed as his master who belonged to the Naqshbandi order. Thus Hussein Ahmed had the benefit of being linked to both the Naqshbandi and the Chisti order. While the former Sufi order stressed silent invocation, the latter focused on the more esoteric aspects of Islam. His main school of thought, of whose litanies he practiced, was however Chisti-Sabiri order.
After graduating from the Darul Uloom Deoband, he migrated to Medina with his family. He began teaching Arabic grammar, usul al-fiqh, usul al-hadith, and Quranic exegesis. He spent 18 years teaching these various Islamic sciences in Medina. He was then appointed as head teacher and “Shaikhul Hadith” of Darul Uloom Deoband. He served in this position for approximately 28 years.
After his teacher Mehmud Hasan was sentenced by the British for his role in the Silk Letter Conspiracy to a prison in the Island of Malta, Madani volunteered to go with him so that he could look after him. He had personally not been convicted. Mehmud was imprisoned for three years. It so happened that holy Islamic month of Ramadan had come and neither Mehmud Hasan nor Madani was Hafiz of the Qur’an. At this instance, Mehmud Hasan said to his student (Madani) that most of his life, he didn’t have a Ramadan without listening to the complete Qur’an in the special night prayers called Tarawih. Hussein Ahmed Madani, who respected his teachers very much, took this very sentence of his teacher seriously and started to memorize the Holy Quran while in prison. Daily, Madani would memorise one Juz (part) of the Holy Quran and recite it in the Tarawih. Continuing to do so, he memorized the whole Quran in the 30 days of Ramadan, thus saving his teacher Mehmud Hasan from being deprived of listening to the Holy Quran, as he had every Ramadan. Such is an example of respect for teachers!
After his release, he returned to India and became actively involved in India’s freedom struggle. He had considerable influence over a section of the Muslims, more prominently those belonging to Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Maulana Madani was one of the founder members of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He was the member of foundation committee (for the foundation of Jamia Millia Islamia) headed by Sheikhul-Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan, met on the 29th of October in 1929. He was against the two-nation theory, and predominantly due to this, a large number of Muslims from Eastern U.P. and Bihar declined to migrate to Pakistan at the time of 1947 independence of Pakistan and the Partition of India. He became the President of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a post he held until his death in 1957. (He also held the post of Shaikhul Hadith at Darul Uloom Deoband till his death).