In the year 1857, a century before the independence of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur was still a jungle. The tin mine in Ampang was just found by the Chinese while Sultan Abdul Samad of Selangor was establishing himself to the throne.
Selangor was yet to accept the British Resident but an uprising had already taken place in British India. Indians of India, Muslims and Hindus alike, express their annoyance at the British occupation by a great mutiny.
There were many factors for the uprising, but for Muslims, they were utterly dejected by policies adopted by the sovereign; foreign policies that naturally left no authority for the Muslim Ruler of India, the Mughal King.
They systematically uprooted Islamic institutions initiated during the Islamic Mughal Empire and substituted them with missionary schools and other mediums of propaganda.
To clamp down the national uprising, the British ordered the hunting of suspects. Consequently, together with the Hindus, a good number of ulama’ was massacred.
Amongst them whom the warrant of arrest was issued for was Maulana Muhammad Qasim of Nanotah رحمة الله عليه, a district of Uttar Pradesh on the northern part of India.
Having drunk from the spiritual cup of his beloved mentor, Haji Imdadullah رحمة الله عليه, his burning zeal for the dignity of Islam was intensified.
His love for Allah سبحانه وتعالى and Rasul ( increased and his inclination towards the life of hereafter knew no limit.
For Maulana Qasim Nanotwi رحمة الله عليه, the life of this mundane world would not bother him much. He would rather spend this fleeting life in the worship of Allah سبحانه وتعالى , the Most High.
He used to pass his night standing before Him and complete fifteen juzu’ of Quran in one rakaat. He led a life of austerity.
His simplicity was such that people could not recognize him as scholar as he never used to style himself as a maulana.
When his location was leaked to the British and the authorities were informed that he was in a certain masjid, an officer came right away and saw him who appeared like a farmer.
He asked him “Where is Qasim Nanotwi?”
Maulana moved a little and while pointing to the place he just left said, “He was here just a while ago.”
It never crossed the officer’s mind that this man could have been the great commander who was instrumental in defying the British.
Besides his simplicity, this anecdote also depicts his concern to speak the truth. Even in such critical event, he would make it a point that he did not contravene any order of his Beloved Allah سبحانه وتعالى .
How can a lover displease his beloved?
His student, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi رحمة الله عليه said that his knowledge was such that if his books were to be translated into Arabic and his name was not written on the books, people would have think that they were the work of Imam Ghazali رحمة الله عليه or Imam Razi رحمة الله عليه.
Despite his academic ability, his simplicity was not restricted to his attire; his instructions were also very plain and easily understood.
A butcher of Deoband was quite informal with Maulana Nanotwi رحمة الله عليه; he would ask a lot of questions.
Maulana would reply according to his level of understanding.
He once asked “If everyone will be in his own grave and will be dealt with according to his own deeds, why is it a common belief among people that we should try and get buried near pious people?”
Maulana did not answer. It was a hot day and the butcher took hold of a hand fan and started waving the fan as it got hot.
Maulana asked him “Who are you fanning?”
He replied “You, of course!”
Maulana asked “Do these people sitting around us also feeling the cool air?”
He replied in the affirmative.
Maulana then said “Same is the condition of those being buried near pious people. When the cool breeze of Allah’s سبحانه وتعالى mercy is showered upon the pious, those around them also derive benefit.”