By Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhlawi
Translation edited by Shaykh Humza Chaudhry
I have written in Aap Beti Vol. 6 under the heading of spiritual exertion that while dictating the practices of Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi in Ramadan, I wanted to note it down because of its relevance to the subject. There I wrote:
“His extreme exertion in spiritual exercises was such that onlookers felt pity for him. Such was he that in Ramadan, even when his age had advanced beyond seventy, he fasted the whole day. Then in awwabin, instead of six rak’ah he used to perform twenty rak’ah during which he never recited less than approximately two juz. So long did he stay in ruku’ and sujud that onlookers thought that he had forgotten himself. Upon finishing this salah, he proceeded homeward to partake of the evening meal. Even during this time he would not remain idle, but en route and waiting for the food etc…, he also finished reciting several juz.
Soon he would commence ‘isha salah and tarawih, which did not take less than an hour or an hour and a quarter at least. Thereafter he would lie down at about half past ten only to rise again at about two o’clock or half past two for tahajjud. At times his attendants and assistants found him performing wudu’ at one o’clock. At this time of the night he used to spend 2 ½ hours to three hours in tahajjud. Sometimes it happened that an attendant would go to him at five o’clock to join him for suhur and would find him in prayer.
After fajr he remained busy reciting wazifas, wirds and engrossed in meditation until eight o’clock or half past eight. Then it was time for the ishraq prayer. Thereafter, for a few hours he would rest.
During this time the mail would arrive and he would begin answering letters and writing fatwas or dictating them. Thereafter it was time for rashid al-duha (chasht), and on performing this salah, he would have his daytime siesta.
After zuhr salah he usually closed the door of his private room and busied himself with the recitation of the Quran until ‘asr. Note that in the year for which this was his practices, he was suffering from extreme old age and various other sicknesses to such an extent that to walk from the toilet to his room – a mere fifteen paces – he became so tired that he had to sit down somewhere along the way to rest. In spite of this condition he never performed fard nor nafl salats sitting down, but remained standing for hours. On several occasions attendants implored him: “Hadrat, today you should perform tarawih while sitting. It seems appropriate.”
He always replied: “No! It is a sign of a lack of courage and perseverance.”
All I can say is this that it is no easy task to be a true follower of him who is reported to have answered:
“Shall I then not be a grateful slave?”
During Ramadan there was a marked increase in his ‘ibadah and exertion especially as far as his recitation of the Qur’an was concerned. Even when going to and from his house he never spoke. If an estimate of the total amount of his daily recitations in and out of salah is made, it comes to about half a complete recitation of the Qur’an daily. On the morning of the first day of fasting he used to say:
“From today all noises of conversation shall cease. If any man allows Ramadan to be wasted, it is a great sorrow indeed.”
Now, what was his diet for such severe efforts? So little did he eat for the whole of Ramadan that the total of it all amounted to less than five kilograms of grain. In his biography, Tadhkirat al-Rashid written by his successor (khalifah), Hakim Ishaq Nahturi, his Ramadan habits are discussed:
“During Ramadan he used to emerge from his private resting place late in the morning. In summer he generally came out about ten o’clock because he used to greatly increase his nafl salah, tilawah of the Qur’an, and his moments of silence and meditation as compared to other months. In this time he slept very little, spoke very little, only retiring after maghrib for a while to eat something. Initially he himself used to lead all twenty rak’ah of tarawih salah and later performed it behind his son, Hafiz Hakim Muhammad Mas‘ud. After that he performed two long rak‘ah of nafl salah, sometimes standing up and sometimes sitting down, thereafter remaining seated for a long time facing the qiblah and reciting. Thereafter he performed one sajdat al-tilawah and stood up. From hearing some of the words that he recited softly, I deduced that he would recite Surat al-Mulk, Surat al-Sajdah and Surat al-Dukhan. He usually fasted the ten days of Dhu ‘l-Hijjah, the days of ‘ashurah, and the middle of Sha‘ban.” (Tadhkirat al-Rashid)
My late father (Mawlana Muhammad Yahya al-Kandhlawi) on many occasions told the following story:
“During Hadrat’s last Ramadan I led the tarawih prayers (for him and his attendants). It so happened that because of some reason or the other, Hadrat’s son, Hakim Muhammad Mas‘ud was unable to perform it.”
For quite some days before the commencement of Ramadan, Hadrat told us:
‘Mas‘ud Ahmad is indisposed and not available to lead the tarawih prayers. Who then is going to recite the Qur’an for us in tarawih?’
On every occasion I wanted to offer my services and declare my readiness, but out of respect I refrained from doing so. Two days before Ramadan, Hadrat said:
‘Maulwi Yahya, are you not also a hafiz of the Qur’an?’
I replied: ‘Yes Hadrat, I am. But I recite the Qur’an in a Persian tone. You are used to hearing the recitation of Hakim Mas‘ud Ahmad, who is indeed a fine Qari.’
Hadrat replied: ‘No, I have already heard your recitation. You shall lead in tarawih.’
My father says: “On the first day it was a great burden for me. By way of preparation, I had to recite one and a quarter juz by looking into the Qur’an. I had memorized the Qur’an at the age of seven. Thereafter for six months I had to look into the Qur’an and daily recite one full khatam. And since then I had never looked into the Qur’an to recite it. The first day, in order to prepare myself properly, I recited 1 ¼ juz from the Qur’an, but from the second day onwards the fear, nervousness and anxiety disappeared. Thereafter there was no further need to look into the Qur’an.”
My late father (may Allah fill his resting place with light) was indeed a very good hafiz with tremendous energy to recite the Qur’an by heart. He had a bookshop where he himself made up the parcels to be posted and wrote the addresses himself. While doing that he was all the time reciting the Qur’an in audible fashion without ever becoming confused or struggling over the mutashabihat.