The Great Success by Shah Walli Ullah RA
Savant, Iconoclast, Reformer and A Sufi Sheikh, Shah Walli Ullah RA made contributions to Islam in the subcontinent that can never be forgotten. His book ‘Fauz-ul-Kabir’ is one such decisive master piece.
Quranic promise of sending people to defend its religion against innovators, hypocrites, and dissenters, has manifested itself throughout the history, time and time again. Hearsay upon hearsay, philosophy upon philosophy and rulers upon rulers, men of great wisdom and scholarship have shattered the myths and misconceptions through tomes of rectifying and elucidating works.
For instance, Imam Ghazali RA’s works were a decisive blow to Greek philosophy that started indulging itself with ontological criticism of Islamic theology.
His works like ‘Incoherence of the Philosophers’ and “Mustasfa’ have been used ever since by the scholars to underscore the errors of Greek philosophy and logic and subsequent outlining of principles that serve as the hermeneutical basis for understanding and interpretation of Quran.
Many scholars have contributed to this great legacy fulfilling the prophecy of Prophet SA that there will be ‘renewer’ of faith in every century who would purify the religion from the adulteries of times and keep it pure, simple and relevant for all ages. People like Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal RA, Sheikh Ahmed Sarhindi RA, and many others can be cited for their great contribution towards defending not only Islamic sciences but also its ethos.
One such figure in the recent history of the Indian subcontinent is Shah Wali Ullah Dehlvi RA. Born Qutbuddin Ahmed, his love for Islamic sciences and attachment with Tassawwuf, got him the name ‘Wali Ullah’, Friend of Allah. He came from a lineage of very pious and scholarly family that goes back to Khalifa Umar bin Khattab RA.
He finished his religious scholarship very early in his life as well as the memorization of the Quran. He then attached himself to the sublime path of Sufism through Naqshbandia Order of Sufism.
It was a custom in old times as well as these days among erudite scholars to work on their spiritual state as much as their outward knowledge. When he came back from Hajj in 1732, he brought with him great knowledge of Hadith which proved to be of critical importance in his monumental reformation campaign in India.
Like all great Sufi Sheikhs, his primary purpose was to unite the divided Muslims and create a prosperous and vibrant society that would engage foreign invasions on faith through intellectual dialogue. He designed a curriculum keeping things very simple and understandable without going into complex details of controversial fallacies.
His school of thought was a moderate and tolerant one which accommodated all point of views. He defined the concepts of the ruler and the subjects and the correct nature of government. Based on his principles, armed resistance against British was led by Shah Ismail RA who happened to be his grandson.
In his lifetime he wrote over 50 books in Arabic and Persian. The book which could truly be called ‘Quran for Dummies’ however is ‘Fauz-ul-Kabir’, The Great Success. It succinctly delineates the subjects and scope of Quran and its true purpose. His focus on explaining Quran to layman has been the reason for its immense popularity among the proletariat of his time.
He breaks down Quranic subjects into five categories:
The Injunctions in Quran
Under these, come the Do’s and Don’ts of Islamic jurisprudence. It spans from praying to business, pledges, and politics.
This part set the terms for debates between four classes of people. These classes are Christians, Jews, Polytheists, and Hypocrites.
Reminding of Allah’s Favors
The purpose of these verses is to enumerate the immensity of favors Allah has bestowed upon its creation e.g. Sun, Moon, Rain, and Vegetation.
Reminding of Allah’s Wrath/Beneficence on certain People/Nations
This portion deals with the historic narration of people and nations and what they believed. It also tells the reader their ways of living, intransigence, and subsequent wrath.
Reminding of Events that will happen upon Dying or afterward.
Human beings have always been curious about death and subsequent life. These verses deal with the topic and expounds on nature of life and death and what will happen after death.
His overarching encompassing of Quranic subjects made understanding Quran very easy for the common man who was on the verge of falling prey to greedy and opportunist clergy that existed in his time.
It is hence not a surprise that it remains relevant even today and a source of guidance for people who want to have a moderate and workable faith devoid of aristocratic drapings and veneer of superficiality.
One of the many positives of his book is its dealing with complex issues. He breaks down intricate theological matters like The Disjointed Letters, Cancelling and Canceled verses, and Circumstances of verse revelation. His easy to understand explanation of Quran’s diction without using grammatical terminology is an unparalleled feat.
For example, he sheds light on why counter-intuitively, Quran does not complete some sentences and why some of them seem unrelated and why it switches audiences quite often.
The last portion of the book drives home the point that his mastery over exegesis sciences was epic. He seems to have great knowledge of all the exegesis ever written and he categorizes them according to author’s forte and their exegesis is strongly influenced by that. For example, he notes that exegesis have been written by authors who are Hadith experts, grammarians, rhetoricians, jurists, philosophers, and reciters.
In the end, he lays down basic principles of construing means from Quranic verses and keeping it apart from Jewish and Christian influences.