Throughout Islamic history, different regions were noted for exemplary roles vis-à-vis the study of Ḥadīth. Whether it was Iraq during the Abbasid era or Egypt during the Mamluk era, scholars have expended considerable energy in learning, developing, and disseminating the study of Ḥadīth. From the 10thcentury AH, Zāhid al-Kawtharī (d. 1952) notes, the Indian subcontinent played a pivotal role in preserving the discipline of Ḥadīth when interest in the field began to wane in other regions.Rashīd Riḍā (d. 1935) argues that were it not for the dedication of scholars from India in recent times, the discipline of Ḥadīth would have been forgotten.
This paper explores the contributions of one particular Indian scholar: Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī (d. 1880). He was among the most influential Ḥadīth scholars of the 19thcentury, yet his scholarship remains underappreciated. This paper will examine his biography and contribution to the academic world, with particular focus on his editorial work on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. To provide context to his legacy, first, a word on India’s history of Ḥadīth studies is in order.
A Synopsis of Ḥadīth Studies in India
ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Ḥasanī (d. 1923) categorizes the Islamic educational history of India into four periods. The first period spanned from the 7thto the 9thcenturies AH. Grammar, logic, theology, mysticism, and other core subjects were passionately studied in this period; the focus, however, revolved around law and legal theory. The second period began in the 9thcentury where the curriculum remained
largely the same, but texts were added to each discipline to make necessary improvements. These additions were made by the students of Saʿd al-Dīn al-Taftāzānī (d. 792 AH) and al-Sharīf al-Jurjānī (d. 816 AH). The third period involved a modification of the prevalent curriculum by the likes of Fatḥ Allāh al-Shīrāzī (d. 927 AH), all the while indigenous scholars traveled abroad to expand their horizons of knowledge. The fourth period began with Mullā Niẓām al-Dīn al-Sihālawī (d. 1161 AH/1748 CE), who is commonly believed to have founded the Dars-e Niẓāmī syllabus.
The study of Ḥadīth, in particular, began early on in India’s history.Following the conquest of Sind by the Umayyad general Muḥammad ibn Qāsim in the 1stcentury AH and subsequent conquests of the broader subcontinent, scholars like Isrāʾīl ibn Mūsā al-Baṣrī (d. c. 150 AH),al-Rabīʿ ibn Ṣabīḥ (d. 160 AH),and Abū Bakr ibn al-Aḥmar (d. 358 AH)visited these lands and transmitted ḥadīths therein. From the 5thcentury AH, under the auspices of Sultan Maḥmūd Ghaznawī (d. 421 AH) and his successors, Lahore became a center for Ḥadīth studies that later produced the renowned lexicographer and Ḥadīth scholar Raḍī al-Dīn al-Ṣaghānī (d. 650 AH),who authored Mashāriq al-Anwār—a digest of the Ṣaḥīḥayn celebrated as one of the earliest contributions to Ḥadīth from an Indian scholar—and other critically acclaimed Ḥadīth works.With the founding of the Delhi sultanate in the 7thcentury, scholars predominantly focused on the legal and rational sciences. With the exception of scattered cases of Ḥadīth-recitations at Ṣūfī lodges in northern India, the study of Ḥadīth overall waned in this period.
At the turn of the 9thcentury, Muẓaffar Khān (d. 814 AH) established a sultanate in the coastal province of Gujrat, which brought about a renaissance in the study of Ḥadīth.Motivated by the scholarly atmosphere and patronage for learning in the Muẓaffarid sultanate, Ḥadīth scholars from lands as far as Egypt migrated to Gujrat and with them came a rich source of Ḥadīth knowledge and texts. Successive sultans like Aḥmad Shāh (r. 814-846 AH) and Maḥmūd Shāh (r. 863-917 AH) maintained this academic atmosphere and were themselves actively involved in Ḥadīth discussions.Badr al-Dīn al-Damāmīnī (d. 827 AH), Wajīh al-Dīn Muḥammad (d. 919 AH), and Jamāl al-Dīn Baḥrāq (d. 930 AH) were some of the scholars who took Gujrat as their new residence where they disseminated Ḥadīth scholarship.An illustrious Gujrati scholar of Ḥadīth in the 10thcentury AH was Muḥammad ibn Ṭāhir al-Fattanī (d. 986 AH),who studied with the Indian ʿAlī al-Muttaqī (d. 975 AH), author of Kanz al-ʿUmmāl, in Makkah.Until the 12thcentury AH/18thcentury CE, a trend of Ḥadīth scholarship could be found in Sind,Deccan, Lucknow, Jaunpur, Bengal, and Delhi,among other regions.
The works and thought of the celebrated reformer Shāh Walī Allāh al-Dihlawī (d. 1176 AH) left an indelible print on Ḥadīth scholarship in India. After returning from his studies at the Two Sanctuaries (Ḥaramayn), he revived the study of Ḥadīth in his native land, particularly by establishing the reading of the six canonical Ḥadīth texts in their entirety. That nearly every chain of Ḥadīth transmission in South Asia today passes through him speaks volumes about his contribution to the field of Ḥadīth. After his demise, his family and successors maintained his legacy. Most notable among them were his son ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Dihlawī (d. 1239 AH) and grandson Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī (d. 1262 AH).Countless scholars benefited from the Walī Allāh Ḥadīth legacy.One of the most influential Ḥadīth scholars of the 13thcentury AH/19thcentury CE, was a student of this line of scholarship: Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī, to whom we now turn our focus.
Aḥmad ʿAlī ibn Luṭf Allāh was born in the year 1225 AH/1810 CE in Saharanpur.At a young age, he learned to read the Qurʿān and mastered Persian.But he did not pursue Islamic studies until the age of sixteen at which point he memorized the Qurʾān—within an astonishing six months—and studied with local scholars. He completed his advanced studies with Muftī Ilāhī Bakhsh, Mawlānā Saʿādat ʿAlī, and Mawlānā Wajīh al-Dīn al-Sahāranpūrī, culminating with a study of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīunder the latter.Following his marriage at the age of twenty-one, he traveled to Farrukhabad for business purposes, but he had a change of heart and decided instead to specialize in Arabic.
He then traveled south to Delhi where he studied with Mawlānā Mamlūk al-ʿAlī (d. 1851).Although the precise date of his travel to Delhi is not known, he was there studying with Mamlūk al-ʿAlī in 1250 AH/1835 CE, at the age of 25.In 1258 AH, he came to the study-circle of the great transmitter of Ḥadīth, Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī, in Delhi but was informed that preparations were already underway for his migration to Makkah.Aḥmad ʿAlī’s determination did not waver. Within months, he traveled to Makkah where he furthered his study of Ḥadīth with Muḥammad Isḥāq for over a year.Under his tutelage, Aḥmad ʿAlī completed and received authorization for the six canonical books of Ḥadīth and sixteen other texts.He had a fascinating method of learning Ḥadīth: from Fajr to Ẓuhr he transcribed ḥadīths in the sacred precinct (Ḥaram), and from Ẓuhr to ʿAṣr, he read them to Muḥammad Isḥāq. In this fashion, he completed the recitation and transcription of the major Ḥadīth texts.
He returned to Delhi in 1260 AH/1844 CE. In what can be regarded as the most innovative service to the discipline of Ḥadīth in his time, al-Sahāranpūrī opened a printing press where he critically edited and printed key Ḥadīth literature. Unfortunately, this project came to a sudden halt during the Indian mutiny of 1857.In the aftermath of the disastrous mutiny, he moved to Saharanpur for two years and then to Meerut where he took up a managerial post for a lucrative family business located in Calcutta for roughly ten years.
Years passed as he remained occupied with his new managerial work. He then embarked on the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj—a journey that would drastically change the course of his life. In Makkah, he met his student Ḥājjī Imdādullāh (d. 1899) who suggested that he leave his current occupation and engage in teaching Ḥadīth, a task for which he was well-placed.In 1291 AH/1874 CE, he took his student’s advice and relocated once more to Saharanpur where he served as a dean at a fledgling seminary established several years earlier: the prestigious Maẓāhir-e ʿUlūm.In the following year, he was appointed a senior lecturer of Ḥadīth, teaching classical Ḥadīth texts such as the six canonical works, al-Shaybānī’s recension of the Muwaṭṭāʾ,Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ. That he singlehandedly taught such a large number of voluminous texts—some of them multiple times—in the span of one year,could only be described as a miracle.
For the next six years, he dutifully carried out his responsibilities at Maẓāhir-e ʿUlūm, and not only did he work pro bono, but he also was a generous donor and personally tended to the meals of the students.Moreover, he maintained a close relationship with other academic seminaries in the region. During the groundbreaking of Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, he was chosen to place the first brick.In 1297 AH/1880 CE, at the age of 72, he suffered a stroke and subsequently breathed his last on Saturday, the 6thof Jumādā al-Ūlā/17thof April. He was laid to rest in his family graveyard in Saharanpur, located near the grounds used for the ʿĪd prayer—May Allāh have mercy on his soul.
Maṭbaʿ Aḥmadī Printing Press
In the mid 19thcentury, at the center of heated polemics, printing presses were great mediums to disseminate ideas rapidly.Naval Kishore’s (d. 1895)Lucknow-based printing press, for instance, was noted for its prolific production of literature in a vast array of languages.Earlier in 1840 CE, Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī printed Sunan al-Nasaʿīthrough Maṭbaʿ Sulṭānī.In 1260 AH/1844 CE, Wajīh al-Dīn al-Sahāranpūrī, Aḥmad ʿAlī’s teacher, put this medium to good use by establishing the Matbaʿ Aḥmadī printing press, named after the revolutionary leader Sayyid Aḥmad Shahīd (d. 1831). Upon returning from his studies in Makkah, Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī was given ownership of Maṭbaʿ Aḥmadī, to which he made significant improvements.His editorial work on some of the most authoritative Ḥadīth literature was a priceless service to scholarship that is seldom matched in quality and academic standards till this day.
Maṭbaʿ Aḥmadī was active in Delhi for 13 years—from 1844 until the 1857 mutiny, after which it was relocated to Meerut but was not nearly as successful.Through the printing press, al-Sahāranpūrī critically edited and published a number of important works, like Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī,Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ,and Taqrīb al-Tahdhīb, many of which were printed for the first time.He dedicated all his time and effort to this project and occasionally sought assistance from his colleagues and mentors; Mawlānā Mamlūk al-ʿAlī, for instance, assisted him in preparing Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī.His editorial work deserves an independent study, but for our purposes, his work on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīis an invaluable yet underappreciated display of scholarship that reflects his erudition in Ḥadīth studies.
Apart from the aforementioned activities, he was not a prolific author. He wrote a Persian booklet, which he later translated into Urdu, on the contentious issue of recitation behind the Imām, entitled “al-Dalīl al-Qawī ʿalā Tark al-Qiraʾah li al-Muqtadī.” A treatise on Imām al-Bukhārī’s statement “some people say” entitled “Baʿḍ al-Nās fī Dafʿ al-Waswās” is questionably attributed to al-Sahāranpūrī.He wrote a number of edicts, among which his edict on celebrating the Mawlid has been published.
Work on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
Al-Sahāranpūrī began editing and annotating the Ṣaḥīḥin 1844 shortly after returning from his academic sojourn in Makkah. In 1848, he printed the first 184 pages of the Ṣaḥīḥthrough Maṭbaʿ Sayyid al-Akhbār, a printing press run by Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khan’s brother Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ghafūr. Three years later, he resumed work on the Ṣaḥīḥat his own printing press, Maṭbaʿ Aḥmadī.Between 1851-1854—decades before the celebrated Amīriyyah edition,using the highest quality paper available, he produced the earliest print of the Ṣaḥīḥin two volumes.During al-Sahāranpūrī’s lifetime, his edition of the Ṣaḥīḥwas reprinted several times by Maṭbaʿ Aḥmadī—in Delhi and in its Meerut remake—and other publishers.In subsequent editions, al-Sahāranpūrī appended a list of typographical errors found in the first edition, and he added biographical information on the transmitters of the Ṣaḥīḥ.
He spent years critically editing and refining his copy of the Ṣaḥīḥwith at least ten other manuscripts,such as his teacher Shāh Muḥammad Isḥāq’s manuscript, which was an extension of ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sālim al-Baṣrī’s legendary manuscript.Another valuable resource that he consulted to verify the text of the Ṣaḥīḥwas al-Qasṭallānī’s Irshād al-Sārī,which was cross-referenced with Sharaf al-Dīn al-Yūnīnī’s proverbial manuscript of the Ṣaḥīḥ.It is worth noting that al-Sahāranpūrī frequently quotes a manuscript of the Ṣaḥīḥthat contains variants from the Yūnīniyyah that are not noted in Irshād al-Sārī.Moreover, that al-Sahāranpūrī had at his disposal Raḍī al-Dīn al-Ṣaghānī’s manuscript of the Ṣaḥīḥmakes his edition a priceless resource for text-verification. The reader should recall that al-Ṣaghānī’s manuscript was cross-referenced with al-Firabrī’s holograph of the Ṣaḥīḥ.There are instances where al-Sahāranpūrī noted variants from al-Ṣaghānī that his fellow commentators did not draw attention to—not even Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī.
In addition to authenticating the text of the Ṣaḥīḥ, al-Sahāranpūrī annotated it with beneficial notes—marginal (ḥawāshī) and interlinear (bayn al-suṭūr)—where he alludes to manuscript-variants, provides commentary, and explicates the link between chapter-headings and ḥadīths.He occasionally cites annotations that were found on the manuscripts of the Ṣaḥīḥhe used for text-verification.Before commenting, he often consulted multiple manuscripts of a source to verify its reliability.Furthermore, the work is prefaced with a beneficial prolegomenon comprising Imām al-Bukhārī’s biography, discussions related to the Ṣaḥīḥ, and general Ḥadīth nomenclature; in total, he covers 27 topics.In light of al-Sahāranpūrī’s thorough work and display of impressive erudition, it is no wonder that a contemplative reading of his marginal notes, as Mawlānā Zakariyyā Kāndhlawī (d. 1982) explains, will suffice a Ḥadīth student from consulting other commentaries.
In the prolegomenon, al-Sahāranpūrī presents an impressive bibliography of nearly seventy works that he consulted to prepare the marginal notes. Apart from the prominent commentaries on the Ṣaḥīḥ, he consulted ʿAbd al-Awwal al-Jawnpūrī’s (d. 968 AH) Fayḍ al-Bārī, ʿUthmān al-Sindī’s (d. 1008 AH) Ghāyat al-Tawḍīh,and Yaʿqūb al-Lāhorī’s (d. 1013 AH) al-Khayr al-Jārī.Likewise, in the genres of narrator-criticism, nomenclature, linguistic exegesis, law, sīrah, and legal theory, he tapped into a wide array of sources.However, there are a number of sources that he quotes throughout the notes that he did not list in the bibliography, such as al-Khāṭṭābī (from al-Aʿlām),al-Ghazālī (from the Iḥyāʾ),al-Mizzī (from Tuḥfat al-Ashrāf),Shāh Walī Allāh (from al-Abwāb wa al-Tarājim),Shaykh al-Islām—a descendent of ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī,and Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī (referred to as Mawlānā).
It is commonly believed that al-Sahāranpūrī outsourced the completion of the marginal notes to his student Mawlānā Qāsim Nānautwī.However, the late Shaykh Yūnus Jawnpūri, Muftī Taqī ʿUthmānī, and Mawlānā Nūr al-Ḥasan Kāndhlawī believe that this was not the case because there is no significant stylistic shift in the annotations.Al-Sahāranpūrī’s annotations are characterized with concision and selective referencing of certain sources;for the most part, this is consistent throughout the annotations, and neither do the annotations resemble the idiosyncratic writing style of Mawlānā Nānautwī.
Subsequent scholars academically engaged with al-Sahāranpūrī’s work on the Ṣaḥīḥ. Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Aʿẓamī (d. 1993) authored a two-volume supplementary work entitled “al-Taṣwībāt li mā fī Ḥawāsḥī al-Bukhārī min al-Taṣḥīfāt” where he highlights typographical errors, scribal oversights, and misquotations.In Fayḍ al-Bārī, Mawlānā Anwar Shāh al-Kashmīrī (d. 1933) builds on and at times critiques al-Sahāranpūrī’s annotations,and Shaykh Yūnus Jawnpūrī does the same in his commentary on the Ṣaḥīḥentitled “Nibrās al-Sārī ilā Riyāḍ al-Bukhārī.”
The 14th-century AH/20th-century CE is described as the period of reawakening in the history of Ḥadīth studies.The annals of this period are decorated with names like Jamāl al-Dīn al-Qāsimī (d. 1914), Aḥmad Shākir (d. 1958), ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Kattānī (d. 1962), Aḥmad Ṣiddīq al-Ghumārī (d. 1961), and ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Muʿallimī (d. 1966), to name a few.The scene for this reawakening, however, was set by the efforts of visionaries like Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī, an encyclopedic scholar who played an irreplaceable role in shaping India’s rich history of Ḥadīth. He was ahead of the curve with his innovative method of editing the text of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī—and other literature—and subsequently introducing it to the world of print.In addition to his literary contributions, he prepared an entire generation of students who reshaped the intellectual landscape of India.
The following is an excerpt from the Maṭbaʿ Musṭafāʾī print of al-Sahāranpūrī’s work on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīthat was published in 1305 AH/1887 CE, eight years after his demise. To illustrate the different parts of his work, relevant sections were highlighted using different colors.
- The yellow box at the center of the page is the text of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.
- The light blue box within the main text is al-Sahāranpūrī’s interlinear gloss (bayn al-suṭūr).
- The blue box on the top of the page is his marginal notes (ḥawāsḥī).
- The green box on the left explains manuscript variants.
- The red box on the far left entitled “asmāʿ al-rijāl” contains biographical information of the transmitters.
- The purple box in the bottom left corner mentions the part (juzʾ), based on a 30-part division of the Ṣaḥīḥ.
An edition published by Nūr Muḥammad’s Aṣaḥḥ al-Maṭābiʿ in 1357 AH/1938 CE—later reproduced by Qadīmī Kutub khānah, which is the most popular edition of the work today—added another column entitled ḥall al-lughātto explain obscure vocabulary. This column was not written by al-Sahāranpūrī.
I would like to thank my dear friend Mawlānā Haroon Anis. Without his encouragement and resources, this article would have never been completed. I would also like to thank Shaykh Saiful Hadi for travelling to Kandhla to present a draft of this paper to Malwānā Nūr al-Ḥāsan Kāndhlawī who provided useful feedback.
Al-Ḥasanī, al-Thaqāfah al-Islāmiyyah fī al-Hind, pp. 11-17. Over the last 150 years, Dars-e Niẓāmī has been the most prominent syllabus in Islamic seminaries throughout South Asia. Mullā Niẓām al-Dīn al-Sihālawī is commonly credited with the development of this syllabus. However, Nūr al-Ḥāsan Kāndhlawī argues that there is no evidence to suggest that Mullā Niẓām al-Dīn developed any syllabus that differed from his predecessors. There are fundamental texts that form the basis of Dars-e Niẓāmī that were added by earlier scholars, such as Fatḥ Allāh al-Shīrāzī, and other works that were added after Niẓām al-Dīn’s demise. It is more accurate to assert that the contemporary syllabus stems from four intellectual centers that were prevalent in India: 1) the family of Farangī Maḥall; 2) Shāh Walī Allāh and his family; 3) the syllabus used by the scholars of Khairabad; and 4) the syllabus of Delhi College. See Nūr al-Ḥasan Kāndhlawī, Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband awr Maẓahir al-ʿUlūm Sahāranpūr kā sab sey Pehley Niṣāb-e Taʿlīm, pp. 91-92; Barbara Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900, pp. 100-101.
The importance of works like Mashāriq al-Anwārnotwithstanding, Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī (d. 771 AH) laments a false sense of what constitutes true Ḥadīth scholarship among those who claim to be qualified in Ḥadīth, yet their studies culminate at latter-day texts like al-Ṣaghānī’s Mashāriq al-Anwār, al-Baghawī’s al-Maṣābīḥ, and Ibn al-Athīr’s Jāmiʿ al-Uṣūl. Al-Subkī appears to be hinting at a trend that was prevalent in India. See al-Subkī, Muʿīd al-Niʿam wa Mubīd al-Niqam, p. 66; cf. ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Chishtī, al-Biḍāʿah al-Muzjāh, p. 59; Al-Ḥasanī, al-Thaqāfah al-Islāmiyyah fī al-Hind, p. 135. On the pervasive influence of Mashāriq al-Anwārin India, see Muhammad Ishaq, India’s Contribution to the Study of Hadith Literature, pp. 76-77.
Ramzi Baalbaki, “al-Ṣaghānī,” in Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition; Sezgin, Tārīkh al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, vol. 1, p. 252; al-Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-Islām, vol. 14, pp. 636-38. On his expertise in Ḥadīth, see Chishtī, Imām-e Lughat Ḥasan ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣāghānī al-Lāhorī, no. 2, pp. 131-36. In the 1959 edition of the monthly Maʿārif magazine, Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Chishtī contributed nine columns (January to September) on the life and times of al-Ṣaghānī.
There is a manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslimwith Maḥmūd Shāh’s personal seal. This demonstrates that he took keen interest in gathering Ḥadīth literature. See Imtiyāz ʿAlī, Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in Raza Library Rampur, vol. 1, pp. 416-17
Sources differ on whether his name was Muḥammad Ṭāhir or Muḥammad ibn Ṭāhir; the latter is more accurate. See Abū Ẓafar Nadwī, “Foreword,” in Tadhkirah-e ʿAllāmah Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṭāhir Muḥaddith Pattanī(trans.), p. 11.
After a five-hundred-year period of stagnation, scholars like Makhdūm ʿAbd al-ʿAzīr al-Abharī (d. after 928 AH) revived the study of Ḥadīth in Sind. Other Sindī Ḥadīth scholars include Muḥammad Hāshim al-Tatawī (d. 1174 AH) and Muḥammad ʿĀbid al-Sindī (d. 1257 AH), whose extensive CV, Ḥaṣr al-Shārid, bears testimony to his expertise in Ḥadīth. See Sāʾid Bakdāsh, al-Imām al-Faqīh al-Muḥaddith al-Shaykh Muḥammad ʿĀbid al-Sindī, passim; Muhammad Ishaq, India’s Contribution to the Study of Hadith Literature, pp. 110-11; Sayyid Shujāʿat, “Foreword,” in Thalāth Rasāʾil fī Istiḥbāb al-Duʿāʾ, pp. 17-22.
After returning from his studies abroad, the renowned Ḥadīth scholar ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī (d. 1052 AH) established a center of Ḥadīth study in his native town Delhi through which the study of Ḥadīth flourished. He authored two commentaries on Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ, one in Persian entitled “Ashiʿʿat al-Lamaʿāt” and another in Arabic entitled “Lamaʿāt al-Tanqīḥ.” His introduction to Ḥadīth nomenclature is studied in many traditional seminaries till this day. See al-Ḥasanī, Nuzhat al-Khawāṭir, vol. 5, p. 505.
He initially was on track to pursue Islamic education early in his life, but the demise of two important figures halted his progress: his father and a mother-like figure named Ḥusaynā Begum. He quickly found himself caught up in unhealthy circles, squandering his time playing chess and pigeon-rearing. At age sixteen, he was approached by Mawlānā Wajīh al-Dīn and Mawlānā Saʿādat ʿAlī, who advised him to take his life more seriously and pursue knowledge. See Nūr al-Ḥasan Kāndhlawī, Ḥazrat Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūrī Dawr-e Taʿlim wa Talammudh, Aḥwāl wa Āthār Kandhlah (1429 AH), p. 40.
In the concluding section of his prolegomenon, al-Sahāranpūrī commences his chain of transmission by stating that he recited most of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīto Shaykh Wajīh al-Din al-Ṣiddīqī al-Sahāranpūrī in Saharanpur. He then received authorization for the Ṣaḥīḥa second time from Mawlānā Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī. See al-Sahāranpūrī, “Prolegomenon,” in al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥīḥ, vol. 1, p. 67.
Kāndhlawī, Ustādh al-Kull, p. 408. Influenced by Shiite thought prevalent in Nanauta, his parents named him Mamlūk-e ʿAlī (the slave of ʿAlī). However, he later changed his name to Mamlūk al-ʿAlī (the slave of the Exalted), al-ʿAlī being a name of Allāh. See ibid., pp. 73-74.
The biographer of the Ahl-e Ḥadīth scholar Nadhīr Ḥusayn al-Dihlawī (d. 1320 AH) writes that it was Nadhīr Ḥusayn who counseled Aḥmad ʿAlī to accompany Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī in his travel and then study with him. See Faḍl Ḥusayn, al-Ḥayāt baʿd al-Mamāt, pp. 48-49.
He left Delhi for Makkah with his teacher Mawlānā Mamlūk al-ʿAlī on Rajab 26, 1259 AH/December 22, 1843 CE. See Kāndhlawī, Ustādh al-Kull, p. 234. During his stay in the Ḥijāz, he also studied with other scholars. For instance, in his annotations on Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhīunder ḥadīth no. 1541, he writes that he “heard from Shaykh ʿAbd Allāh al-Sirāj al-Makkī [d. 1264 AH].”
Kāndhlawī, Ḥazrat Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūrī, p. 272. Muḥsin al-Tirhutī (d. c. 1876) mentions that al-Sahāranpūrī was Muḥammad Isḥāq’s elite student. Interestingly, he describes al-Sahāranpūrī as “al-Isḥāqī,” most likely on account of his affiliation with Muḥammad Isḥāq. See al-Tirhutī, al-Yāniʿ al-Janī, pp. 55-56.
Zakariyyā Kāndhlawī, Tārīkh-e Maẓāhir, vol. 1, p. 40. The famous Qāriʾ of India, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Pānipatī, was his classmate for the Ḥadīth classes with Muḥammad Isḥāq. See Muḥammad Shāhid, ʿUlamāʾ-e Maẓāhir-e ʿUlūm Sahāranpūr, p. 83.
He spent a considerable amount of money to fill the Maẓāhir-e ʿUlūm library with rare and voluminous books, some of which were printed in Egypt, such as Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī’s compendium on Shāfiʿī positive law, Tuḥfat al-Muḥtāj fī Sharḥ al-Minhāj. See Muḥammad Shāhid, ʿUlamāʾ-e Maẓāhir-e ʿUlūm Sahāranpūr, p. 86.
The second and third bricks were placed by his students, the founders of Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, Mawlānā Qāsim Nānautwī and Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī, respectively. See Manāẓir Gīlānī, Sawāniḥ-e Qasimī, vol. 2, p. 325; cf. Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India, p. 112.
Once printing became accessible in India, Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Dihlawī seized the opportunity to print books, like his father’s al-Fawz al-Kabīr. After his demise, Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī was inspired to do the same. He edited, annotated, and then printed Sunan al-Nasaʿī. His plans to expand this project were cut short when he decided to migrate to Makkah. But his vision was later carried out by his student Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī. See Nūr al-Ḥasan Kāndhlawī, Ḥazrat Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūrī kī Khidmāt-e Ḥadīth, p. 276. In the concluding remarks in his edition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, al-Sahāranpūrī basically credits his teacher Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī for the inspiration to print Ḥadīth literature.
The accuracy and quality of his edition of Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī is evidenced by the fact that in his commentary Tuḥfat al-Aḥwadhī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Mubārakpūrī relied, inter alia, on al-Sahāranpūrī’s edition of Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī. See Aḥmad Shakir, “Preface,” in Sunan al-Tirmidhī, p. 12.
Mawlānā Manāẓir Gīlānī praises al-Sahāranpūrī’s marginal notes on Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥas an amazing adaption of the best commentaries on the text. However, al-Sahāranpūrī himself believes that he was unable to work on the text in a manner suited to its status. See Gīlānī, Swāniḥ-e Qasimī, vol. 1, p. 262; Muḥammad Shāhid, ʿUlamāʾ-e Maẓāhir-e ʿUlūm Sahāranpūr, p. 94.
He was involved, directly or indirectly, in editing a number of important works like Abū Dāwūd’s Sunan, Ibn Jazarī’s al-Ḥiṣn al-Ḥaṣīn, al-Qasṭallānī’s Irshād al-Sārī, ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī’s introduction to Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ, and al-Sharīf al-Jurjānī’s treatise on Ḥadīth nomenclature. See Kāndhlawī, Ḥazrat Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūrī kī Khidmāt-e Ḥadīth, pp. 286-290.
In 1893, the Ottoman Sultan, ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd II (d. 1918), issued an imperial decree to the Cairene publishing house al-Maṭbaʿah al-Amīriyyah to print a meticulously evaluated edition of the Ṣaḥīḥ. The project was completed by 1895 and the first edition of the work was released in nine volumes. Al-Sahāranpūrī’s edition even predates the Brill, Leiden edition that was published in 1862. Dr. Aḥmad al-Sallūm opines that al-Sahāranpūrī’s edition is superior to the Amīriyyah edition because it cites manuscript-variants more frequently. See al-Sallūm, “Introduction,” in al-Mukhtaṣar al-Naṣīḥ, vol. 1, p. 92.
Nūr Muḥammad’s Delhi-based Aṣaḥḥ al-Maṭābiʿ made amendments to the text and reproduced it in beautiful script. Until recently, this was the most common print of the text. On the reprints of the Ṣaḥīḥ, see Nūr al-Ḥasan Kāndhlawī, Qāsim al-ʿUlūm Ḥazrat Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim Nānautwī, pp. 84-87. Recently, Dr. Taqī al-Dīn al-Nadwī produced a typed edition of al-Sahāranpūrī’s work.
Before ḥadīth no. 74, al-Sahāranpūrī writes, “As found in only one manuscript among ten other manuscripts of the Ṣaḥīḥthat are in my possession.” The accuracy of these manuscripts can be gleaned from their concurrence with vowelizations mentioned in commentaries; see, for instance, ḥadīth no. 4441. He heavily relied on a manuscript he describes as al-manqūl ʿanhā, which was of exceptional quality. See, for instance, ḥadīth no. 1668, 1675, 2385, 4428, 5230, 6119.
ʿAbd al-Salām al-Mubārakpūrī (d. 1924) claims that al-Sahāranpūrī’s edition of the Ṣaḥīḥwas predominantly extracted from Nadhīr Ḥusayn al-Dihlawī’s manuscript that was filled with priceless annotations and manuscript-variants. Al-Mubārakpūrī bases this claim on the fact that al-Sahāranpūrī uses the symbol dālfor a particular source that he found in the margins of the exemplar upon which he based his edition; al-Sahāranpūrī postulates that this symbol refers to Abū Jaʿfar al-Dāwūdī’s commentary of the Ṣaḥīḥ. Since no other manuscript beside Nadhīr Husayn’s uses that symbol, it follows that al-Sahāranpūrī’s exemplar was this very manuscript. Moreover, that al-Sahāranpūrī and Nadhīr Ḥusayn enjoyed a close relationship, al-Saharanpūrī could have easily obtained his manuscript. See al-Mubārakpūrī, Sīrat al-Imām al-Bukhārī, vol. 1, pp. 421-22. This speculation would require more evidence. It is equally possible that they both quote from a mutual manuscript that uses the symbol dāl. Moreover, accepting that the manuscript al-Sahāranpūrī refers to is Nadhīr Ḥusayn’s manuscript, it was only one among many manuscripts that he used.
Al-Ḥasanī, Nuzhat al-Khawāṭir, vol. 7, p. 907; Taqī al-Dīn al-Nadwī, Nuskhat al-Imām al-Ṣaghānī, p. 257; idem, “Introduction,” in al-Jāmiʿ al-Musnad al-Ṣaḥīḥ, vol. 1, pp. 17-18. ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sālim al-Baṣrī is on record for spending twenty years in meticulously refining and cross-referencing his personal copy of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīwith multiple manuscripts including the Yūnīniyyah. See al-Kattānī, Fahras al-Fahāris, vol. 1, p. 198.
See, for instance, ḥadīth no. 4023, note 11. Al-Qasṭallānī writes that he completed his commentary on Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīusing an impeccable secondary copy and the second part of the original Yūnīniyyah; the first half had been lost for 50 years. After completing his commentary, the lost portion resurfaced, so he used it to edit the relevant parts of his commentary. See Qasṭallānī, Irshād al-Sārī, vol. 1, p. 40. On the utility of Irshād al-Sārīfor manuscript-variants, see Jumuʿah Fatḥī, Riwāyāt al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥīḥ wa Nusakhuhu, vol. 2, pp. 816-18.
There is a manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīlocated in the British Library (order no. IO Islamic 347) transferred from India that was originally transcribed by the Damascene reciter of the Ṣaḥīḥ, Ibn al-Sarrāj (d. 782 AH). The second page of the manuscript states that it was compared, inter alia, with al-Ṣaghānī’s manuscript. A note on the cover page indicates that it was accessible to ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Dihlawī. Given that al-Sahāranpūrī had access to the Dihlawī family library, it is not far-fetched that this was one of the manuscripts he used while editing the Saḥīḥ. However, the question remains as to where al-Sahāranpūrī consulted for variants of the Ṣaghānī manuscript: the exemplar, a secondary copy, or possibly the aforementioned manuscript. On this manuscript, see Otto Loth, A Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Library of the India Office, p. 26, no. 117.
On the importance of al-Ṣaghānī’s manuscript, see my previous paper, A Gem Among Stones: al-Ṣaghānī’s Manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. In the prolegomenon, al-Sahāranpūrī lists the symbols he used to indicate manuscript-variants throughout the work. For variants found in al-Ṣaghānī’s manuscript, he uses the symbols ṣād/ghayn. See al-Sahāranpūrī, “Introduction,” in al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥīḥ, pp. 104-107.
In the prolegomenon, al-Sahāranpūrī says that he will quote a certain al-ʿUthmānī, which a number of scholars believe to be ʿUthmān al-Sindī’s Ghāyat al-Tawḍīḥ. Mawlānā Haroon Anis compared several references to al-ʿUthmānī with two manuscripts of Ghayāt al-Tawḍīḥ. He confirms that al-ʿUthmānī refers to ʿUthmān al-Sindī’s Ghāyat al-Tawḍīḥ. Moreover, al-Sahāranpūrī quotes Ghāyat al-Tawḍīḥindirectly from the marginal notes of the manuscripts of the Ṣaḥīḥhe used for cross-analysis. See Haroon Anis, al-ʿUthmānī Sharḥ al-Bukhārī, pp. 6-7.
Ibid., vol. 1, p. 249, no. 377, no. 705 (note 16); cf. al-Kashmīrī, Fayḍ al-Bārī, vol. 2, p. 29. He also quotes al-Muḥallā Sharḥ al-Muwaṭṭaʾof Salām Allāh (d. 1229 AH), the son of Shaykh al-Islām. See ḥadīth no. 2311; al-Ḥasanī, Nuzhat al-Khawāṭir, vol. 7, p. 983. He also quotes ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq’s Persian work Ṣirāṭ-e Mustaqīm; see ḥadīth no. 3764 (note 5).
In his interlinear gloss (bayn al-suṭūr), al-Sahāranpūrī occasionally quotes a certain “Mawlānā.” In these instances, “Mawlāna” refers to his teacher Muḥammad Isḥāq al-Dihlawī. See Zakariyyā Kāndhlawī, Tārīkh-e Maẓāhir, vol. 1, p. 41; cf. al-Sahāranpūrī, Annotations on al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥīḥ, ḥadīth no. 3387.
Mawlānā Yaʿqūb Nānautwī was the first to mention that Mawlānā Qāsim annotated the last five parts—based on the prevalent 30-part division of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. But this was not something he witnessed or heard directly. See Kāndhlawī, Qāsim al-ʿUlūm, p. 74-75.
See the recorded conversation between Shaykh Yūnus and Muftī Taqī in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYuaJesLrt0([3:30 until 5:45] posted September 8, 2012; accessed November 7, 2018).
Under ḥadīth no. 1199 (note 8), al-Sahāranpūrī mentions that his modus operandi is to be as brief as possible. He writes, “The entire quote from al-ʿAynī is too lengthy for this footnote. Mentioning what is concise and sufficient is preferable.” However, he occasionally quotes lengthy passages, but this is the exception. See, for instance, the quote from Ibn al-Humām’s Fatḥ al-Qadīrunder ḥadīth no. 1183 (note 16).
Based on a stylistic shift in the annotations, Mawlānā Nūr al-Ḥasan and Shaykh Yūnus earlier maintained that the last three parts of the Ṣaḥīḥ, from the chapter on highway robbers (al-muḥāribīn) until the end of the book, was annotated by Mawlānā Nānautwī. See Nūr al-Ḥasan Kāndhlawī, Qāsim al-ʿUlūm Ḥazrat Mawlānā Muḥammad Qāsim Nānautwī, p. 74-77. Nūr al-Ḥasan later wrote that in the absence of clear evidence, even the claim that Mawlānā Nanautwī annotated the last three parts cannot be made with certainty. See Nūr al-Ḥasan’s response to Asīr Adrawī, p. 47. The abovementioned conversation between Mufti Taqī—who cites a personal communication with Mawlānā Nūr al-Ḥasan—and Shaykh Yūnus proves that they retracted their earlier stance.
He applied a method of editing the text of the Ṣaḥīḥthat is common among researchers today: in the presence of multiple manuscripts, assign one as the mother-text and note variants from other manuscripts in the margins. A similar methodology vis-à-vis the Ṣaḥīḥwas adopted by Abu Dharr al-Harawī, al-Ṣaghānī, and al-Yūnīnī. Al-Sahāranpūrī’s methods can be extrapolated from scattered comments throughout his marginal notes. See, for instance, ḥadīths no. 74, 1675, 3365, 4428, 4430, 6626.
Many of his students later became important figures who shaped scholarship in the Indian subcontinent in the past century, such as Mawlānā Qāsim Nānautwī (founder of Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband), Mawlānā Muḥammad ʿAlī Mongeri (founder of Nadwat al-ʿUlamāʾ), and Mawlānā Shiblī Nuʿmānī (founder of Dār al-Muṣannifīn). See Nūr al-Ḥasan Kāndhlawī, Ustādh al-Kull, pp. 412-13; Zakariyyā Kāndhlawī, Tārīkh-e Maẓāhir, vol. 1, pp. 33-34.
Traditionally, Ḥadīth books were posthumously divided into multiple parts to facilitate a structured reading or completion of the text. Sunan Abī Dāwūd, for instance, was divided by al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī into 32 parts. See al-Nūristānī, al-Madkhal ilā Sunan Abī Dāwūd, pp. 70-71. In South Asian Islamic seminaries, the division of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārīinto 30 parts is still in vogue. There is precedence for a 30-part division (with differences on the points of division) in early manuscripts of the Ṣaḥīḥ, such as the Yūnīniyyah. See Abū Hāshim, Kitāb Jabr, p. 338. A digital copy of the popular lithographic edition of al-Sahāranpūrī’s edition of the Ṣaḥīḥhas a handwritten note from Shaykh Ziyad Tuklah from U.K. that Shaykh Yūnus Jawnpūrī opines that the 30-part division of the Ṣaḥīḥoriginated from al-Ṣaghānī’s manuscript. See page 3 of the following copy: https://ia800504.us.archive.org/