Ahmad Ali

Ḥadīth Scholarship in the Indian Subcontinent: Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī and the First Print of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

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Ḥadīth Scholarship in the Indian Subcontinent: Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī and the First Print of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

Muntasir Zaman

Introduction

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 10th century 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.[1] 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.[2]

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 19th century, 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.[3]

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 7th to the 9th centuries 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 9th century 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.[4] Read the rest of this entry »

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