ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq ibn Sayf al-Dīn ibn Saʿd Allāh ibn Fayrūz ibn Mūsā ibn Muʿizz al-Dīn ibn Muḥammad al-Turk al-Bukhārī al-Dihlawī al-Ḥanafī, more popularly known as ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Muḥaddith al-Dihlawī, was born in the month of Muḥarram in the year 958AH/1551AD in the city of Delhi, India. Recognized also by the agnomen (kunyah) Abu ʾl-Majd and the takhalluṣ Ḥaqqī, his widespread acclaim in the field of ḥadīth earned him his most popular title “al-Muḥaddith al-Dihlawi”(the Delhian Ḥadīth Master).
ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq’s father, Shaykh Sayf al-Dīn, was himself an erudite scholar and spiritual savant who took personal responsibility for his son’s early spiritual and educational upbringing. At the tender age of thirteen, ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq had studied terse works such as al-Irshād in Arabic Syntax, Sharḥ al-Shamsiyyah in Logic, and Taftāzānī’s Sharḥ al-ʿAqāʾid al-Nasafiyyah in Islamic Theology with his father. By fifteen, he had completed the Arabic Rhetoric manuals Mukhtaṣar al-Maʿānī and al-Muṭawwal, after which he began to study under Shaykh Muḥāmmad Muqīm, a student of Amīr Muḥammad Murtaḍā al-Sharīfī and one of a long list of Delhian luminaries. By the age of twenty, he had completed the study of all the popular texts of the Islamic sciences. He subsequently set out to memorize the Qurʾan, which he accomplished in a little over a year. (Fawāʾid Jāmiʿah Sharḥ ʿUjālah Nāfiʿah 305)
Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq was of a relatively young age when his father became ill and in need of his son’s care. When he was only three or four years of age, Shaykh Sayf al-Dīn became severely weak from illness and his noble son was fortunate to utilize the opportunity to serve him. In the many long days and nights serving his father, a young ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq would soak up spiritual lessons and memorize the many wise sayings his father would eagerly impart. Few words of those days of his life escaped his memory, and ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq would later remark that despite being recently weaned from his mother’s milk, he remembered the spiritual instructions of his father during that time as if they had been said only yesterday.
During these same days of early spiritual enlightenment, ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq became engrossed in the pursuit of knowledge with his father. His father was extremely adamant on imparting a firm understanding of tawḥīd (divine oneness) upon his son, who described his discourses as “if the realities of tawḥīd had been made manifest before my father’s eyes and he was simply describing what he was observing”. He spent every possible moment with him discussing and reviewing lessons, often devoting the entire night to complex theological discussions such as that of the doctrine of waḥdat al-wujūd (the unity of existence). If ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq expressed confusion over these complex academic matters, his father would assure him that he had experienced similar doubts at some point and that over time they would disappear and be replaced with an attestation of the “magnificence of conviction”. (Akhbār al-Akhyār 310-313)
Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq’s father gave so much attention to the Quran that he insisted his son begin its memorization even before he had begun studying the alphabet. Two or three juzʾ of the Quran were memorized at this tender age. ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq would receive short lessons from his father daily, repeat them back to him as he had heard them, and without much need to repeat the verses he would move on to the next lesson. His father nurtured his memory so carefully that at some point, ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq notes, it took only three months to complete the rest of the Quran.
Due to his father’s loving attention and constant encouragement, ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq found his studies not only quick and easy but also immensely pleasing. His father would often encouragingly remark, “Allāh-willing, you shall quickly become a scholar” and would express his pleasure at the thought of one day, in his old age, sitting in his son’s lectures with complete confidence in his knowledge, benefitting from his learning. According to ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq, this encouragement and attention instilled a passion for learning in him that drove him to spend his day and night reading every textbook available, often becoming so engrossed in his reading that his father would have to beg him to sleep or play outside with the neighborhood children. More than once, he relates, he became so lost in late-night studies hunched over a candle that his turban and hair would catch on fire and he would not realize that they were burning until he could feel the heat on his head.
Although Imam ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī’s spiritual training had begun at home, it formally commenced in his late twenties when he pledged spiritual allegiance (bayʿah) to Shaykh Mūsā ibn Ḥāmid al-Ḥusaynī al-Uchchī in 985 AH. He quickly attained the cloak (khirqah) from him, symbolizing khilāfah from a spiritual master and his certification in the spiritual sciences.
In 995 AH, he set out for the Ḥajj pilgrimage and en route stopped in Ahmadabad where he spent months in the company of Shaykh Wajīh al-Dīn al-ʿAlawī al-Gujrātī (d. 998), a renowned spiritual master and author of a commentary on Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī’s Nuzhat al-Naẓar. While with him, he acquired knowledge of various litanies and spiritual exercises of the Qādirī path. When he reached Makkah in 996 AH, he remained there for ten months, later undertaking the journey to the enlightened city of Madīnah on the 23rd of Rabī al-Thānī 997 AH. He remained there until the end of the month of Rajab 998 AH, after which he returned to Makkah and stayed for some time while also performing a second ḥajj. He later set out for Ṭā’if at the end of Shaʿbān 999 AH and then headed to Makkah once again where he remained for a short while. He returned to India that same year after approximately three years spent in the Ḥijāz.
While in Makkah, Imam ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī studied ḥadīth under Shaykh ʿAbd al-Wahhāb ibn Walī Allāh al-Muttaqī al-Hindī, the student of the famed Shaykh ʿAlī al-Muttaqī al-Hindī and author of the ḥadīth super-collection Kanz al-ʿUmmāl. He also took ḥadīth from Qāḍī ʿAlī ibn Jār Allāh ibn Ẓahīrah al-Qurashī al-Makhzūmī al-Makkī in Makkah and in Madinah from Shaykh Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad al-Madanī and Shaykh Ḥamīd al-Dīn al-Sindī al-Muhājir. They granted him universal certification (ijāzah ʿāmmah) in ḥadīth and praised him highly.
In fact, Qāḍī ʿAlī ibn Jār Allāh was so impressed by Imam Dihlawī that he praised his student in great length, remarking, “He is the lone luminary in the land of India (Hind)… He has thoroughly served the noble science of ḥadīth, taken the most active part in its service, and made the most major impact. He honored me with his presence for a short time in the Masjid Ḥarām and read of a portion of the Ṣaḥīḥ of Imam Bukhārī and a portion of the Alfiyyat al-Ḥadīth of al-ʿIrāqī, the magnanimous ocean of knowledge. I benefited from him more than he benefited from me. He brought to light many discussions which exhibited extreme proficiency and expertise, all of which made it apparent that he is more worthy of benefiting others than gaining benefit from them.” (Nuzhat al-Khawāṭir 5:202) The ḥadīth researcher and historian, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm al-Nuʿmānī, notes that two Indian ḥadīth scholars in particular can boast unrestricted praise from shaykhs of the Ḥaram who felt no hesitation in declaring that they benefitted from these students more than they had imparted: Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq and Shāh Walī Allāh al-Dihlawī. (Fawāʾid Jāmiʿah 315)
While in the Ḥijāz, Ḥāfiẓ ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Kattānī claims on the authority of Hāfiẓ Sayyid Murtaḍā al-Zabīdī’s Alfiyyat al-Sanad that Imam ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq also took ḥadīth directly from Shaykh ʿAlī al-Muttaqī al-Hindī (d. 975), Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī al-Haytamī (d. 974), and Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī (d. 1014). (Fahras al-Fahāris 2:725) In Tāj al-ʿUrūs, however, Zabīdī only mentions Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī, ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Muttaqī, and Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī amongst his teachers. (Tāj al-ʿUrūs, under d-l-h) Al-Nuʿmānī identifies a problem with any claim of direct narration through either ʿAlī al-Muttaqī or Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī, however, as both are documented as having passed away over twenty years prior to Imam Dihlawī’s first arrival in Makkah. Additionally, only Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī’s ijāzah is listed in Dihlawī’s index of certificates and shaykhs (thabat). (Fawāʾid Jāmiʿah 316)
Imam Dihlawī had read the Mishkāt al-Maṣābīh with Shaykh ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Muttaqī in Makkah but also traversed the spiritual path with him, learning the etiquette and manners of dhikr, minimization of food consumption, and the etiquette of spiritual solitude. He remained mainly in Shaykh ʿAbd al-Wahhāb’s company during his stay, benefiting heavily from his spiritual teachings and training. The shaykh’s love for his student was profound. He praised Imam Dihlawī profusely and gave him glad tidings of spiritual progress, eventually also granting him the khirqah and certification in four silsilahs: the Qādirī, Shādhilī, Madanī, and Chishtī. (Dhikr al-Aḥwāl waʾl-Aqwāl 371, Fawāʾid Jāmiʿah 313) Years later, in 1008AH, when Khwājā Bāqī Billāh (d. 1012) came to Delhi, he turned his undivided attention to him and completed the stages of the Naqshbandī path as well.
Imam Dihlawī would become so accomplished in the intricacies of the spiritual path that his teacher Shaykh ʿAbd al-Wahhāb felt it necessary to restrain him from public discussion or writing on the more complex spiritual dimensions of Islam lest it lead to misunderstanding amongst the layman. Ḥakīm al-Ummah Mawlānā Ashraf ʿAlī al-Thānawī notes about his spiritual accomplishments: “Some awliyāʾ of Allah were honored to visit the Prophet’s court, either in dreams or in (some other) concealed state, on a daily basis. Such luminaries were termed ṣāḥib ḥuḍūrī. Amongst them was Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq Muḥaddith Dihlawī, a ṣāḥib ḥuḍūrī honored with this fortune.” (Al-Ifāḍāt al-Yawmiyyah minaʾl-Ifādāt al-Qawmiyyah 6-7)
Amongst Imam Dihlawī’s other astonishing esoteric attributes was his phenomenal memory. He was known by contemporaries for his masterful power of recollection, depth of logical reasoning, and expansive knowledge of the opinions of the early Muslims (salaf). His moderate temperament, nourished through spiritual training, ensured that his writings were always balanced and void of fanaticism. His purity of heart, however, did not impede his investigative and critical approach to the sciences, evidenced by his precise critique of Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ṣalāḥ’s division of ḥadīth collections into seven categories in Sharḥ Sifr al-Saʿādah and his astute defense of the Ḥanafī ḥadith arguments in his Fatḥ al-Mannān.
Imam ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Muḥaddith al-Dihlawī served for fifty-two years as a professor of ḥadīth in Delhi, popularizing ḥadīth in the Indian subcontinent unlike anyone before him. Sayyid Mīr Ghulām ʿAlī Āzād Bilgrāmī (d. 1200), a noted historian and commentator on Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī, wrote about Dihlawī: “He disseminated knowledge, particularly the noble ḥadīth, such that was not possible for any scholar before or after him in the lands of India.” (Subḥat al-Marjān fī Āthār Hindūstān 53; Fawāʾid Jāmiʿah 330) According to Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān al-Qinnawjī (d. 1307), the study of ḥadīth in India was as rare as “red sulphur” until scholars like Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī popularized it. However, his characterization – as well as that of Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī al-Ḥasanī (d. 1342) – of Imam Dihlawī as “the first to spread” ḥadīth amongst the residents of India may be more exaggeration than historical reality. (Al-Ḥiṭṭah fī Dhikr al-Ṣiḥāḥ al-Sittah 145; ʿAwārif al-Maʿārif fī Anwāʿ al-ʿUlūm waʾl-Maʿārif 137)
It would not be an exaggeration to state, however, that Imam ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī’s written works are as numerous as they are vast and are widely accepted in academic circles. According to ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Ḥasanī, “all of his books were met with acclaim and were beloved to the scholars, who competed in (their acquisition). He was certainly deserving (of such praise). In his language was a vigor, eloquence, and flow that the senses adored and the hearts enjoyed.” His long list of works include academic and spiritual treatises in both Arabic and Persian on a wide variety of topics, including tajwīd, qirāʾah, Quran exegesis (tafsīr), ḥadīth, law (fiqh), spirituality (taṣawwuf), history, logic, grammar, and poetry. His Taʾlīf al-Qalb al-Alīf bi Kitābat Fihrist al-Tawālīf, a glossary of his writings, totals his works to around thirty volumes. Amongst the most recognized are:
- Lamaʿāt al-Tanqīh fī Sharḥ Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ, a voluminous Arabic commentary of al-Khaṭīb al-Tibrīzī’s ḥadīth collection Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ for which this book serves as an introduction. It contains intricate discussions Dihlawī chose to leave out of his highly prized Persian commentary on the same collection: Ashiʿʿat al-Lamaʿāt. Although shorter than Mullā ʿAlī al-Qāri’s Mishkāt commentary, it is said to be superior in content and in passage selection. Due to Persian’s primacy in India, this commentary was less recognized there despite its importance in the author’s eyes. It has been recently published by Dār al-Nawādir in ten volumes with the edits of Shaykh Taqī al-Dīn al-Nadwī.
- Ashiʿʿat al-Lamaʿāt fī Sharḥ al-Mishkāt, his Persian commentary of the Mishkāt and his most celebrated work. It was written concurrently with the Arabic Lamaʿāt and is considered superior to it in its arrangement of discussions.
- Asmāʾ al-rijāl wa ʾl-ruwāt al-madhkūrīn fī ʾl-mishkāt, a biographical dictionary of the narrators of the Mishkāt.
- Sharḥ Sifr al-Saʿādah fi Dhikr Tārīkh al-Raṣūl Qabla Nuẓūl al-Waḥy wa Baʿdahu, a commentary and rejoinder of Majd al-Dīn al-Fayrūzabādī’s (d. 817) Sifr al-Saʿādah, also known as al-Ṣirāṭ al-Mustaqīm. It was given two titles to match the two titles of the original work, thus Ṭarīq al-Ifādah fī Sharḥ Sifr al-Saʿādah and al-Ṭarīq al-Qawīm fī Sharḥ al-Ṣirāṭ al-Mustaqīm. In the commentary, Dihlawī excels in balancing Fayrūzabādī’s literalism and refuting his harsh judgments of fabrication on a number of acceptable ḥadīth. The commentary is prefaced by two valuable prologues, one on ḥadīth terminology, the biographies of ḥadīth scholars, principles of ḥadīth criticism and reconciliation, and a defence of the Ḥanafī legal methodology, while the other consists of the biographies of the imams of Islamic law.
- Jāmiʿ al-Barakāt fī Muntakhab Sharḥ al-Mishkāt.
- Fatḥ al–Mannān fī Taʾyīd Madhhab al-Nuʿmān, a compilation of legal evidences from the Quran and ḥadīth that support the Ḥanafī positions on legal issues. It was arranged similar to the Mishkāt and includes both ḥadīth and legal discussions, often discussing the opinions of the various madhhabs and their evidences in detail. The purpose of the book was to establish the textual and rational basis of the Ḥanafī body of legal rulings. It has been published in handwritten form by Muftī Niẓām al-Dīn al-Aʿẓamī in Deoband, India under the title Fatḥ al-Raḥmān fī Ithbāt Madhhab al-Nuʿmān based off of the Ṭāhir Maʿrūfī Aʿẓamī manuscript.
- Madārij al-Nubuwwah Marātib al-Futuwwah fī Siyar al-Nabī, a Persian compendium of narrations on the prophetic biography.
- Akhbār al-Akhyār, the first of his works according to Taʾlīf al-Qalb al-Alīf.
- Al-Risālah al-Nūriyyah al-Sulṭāniyyah fī Bayān Qawāʿid al-Salṭanah wa Aḥkāmihā wa Arkānihā wa Asbābihā, authored for the Sultan Nūr al-Dīn Jahāngīr, the son of Akbar Shāh, as a treatise on political science and the principles of Islamic governance.
After nearly fifty-two years of disseminating knowledge and serving the noble science of ḥadīth, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq passed away on Monday, the 21st of Rabīʿ al-Awwal in the year 1052 AH in Delhi at the age of 94. He left survived by three sons, Nūr al-Ḥaqq, ʿAlī Muḥammad, and Muḥammad Hāshim. Amongst his most famous students were:
- Shaykh Nūr al-Ḥaqq al-Mashriqī al-Dihlawī (d. 1073), his son.
- Shaykh Abū Riḍā ibn Ismāʿīl al-Dihlawī (d. 1063), ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq’s grandson.
- Shaykh Ḥaydar ibn Fayrūz al-Kashmīrī (d. 1057)
- Shaykh Abū Aḥmad Sulaymān al-Kurdī al-Gujrātī
- Shaykh Shākir Muḥammad ibn Wajīh al-Dīn al-Ḥanafī al-Dihlawī (d. 1063)
- Shaykh ʿInāyat Allāh ibn al-Haddād al-Siddīqī al-Bilgrāmī
- Shaykh Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-Khāfī al-Naqshbandī, who spread ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq’s chain of transmission in the Arab world and authored al-Ṭarīqah al-Muḥammadiyyah fī Bayān al-Ṭarīqah al-Naqshbandiyyah,
For further biographical information, see the exhaustive entry of our shaykh Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm al-Nuʿmānī (Chishtī) in his commentary on Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz’s ʿUjālah Nāfiʿah entitled Fawaʾid Jāmiʿah pg. 305-347 (Urdu). He provides a full list of available Arabic, Urdu, and Persian bibliographical sources, including ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Ḥasanī al-Nadwī’s al-Iʿlām biman fī Tārīkh al-Hind min al-Aʿlām (Arabic, also called Nuzhat al-Khawāṭir), Khāliq Aḥmad Niẓāmī’s detailed Urdu biography Ḥayāt Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq Muḥaddith Dihlawī published by Nadwat al-Muṣannifīn in Delhi, Dihlawī’s own Taʿlīf Qalb al-Alīf bi Kitābat Fihrist al-Tawālīf, and Sayyid Aḥmad Qādirī’s Tadhkirah Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq.
[The above biography is taken from my translation of Dihlawī’s Muqaddamah Mishkāt also known as Muqaddamah fi Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth.]