(1272-1340 AH / 1856-1921 CE)
Alahazrat Imām Aĥmad Riđā Khān al-Baraylawī I was born in 1272 AH (1856 CE) in a family of scholars of Bareilly, a city in North India. His father Mawlānā Naqī Áli Khān and grandfather Riđā Álī Khān were prominent scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah in their time. Imām Aĥmad Riđā began his Islamic studies in the tutelage of his erudite father and became a Mufti at a very young age. He was a master of many sciences, and especially in Ĥanafī fiqh, he was peerless among his contemporaries. Even his adversaries have acknowledged his expertise in this discipline.
He has many ijāzahs or degrees of authorisation in Ĥanafī fiqh, and the most important among them is from the Muftī of Makkah, Shaykh Ábd ar-Raĥmān as-Sirāj ibn Ábdullāh as-Sirāj. This chain of transmission reaches Imām Abū Ĥanifah through 27 links and in further four to the Master of creation, Muĥammad RasūlAllāh ﷺ. He has an authorisation of ĥadīth transmission from the great Meccan scholar, Malik al-Úlamā, Sayyid Aĥmed Zaynī Daĥlān al-Shāfiýī. Imām Aĥmed Riđā is widely known for his refutation of Wahābīs, innovators and libertarian religion-reformers of the early 20th century CE.
Alahazrat, meaning the ‘Grand Master,’ was a common title of respect in the 13th/14th century AH. Imām Aĥmad Riđā was called as Alahazrat by his followers as he was the major force against innovators and the leader of Sunni scholars of his time. This title became so famous, that it has become a synonym for Imām Aĥmad Riđā Khān. Upon his second and eventful visit to Arabia in 1324 AH, the scholars of the two sanctuaries – Makkah and Madinah – were so impressed by his erudition and his efforts to safeguard Ahl as-Sunnah, that prominent ones among them hailed him as the Reviver of the Religion. Major scholars in (pre-partition) India agreed that all the qualities required in a Reviver were found in him and thus he is the Mujaddid of the 14th century after the Prophet’s ﷺ migration.
Imām Aĥmad Riđā referred to himself as ‘the slave of the Prophet’ ﷺ or Ábd al-Muşţafā in Arabic. His skill as a jurist outshone all his other abilities; in fact, the main corpus of his work is the collection of his fatāwā. Many lengthy books that he has written are usually as a response to questions, and hence are fatāwā. Many of his rulings (and more than 150 fatāwā as monographs) were collected, indexed and ordered by the Imām himself, which he named Al-Áţāyā an-Nabawiyyah fi’l Fatāwā ar-Riđāwiyyah, popularly known in the subcontinent as Fatāwā e Razawiyyah and has been recently published in Pakistan in 30 volumes.
He took the Qādirī path and was initiated in that Sūfī order by Sayyid Aāl e Rasūl al-Aĥmadī of Mārahra in 1294. Alahazrat was an ardent lover of the Prophet ﷺ which is evident from his works.
He was also a great poet and has written sublime verse in Arabic, Persian and Urdu. His verse in Urdu and Persian is published in two parts named: Ĥadā’iq e Bakh’shish meaning ‘Gardens of Salvation’. Many of his eulogies and odes are recited, and in particular, the Ode of Salutation or the Salām has achieved unparalleled fame and acceptance among Muslims from the subcontinent.
His father, Mawlānā Naqī Álī Khān was the son of Mawlānā Muĥammad Riđā Álī Khān, the son of Ĥāfiż Kāżim Álī Khān, the son of Shaykh Muĥammad Aáżam Khān, the son of Muĥammad Sáādat Yār Khān Bahādur, Pathan of the Barech tribe in Qandahār, Afghanistan.
The latter first came to Rohilkhand, Bareilly on an imperial mission and eventually settled there. Sáādat Yār Khān was a Shash Hazārī commander, who was appointed as the administrator of Bareilly after his victory in an important battle; yet, he never assumed office as he was on his death-bed when the royal decree arrived. His three sons, Aáżam Khān, Muáżżam Khān and Mukarram Khān also held important positions in the Mughal Empire. Shaykh Aáżam Khān withdrew from the world and became an ascetic; he retired to Bareilly and settled there.
His son Ĥāfiż Kāżim Álī Khān was a scholar and also held the post of a District Administrator in the final years of the Mughal Empire. Ĥāfiż Kāzim’s son, Mawlānā Riđā Álī Khān was a prominent mufti; and from his time onward, the family has produced distinguished muftis and scholars, Alahazrat being the most famous and arguably the most brilliant among them all. Apart from three sisters, Alahazrat had two younger brothers, Mawlānā Ĥasan Riđā Khān and Mawlānā Muĥammad Riđā Khān.
Marriage and Children
Alahazrat married in 1291. He had two sons and five daughters; both his sons, Mawlānā Ĥāmid Riđā Khān and Mawlānā Muşţafā Riđā Khān, were accomplished scholars, authors, teachers and spiritual guides. Mawlānā Ĥāmid’s son, Mawlānā Ibrāhīm Riđā was also a prominent scholar and among his children, Mawlānā Muftī Akhtar Riđā Khān is a senior Sunni scholar and currently heads the Dār-al-Iftā in Bareilly. Mawlānā Muftī Akhtar Riđā Khān is a graduate of Al-Azhar University (hence, Azharī Miyāñ) and is the author and translator of many works, including translations of Alahazrat’s books from, and into Arabic.
His grandfather was his first teacher. In his early years, he was taught by a teacher in Bareilly and thereafter he was instructed by Mawlānā Ghulām Qādir Beyg and Mawlānā Ábd al-Álīy Rāmpūrī for some time. Most of the traditional syllabus was taught by his own father, Mawlānā Naqī Álī Khān, who also authorised him to issue fatāwā in his fourteenth year. Shāh Abu’l Ĥusayn Nūrī [1255-1324] was his guide in taşawwuf. Alahazrat was also an autodidact, and he learned and mastered many sciences by self-instruction.
Given below is a list of prominent scholars who gave him authorisations in ĥadīth, fiqh and taşawwuf:
1. Shāh Sayyid Aāl e Rasūl Marahrawī [d. 1296/1879]
2. Mawlānā Muĥammad Naqī Álī Khān [d. 1297/1880]
3. Shaykh Aĥmad ibn Zaynī Daĥlān al-Makkī [d. 1299/1881]
4. Shaykh Ábd al-Raĥmān Sirāj al-Makkī [d. 1301/1883]
5. Shaykh Ĥusayn ibn Şāliĥ Jamal al-Layl [d. 1302/1884]
6. Shaykh Abu’l Ĥusayn Aĥmad al-Nūrī [d. 1324/1906]
7. Mirzā Ghulām Qādir Beyg al-Baraylawī [d. 1336/1917]
8. Mawlānā Ábd al-Álīy al-Rampūrī [d. 1303/1885]
Alahazrat received authorisations in thirteen different chains of ţarīqah, which he forwarded by granting authorisations to others. Given below is an excerpt from the thabat of Muhammad ibn Abdu’l Hayy al-Kattani:
Graduating from a famous school is deemed an accomplishment; being the student of a great teacher is a badge of honour; and to be the mentor of great achievers is a mark of distinction. Alahazrat left behind many disciples and students who were not only great men themselves, but were also mentors to many high achievers. The following are his prominent students and deputies [khulafā]:
1. His eldest son, Mawlānā Ĥāmid Riđā Khān [d. 1362/1943]
2. His second son, Mawlānā Muşţafā Riđā Khān [d. 1402/1981]
3. Mawlānā Amjad Álī Aáżamī [d. 1367/1948]
4. Mawlānā Sayyid Naýīmuddīn Murādābādī [d. 1367/1948]
5. Mawlānā Sayyid Żafaruddīn Bihārī [d. 1382/1962]
6. Mawlānā Sayyid Aĥmad Ashraf Kichauchawī [d. 1343/1925]
7. Mawlānā Sayyid Dīdār Álī Alwārī [d. 1354/1935]
8. Mawlānā Aĥmad Mukhtār Şiddīqī Meeruti [d. 1357/1938]
9. Mawlānā Sayyid Muĥammad al-Kichauchawi [d. 1383/1961]
10. Mawlānā Ábd al-Álīm Siddīqī Meeruti [d. 1374/1954]
11. Mawlānā Ábd al-Salām Jabalpūrī [d. 1372/1953]
12. Mawlānā Ábd al-Aĥad Pīlībhītī [d. 1348/1929]
13. Mawlānā Điyāuddīn Aĥmad al-Madanī [d. 1401/1981]
14. Mawlānā Laál Muĥammad Khān Madrāsī [d. 1339/1921]
15. Mawlānā Muĥammad Raĥīm Bakhsh Ārwī [d. 1343/1925]
16. Mawlānā Ĥasanayn Riđā Khān [d. 1402/1981]
17. Mawlānā Ábd al-Bāqī Burhān al-Ĥaq Jabalpūrī [d. 1405/1985]
18. Qāđī Ábd al-Waĥīd Áżīmābādī [d. 1326/1908]
19. Mawlānā Muftī Taqaddus Álī Khān [d. 1408/1988]
20. Shaykh Sayyid Sulaymān Ashraf Bihārī [d. 1358/1939]
The following prominent Arab scholars have received ijāzah in ĥadīth and other sciences from Alahazrat:
1. Mawlānā Sayyid Ábd al-Ĥayy al-Kattānī [d. 1332/1913]
2. Shaykh Şāliĥ Kamāl al-Makkī [d. 1325/1913]
3. Shaykh Sayyid Ismāýīl ibn Sayyid Khalīl [d. 1338/1919]
4. Shaykh Sayyid Muşţafā ibn Sayyid Khalīl [d. 1339/1920]
5. Shaykh Aĥmad ibn Abi’l Khayr Mīrdād
6. Shaykh Muĥammad ibn al-Marzūqī Abū Ĥusayn
7. Shaykh Ĥasan al-Újaymī
8. Shaykh As’ád al-Dahhān al-Makkī
9. Shaykh Ábd al-Qādir al-Kurdī
10. Shaykh Muĥammad Saýīd al-Maghribī
11. Shaykh Sayyid Sālim ibn Áydarūs
12. Shaykh Sayyid Abū Bakr ibn Sālim
Alahazrat has mentioned some more úlamā in Al-Ijāzāt al-Matīnah li Úlamāyi Bakkah wa’l Madīnah. He also listed the names of all his prominent disciples in a lengthy poem Al-Istimdād álā Ajyāl al-Irtidād.
Alahazrat was a prolific author who began writing from a very early age. It is said that he authored nearly 1000 works and the names of 679 are known. These works include both original works, commentaries, annotations and one or two translations as well. Al-Ataya al-Nabawiyyah fi’l Fatawa al-Ridawiyyah, is his magnum opus published in 30 volumes (with translation of cited Arabic and Persian passages) or 22 volumes (which are fatawa in their original form sans translations). Even though many books published as separate monographs eventually found their way into the Fatawa, there are about 25-30 works that are not found therein. Given below is a short list of some of his famous works. See here for various bibliographies and here for a complete list of published works (until 2021) available for download.
1. Kanz al-Īmān: An explanatory translation of the Qur’ān in Urdu.
2. Al-Mustanad al-Mútamad: A commentary on the Arabic work Al-Mútaqad al-Muntaqad by Imām Fađl ar-Rasūl al-Badāyūnī.
3. Jidd al-Mumtār: A five volume supercommentary on Radd al-Muĥtār of Imām Sayyid Muĥammad Amīn Ibn Áābidīn al-Shāmī, which is arguably, the most widely used Ĥanafī text in latter times.
4. Al-Dawlatu’l Makkiyyah bi’l Māddati’l Ghaybiyyah: A comprehensive work on the knowledge of RasulAllah ﷺ
5. Al-Amn wa’l Úlā li Nāýiti’l Muşţafā bi Dāfiý al-Balā’a
6. Tamhīd e Īmān: A treatise on the fundamentals of faith as known from Quranic verses.
7. Dhayl al-Muddáā li Aĥsan al-Wiáā li Ādāb al-Duáā: A gloss on his father Imam Naqi Ali’s work on the etiquette of Dua.
8. Al-Fađl al-Mawhibī fī Máana: idhā şaĥĥa’l ĥadīthu fa huwa madh’habī
9. Fatāwā al-Ĥaramayn bi Rajafi Nadwatu’l Mayn: Refutation of the Nadwah that sought to create syncretic Islam.
10. Fatāwā Āfriqah: A small collection of rulings in response to questions from the Indian diaspora settled in South Africa.
11. Sub’ĥān as-Subbūĥ án Áybi Kadhibin Maqbūĥ: A masterpiece refuting belief of Deobandis that it is possible for Allah ta’ala to speak falsehood. This dead heresy of ancient Mutazilah was revived by Ismayil Dihlawi and is defended by his followers, the Deobandis.
12. Radd al-Rifđah: Refutation of the Rafidi sect.
13. Qahr al-Dayyān álā Murtadd bi-Qādiyān: Refutation of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani, the false prophet.
14. Niým al-Zād li Rawm al-Đād: On Tajwid, and the pronunciation of the letter Daad in Arabic.
15. Al-Zubdatu’z Zakiyyah li Taĥrīmi Sujūd at-Taĥiyyah: A detailed ruling that prostration to graves and holy men is forbidden by the Shariah.
16. Kifl al-Faqīh al-Fāhim fī Aĥkāmi Qirtās al-Darāhim: On the Sharayi status of currency notes and related rulings.
17. Jalī an-Naşş fī Amākin ar-Rukhaş: On the circumstances which permit one to avail of concessions in Sharayi rulings.
18. Barakāt al-Imdād li Ahl al-Istimdād: Permissibility of seeking intercession from Awliya and Anbiya.
19. Al-Zahr al-Bāsim fī Ĥurmati’z Zakāh álā Banī Hāshim: Ruling that it is forbidden to give zakat to the immediate family of RasulAllah ﷺ
20. Masā’il e Samāá: Ruling that music is haram and the claim that sufis permitted it is false.
21. Al-Zulāl al-Anqā min Baĥri Sabqati’l Atqā: On the superiority of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq
22. Madārij Ţabaqāt al-Ĥadīth
23. Al-Rawđ al-Bahīj fī Ādāb al-Takhrīj
24. Al-Hād al-Kāf fī Ĥukm al-Điáāf: A detailed exposition on the acceptance of weak hadith in rulings.
25. Al-Nahy al-Akīd án as-Şalāti Warā’a Ídā al-Taqlīd: Ruling that it is impermissible to pray behind a la-madh’habi (salafi), who rejects madh’habs.
26. Hada’iq e Bakhshish: A collection of devotional poetry and praise of the Prophet ﷺ in 2 volumes.
27. Al-Istimdad ala Ajyal al-Irtidad: A long narrative poem which starts with the praise of the Prophet ﷺ and seeks his intercession (istimdad) against heretics who are also refuted in this poem; and the imam also mentions his disciples and students in this poem praising them.
28. Ahkam e Shariat: A short collection of fatawa in 3 volumes (separate from the large collection)
29. Husam al-Haramayn: A fatwa and collection of attestations on the fatwa of Alahazrat against Deobandi elders for their blasphemies.
30. Qasidatan Ra’yiatan: Two odes in Arabic in tribute of the great Indian scholar, Imam Fadl al-Rasul Badayuni and his son, Mawlana Abdu’l Qadir Badayuni. Alahazrat wrote these odes in high Arabic when he was only 28, which showcases his command of the Arabic language.
31: Sharh Uqud Rasm al-Mufti: A gloss on Ibn Abidin’s famous work on Rasm al-Mufti.
32. Al-Malfuz: His dicta collected in four volumes by his youngest son, Mawlana Mustafa Rida Khan.
33. Inba’a al-Hayy li anna Kalamahu’l Masun Tibyanan li Kulli Shayy.
34. Marginalia on Tahtawi’s commentary of Al-Durr al-Mukhtar (published).
35. Annotations on Fatawa Qadi Khan (published).
36. Annotations on Sahih al-Bukhari (published).
37. Marginalia on Al-Hidayah of Marghinani (published).
38. Commentary on Musallam al-Thubut, a prominent text on Hanafi principles of jurisprudence (unpublished).
39. Matla’a al-Qamarayn fi Ibanati Sabaqati’l Umarayn: That Abu Bakr and Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) are superior to everyone else after Prophets and Messengers.
40. Al-Ijazat al-Matinah li Ulama’ Bakkah wa’l Madinah: The authorisations he granted to the scholars of the two sanctuaries on his second Hajj in 1323-24.
This is a short list of his important works. 206 monographs are included in the 30-Volume Fatawa Ridawiyyah, which can be found in the download section. Reviews of books will be added in the future, in sha’Allah.
Alahazrat was proficient in fifty-five branches of knowledge which he has mentioned himself in his authorisation to Shaykh Ismāýīl Khalīl which was formalised in a written document on 8th Şafar 1324. While some of these sciences are grouped under one head in our time, these were specialisations in the previous century, just as we have specialisations in our time.
For example, engineering was one broad discipline, not long ago and which, in our times has been subdivided into scores of specialist areas. Syntax, morphology, lexicology and semantics may appear unimportant to ordinary minds; but, these branches of knowledge are extensive and they have a steep learning curve. Those who aspire to progress beyond intermediate studies are required to gain an expertise in these sciences. Imām Fakhruddīn Rāzī in his Jāmiý al-Úlūm, Imām Jalāluddīn Suyūţī in ِAl-Nuqāyah/Itmām al-Dirāyah, Shaykh Tāsh Kubrīzādah in his Miftāĥ al-Sáādah, Nawab Şiddīq Ĥasan Qinnawjī Bhopālī in Abjad al-Úlūm have all considered and treated these as separate sciences.
Inevitably, a poor grasp of fundamental concepts and ignorance of essential sciences results in misunderstanding of texts; which is reflected in the blunders committed by many wayward scholars and pretenders who base their arguments on false premises. Some sciences in the below list may have now become obsolete, but Alahazrat had mastered them in an age when they were current and important.
1. Qur’ānic Sciences
2. Ĥadīth Sciences
3. Principles of Ĥadīth
4. Jurisprudence (Ĥanafī school)
5. Jurisprudence (other schools)
6. Principles of Fiqh
8. Qur’ānic Exegesis, Commentary
9. Creed, Rational Theology
14. Rhetoric, Figures of Speech
22. Recitations, Readings of the Qur’ān
23. Phonology and Phonetics [for Qur’ān Pronunciation]
24. Taşawwuf, Sufism
26. Morality and Etiquette
27. Biographical Evaluation of Narrators
30. Lexicology and Etymology
31. Literature and Associated Sciences
36. Chronometry, Calculation of Timings and Prayer Schedules
37. Science of Perspective and Optics
38. Spherical Geometry
40. Spherical Trigonometry
41. Plane Trigonometry
42. Modern Astronomy, Planetary Science, Cosmology
43. Quadratic Equations
46. Arabic Verse [Prosody]
47. Arabic Composition
48. Persian Verse [Prosody]
49. Persian Composition
50. Urdu Verse [Prosody]
51. Urdu Composition
52. Calligraphy: Naskh
53. Calligraphy: Nastáliq
54. Recitation with Tajwīd
Alahazrat has merged subdisciplines and interdisciplinary subjects under a single major heading. For example, Qur’ānic sciences would be eighty in number; and even if we group most minor topics, we will still be left with more than a dozen major branches that require a separate study; but in this list they are counted as one. After listing this, Alahazrat writes:
I seek Allāh’s refuge. I do not say this to boast about my abilities, nor in vanity or pride – [I mention this] only to thank for the bounties of my Lord upon me. Also, I do not claim to be an expert in these sciences.
Notwithstanding his self-effacing comments, his expertise is evident from his works and acknowledged by people accomplished in their fields, unlike many of his contemporaries whose achievements are extolled by admirers, but cannot always be corroborated by independent sources.
 “The Za’irajah: A branch of the science of letter magic, (practiced) among the (authorities on letter magic), is (the technique of) finding out answers from questions by means of connections existing between the letters of the expressions (used in the question). They imagine that these (connections) can form the basis for knowing the future happenings they want to know.” [Ibn Khaldūn, Muqaddimah, Trans. Franz Rosenthal, 3/182.] In all these examples, it is kufr to believe that information obtained from such sciences (or pseudosciences) is absolutely true and certain (qaţýī–yaqīnī) and one who has obtained this information has absolute knowledge of unseen (is also kufr); but if one practices the Zayirjah or Jafar – as a guide similar to istikhārah and not with the belief or claim of absolute knowledge of unseen, it is not kufr. Allāh táālā knows best.
 The names of these 55 subjects in Arabic:
1) úlūm al-qur’ān
2) úlūm al-ĥadīth
3) uşūl al-ĥadīth
4) fiqh al-ĥanafī
5) fiqh al-madhāhib
6) uşūl al-fiqh
9) áqīdah – kalām
27) asmā’a ar-rijāl
31) adab bi funūnih
33) al-jabr wa’l muqābalah
34) ĥisāb al-sittīnī
36) ílmu’t tawqīt
37) al-manāzir wa’l marāyā
38) ílmu’l ākar
40) muthallath al-kurawī
41) muthallath al-musaţţaĥ
42) hay’ah al-jadīdah
46-47-48) inshā’a al-nażm fi’l árabiyyah, farisiyyah, hindiyyah
49-50-51) inshā’a al-nathr fi’l árabiyyah, farisiyyah, hindiyyah
52) khaţţ naskh
53) khaţţ nastáliq
55) ílmu’l farāyiđ.
Given below is a list of well-known biographies of the Imam. Most of the works are in Urdu, but we have added an English and Arabic introduction. A longer list of books can be found in the download section.
Hayat e Ala Hazrat
Pages: 1025 | Size: 19 MB | 2 Vols
By Mawlana Zafaruddin Bihari
Iqbal Noori Edition (2003)
Tarjamah Imam Ahmad Rida
Pages: 27 | Size: 2 MB
by Mawlana Abdu’l Hayy al-Kattani
Dar al-Imam Yusuf al-Nabhani (2003)
Imam Ahmad Raza Number
Pages: 179 | Size: 19.5 MB
Special Issue of Pasban
Edited by Mushtaq Ahmad Nizami
Pages: 147 | Size: 1.7 MB
by Khalid Thabit al-Misri
Mujaddid e Islam
Pages: 218 | Size: 11.2 MB
by Mufti Nasim Bastawi
Maktabah Amjadiyyah (1960)
Sawanih Ala Hazrat
Pages: 186 | Size: 147.8 MB
By Shah Maana Miyan Pilibhiti
Amin Brothers, Karachi (1390 AH)
Hayat e Alahazrat
Pages: 1070 | Size: 17.5 MB | 2 Vols
by Mawlana Zafaruddin Bihari
Iqbal Faruqi ed. (2003)
Faqeeh e Islam