The Historic Journey
(Madinah > Kufa > Al-Hind > Holcombe-Bury)


Knowledge from Madinah to Iraq: A travelogue
Knowledge in India
Hadhrat Shaikh Moulana Muhammad Zakariyyah (rahimahullah)
A task assigned and a goal attained: A tale of trust and accomplishment

see also: The Value of Knowledge
The Importance of Makatib (Maktabs - Primary Islamic Institutes)
‘Al-Jami’ Al-Sahih’ : A Review of Kitaabul Bukhari

Knowledge is an ocean without an ocean bed. The deeper one dives into the ocean of knowledge the more mysteries of knowledge open up for him, exploring its reefs and corals, the fruits of the Heavenly Ocean.

If you were to look into the history of Knowledge it would take you from the cool streets of Madinah, across the golden dunes of the Arabian Desert, to the distant shores of Kufa.

During the Caliphate of Hadhrat Umar Farook (Radhiallahu anhu), after Hadhrat Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas (Radhiallahu anhu) conquered Madain, Hadhrat Umar Farook (Radhiallahu anhu) gave Hadhrat Salman Farsi and Hadhrat Huzaifah (Radhiallahu anhuma) the duty of finding a land close to the sea as the climate of Madain did not agree with Hadhrat Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas’ (Radhiallahu anhu) fellow countrymen. They chose a spot in Iraq, which was about a mile and a half from the river Euphrates, a land covered with sandy gravel, which they named Kufa. The city of Kufa advanced so rapidly, that Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallahu anhu) took to calling it the Head of Islam. Kufa became the capital of Excellence and Knowledge.

In the sixth century of Hijrah a great disaster befell the Muslim World. Genghis Khan swept down into Iraq, burning, looting and ravaging the country. It has been recorded that the streets of Baghdad flowed with rivers of blood and the rivers turned blue with ink. 600 years of Knowledge was washed away into the oceans of the world, lost forever to mankind. The long burning torch of Kufa guttered and was extinguished and the doors of Knowledge were slammed shut.


Through the Grace and Mercy of Allah, Knowledge resumed its odyssey and wondered the wide expanse of the Muslim Empire, and finally came to rest in the green fields of Al-Hind (India). In 1283 A.H, 21st of May 1866 A.D, Hadhrat Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (Rahmatullahi alaihi) and his companions laid down the foundations to Darul Uloom Deoband. Knowledge had found a new home.

The foundation of Darul Uloom Deoband was laid down beneath a pomegranate tree under the advice of the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad Mustafa (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam), advice given to Hadhrat Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (Rahmatullahi alaihi) through a dream. A rose blossomed at the foot of a pomegranate tree in the village of Deoband, the new centre of knowledge and excellence, giving birth to intellectuals, Imams and Mujtahids. Deoband flooded the Indian Sub-continent with books on Tafseer, books on Hadith, Qur’aans, commentaries on Hadith and books on history. It brought back to life the Islamic culture and traditions.

The rich scent of Deoband spread throughout the Indian Sub-continent bringing to life other great Madaris, the likes of Saharanpur, Lukknow, Ilahabad, and Dabhel. Eminent Scholars, Muballighs, Mufassirs and Muhadiths began filing out from the Madaris.


One great scholar worthy of mention is, Kutubal Aktaab Hadhrat Sheikhul Hadith Maulana Muhammad Zakariya Sahib Muhaajir Madni (Rahmatullahi alaihi).

To get a better insight of the status of Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) a few Stories relating to Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) are presented from Subulas Salaam (Volume 2 Edition 11 & 12), compiled by Hadhrat Maulana Yusuf Motala Sahib (Damat Barakatuhum).

1. The early days in life are normally spent in ignorance and playing pursuits whereas the fate of the future lies solely on the upbringing of the childhood. Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) had spent this part of his life in Saharanpur with such solitude and loneliness for seeking knowledge that he says, "In those days my stay with my father was in Madrasah Qadeem. Once my shoes were lost or stolen but for six months there was no need for new ones, because for lavatory use there were always old shoes that were left behind, and for six months I had no need to go outside the doors of Madrasah Qadeem."

It must be borne in mind that Madrasah Qadeem is not the name of such a large building but only consists of one small Masjid, a library and five or six rooms.

2. During the final year of studying Hadith Hadhrat's age was about seventeen to eighteen years Even at that age Hadhrat's respect towards Hadith was to such an extent that Hadhrat Sheik had arranged with one of his colleagues that they will not read any Hadith without wudhu, and that they will read all the Ahadith in front of the Ustaz (teacher). But to show this piety in front of the Ustaz was contrary to the Qur'aanic verse, 'Therefore ascribe not purity unto yourselves'. Therefore, if any of the two wanted to go to make ablution the other one, who would be present in the lesson, would question the Ustaz about the lesson or make an objection of some kind regarding the lesson until the fellow colleague would return, and then the lesson would proceed.

3. Hadhrat's state of reciting Qur'aan and offering salaah was such that in the holy month of Ramadhan, during his later years, he would spend two hours in tahajjud, three hours in chasht, one hour in awwabeen in other words he used to spend six hours in optional salaah. He used to recite Qur'aan during the months other than Ramadhan to such an extent that he had made a habit of reciting ten parahs (chapters) of the Holy Qur'aan daily inspite of all the religious and domestic duties which he had to carry out. Every third day it would be written in the daily diary, "Completed one Qur'aan," and sometimes he would write, "Completed it on behalf of so and so."

Once Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) exclaimed, "We three collegues once pondered about Hadhrat Imam Abu Hanifah that he used to complete one Qur'aan during the day and one during the night in the holy month of Ramadhan. So we thought that we should spend one Ramadhan like this also. Hence, one colleague completed the Qur'aan fifty six times in the holy month of Ramadhan." Most probably the colleague would be refering to Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) himself.

4. The first time Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) came to Britain he travelled by the British Airways aircraft which used to take about six hours non-stop from Jeddah to London. Hadhrat, as usual, had not eaten before the flight, so that the chance of going to the lavatory would not occur during the flight, but within three hours he needed to go so he asked, "How many hours are left to reach London?"

Someone answered, "Three hours."

Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) was afraid of getting dizzy by going to the lavatory during the flight, and we were also worried about it.

At that moment the captain made an announcement.

Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) asked, "What did he say?"

We said, "An announcement is being made that the flight was scheduled to reach London without any stops but there has been a message from an airport in Italy to pick up the travellers who are at the airport because of a strike, therefore we are having to make a constraint landing."

Hearing this Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) smiled. After the landing he went to the lavatory and only when he came back did the aircraft resume to its destination.

5. Similarly when Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) travelled to Britain for the second time, the plane was supposed to travel direct from Zambia to London, leaving Zambia at eight in the evening and arriving at London at seven in the morning.

Hearing the schedule Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) had already said that it will be hard to keep wudhu continuously in the plane for so many hours, especially as it is at night and to perform istinja and ablution in the plane will not be easy.

At four 0' clock Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) asked, "Is it Subah Sadiq yet?"

We replied, "It will be soon."

Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) asked, "What will become of ablution and offering salaah?" While we were still engaged in our talks, an announcement was made that because the air traffic is at an extreme at London Airport, we will have to circle around London for some time, and we have only taken enough fuel to reach London. In order to circle above London we are in need of refuelling, therefore we are landing at an airport in Tunisia."

Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) asked, "What did he say?" A detailed explanation regarding the announcement was given. Hearing this, Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) said with a smile, "Alhamdu lillah, Allah has made an arrangement for our salaah. Hence, after the plane landed, Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) was helped to perform istinja and ablution, and then he offered salaah. The rest of the group also offered their salaah in congregation.

6. At Hadhrat Sheikh's (Rahmatullahi alaihi) gatherings, there were always these words being uttered from the lips of every person present, "0' Allah keep my faults concealed," because whenever any of the assistants would approach Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) with his mind elsewhere, Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) would say these couplets in a melodic way,".................0' Naseem! Tell me. You' ve joint your eyes with mine, but where is your heart."

7. The most wondrous thing about our noble scholars was their following of the customs of our Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Hadhrat's (Rahmatullahi alaihi) part of life in this field was so vast that thousands of pages could be written on it. Sufi Muhammad Iqbal Sahib had started writing about Hadhrat Shiekh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) during Hadhrat's lifetime and named it ‘Hadhrat Sheikh and his following of the sunnah’.

8. Hadhrat's obedience to the Qur'aanic verse, 'Therefore ascribe not purity unto yourselves. He is best aware of him who wardeth off (evil),' was to such an extent that during his stay at Darul Uloom the annual jalsah was taking place, speeches were being made and it could be heard till Hadhrat's room that someone said, "All this is the outcome of Hadhrat's duas and his inclination."

Hearing this Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) started crying and said, "Have you not read in the hadith that Allah Most High aids this religion (of Islam) even through a sinful person."

Whenever Hadhrat (Rahmatullahi alaihi) would see a dog barking at Saharanpur he would say, "0' bhai (brother), go away. Your bhai (myself) is enough here."

9. After the burial of Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) in the graveyard of Jannatul Baqi, we returned to Madrasah-e-Shar'iyyah where we were staying. Hadhrat Maulana Zakariya's (Rahmatullahi alaihi) disciple and son Hadhrat Maulana Talha Sahib was with the devotees and the mourners. His clothes were covered with soil, which remained on his clothes and body after descending into the grave to lay Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi). There was an extraordinary scent in the room. We thought that some visitor may have applied some sort of fragrance before entering the house, but we were all astonished when Maulana Talha Sahib left the room to change his clothes and at the same time the fragrance faded away.

When Maulana Talha Sahib went upstairs to meet his mother and the rest of the family, this fragrance was also perceived there and when the traces of soil on Hadhrat Maulana Talha's clothes were smelt, it became apparent that it was emitting this scent. So this pair of clothes was preserved with the soil as relics.

A few days later I went to my friend Ustaz Muhammad Yakub Dehlawi's house and the previous event came into discussion. Hearing this he got up quickly and brought his brother Abdullah Dehlawi's thawb (Arabian garment) and requested me to smell it, I noticed the same fragrance as the one in the clothes of Hadhrat Maulana Talha Sahib.

At that time Hadhrat Muhammad Yakub Sahib said, "At the time of the burial of Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) my brother was in the company of Hadhrat Maulana Talha Sahib. After the burial, when he reached home, the house was scented with a sweet smell. Everyone was curious of this smell. After an investigation we discovered that this smell was being emitted from the soil which had set in this cloth. Thereafter, this cloth was kept as a relic and till today that very fragrance is still in it.

(P.S. The same is told about the grave of Imam Bukhari (Rahmatullahi alaihi) that after his burial a Sweet smell would come from his grave. People started taking the soil. Gradually a ditch was formed. Therefore, more soil was put into the grave but the same happened. The grave was filled with soil again and the same happened. Hence, after the third time a saint made dua at the grave after which the fragrance faded away.)


Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) taught Hadith for about half a century. Many Scholars Studied Hadith from Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi). From amoungst these Scholars, one great Scholar who shines out in knowledge, wisdom, intellect, a man of great principals, the one towards whom Hadhrat Sheikh's (Rahmatullahi alaihi) love was incomparable, was Hadhrat Maulana Yusuf Motala Sahib (Damat barakatuhum).

Hadhrat Sheikh (Rahmatullahi alaihi) gave this young Maulana a task which at that time was unimaginable, and was thought of as being impossible. He was sent to a far land; a land of darkness. He was sent to England to light the candle of Islam, to bring the torch of knowledge to life in Britain.

Who could have thought that a person so young could complete such a big task? Who could have thought that a person not knowing English could carry out such an assignment? Who could have thought that a person with little or no means and help could complete this mission? The mission of opening a centre of knowledge in the core of darkness, to open an Islamic university, to open a Madrasah.

Hadhrat Maulana Yusuf Motala Sahib (Damat barakatuhum) laid down the foundation of Darul-Uloom Al-Arabiyah Al-Islamiyah on a hill top, in the village of Holcombe Brook. This was to be the centre from which light was to emit to all four corners of the world. The centre which was to produce English speaking Scholars. Scholars with a great understanding of Islam. Scholars whose firmness could never be broken. Scholars who will win the hearts of the people through honest, through justice, through Islam. Scholars who will be able to protect Islam from all those who try to distort it, bringing and preserving Islam in its purest form. This was to be the Ummul Madaris, the mother of all the Madarasahs in Europe. This Madrasah gave birth to many Madrasahs all over Europe, not only Madrasahs for boys, but also for girls.

The view of many Muslims in Europe was changed. A new objective was created. A new target had to be reached. The thirst of wealth was driven away. The love of the world was washed out. They saw their real goal; our goal, to gain the pleasure of Almighty Allah by holding steadfast to his chosen religion - AL-ISLAM.

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