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Islamic Studies Farangī Maḥall
by
Francis Robinson

Introduction

Farangī Maḥall (the European Palace) was the name of a family of ulama that flourished in India from 1700 to c. 1950. The family acquired the name after Mullah Quṭb al-Dīn, a leading scholar of the day, was murdered in a quarrel over land in 1692 and the Mogul emperor Awrangzīb recompensed his four sons by assigning them the sequestered property of a European indigo merchant in the city of Lucknow, Awadh. In the 17th and 18th centuries the family was notable, first for developing maʿqūlāt (the rational sciences) in Indian Islam to the extent that the reception of such scholarship in Egypt and West Asia in the early 19th century led to a revival in that field, and second for the development and promulgation of the Dārs-i Niẓāmi madrassa curriculum, which was essentially a method of teaching that enabled students to learn more quickly and which has remained in use in modified form in the early 21st century. For the Farangī Maḥallīs, learning and mysticism went hand in hand. Strong supporters of Ibn ‘Arabi’s waḥdat al-wujūd, they believed that the best scholars were those whose work was informed by spiritual understanding. From the 18th century Farangī Maḥallīs spread throughout India, from Rampur to Madras and from Calcutta to Haydarabad. The family’s numerous pupils spread more widely, as did the reputation of its many scholars. These connections and their reputation meant that when some entered politics in the 20th century, they were able to persuade many to follow them. This, in part, explains the impact of Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Bārī on India’s pan-Islamic politics in the second and third decades of the 20th century and the contribution of his son, Mawlānā Jamāl Miyān, to the politics of the All-India Muslim League in the 1940s. In the mid-20th century the family lost its prominence as ulama: its brand of scholarship, embracing the rational sciences, was opposed by reformers, including, those of the Deoband school, in favor of an emphasis on Hadith and Qur’anic studies. Its preparation of students for courtly service along with princely patronage also declined in the new circumstances of colonialism; the education it provided was, in a world dominated by Western learning, no longer a route to jobs in government. The partition of India and land reform reduced its support in men and money.

General Overviews

‘Ināyat Allāh 1928, Robinson 2001, and Metcalf 1982 offer overviews of Farangī Maḥall from different angles of vision. ‘Ināyat Allāh 1928 tells the story through the classical genre of the tadhkirah, or collective biography. The fortunes of the family need to be mined from the individual lives of its members from the late 17th century, when they settled in Farangī Maḥall, down to 1928, when the tadhkirah was published. Robinson 2001 covers the history of the family; Robinson 2004 does so in brief. Metcalf 1982 creates the context of Islamic reform in the 19th century, which led to the marginalization of the Farangī Maḥall brand of Islam. Zaman 2004 offers an overview and critique of Francis Robinson’s contribution to the history of Farangī Maḥall.

  • ‘Ināyat Allāh, Mawlawī. Tadhkira-yi ‘ulamāʼi Farangī Maḥall. Lucknow, India, 1928.

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    This collective biography of the family presents its history in the classical mode, which was often designed to bolster the authority of the family, locality, or religious tradition whose ulama were being covered.

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  • Metcalf, Barbara Daly. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

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    This classic analysis of Islamic reform in 19th-century India sets out the context in which the Farangī Maḥallīs, who are discussed briefly, strove to maintain their more all-embracing, pre-reforming Islamic tradition.

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  • Robinson, Francis. The ‘Ulama of Farangi Mahall and Islamic Culture in South Asia. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001.

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    This collection of essays addresses the lives and achievement of Farangī Maḥallī ulama from 1700 to 1950 as scholars, teachers, Sufis, and individuals.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Farangī Maḥall.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 12 supp. Edited by P. J. Bearman, T. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 292–294. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    This entry offers a summary overview of the contributions of the Farangī Maḥallīs to scholarship, teaching, and mysticism since the 18th century and their contributions to politics in the 20th.

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  • Zaman, Muhammad Qasim. “Review Essay: Modernity and Religious Change in South Asian Islam.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, ser. 3, 14.3 (2004): 253–263.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1356186304004109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This overview and critique of Francis Robinson’s work on Farangī Maḥall emphasizes that there is a great deal more work to be done on the intellectual contributions of the Farangī Maḥallīs.

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Sufi, Educational, and Political Activity

Farangī Maḥallīs were primarily teachers and Sufis but in the 20th century became involved in politics. ‘Abd al-Bārī 1926, Niẓām al-Dīn n.d., and Robinson 1993 deal with aspects of the family’s Sufi tradition from its engagement with Sayyid Shāh ‘Abd al-Razzāq, the saint of Bansa, in the early 18th century. In ‘Abd al-Bārī 1926 lays out approaches to Sufism in general and rites at the shrine of Bansa in particular in the early 20th century. Qidwaʼi 1924 describes the family’s approach to its distinctive educational tradition in the early 20th century, and Robinson 1974 contextualizes its engagement in politics during the same period. Minault 1982 provides the broad context of the Khilafat movement. Robinson 2005 confronts the interesting issue of how much or how little the Farangī Maḥallīs engaged with the Hindu world around them.

  • ‘Abd al-Bārī. Malfūẓ-i Razzāqi. Kanpur, India: Ahmad, 1926.

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    Here ‘Abd al-Bārī sets out his general approach as a Sufi. What comes across particularly strongly is the centrality of the Prophet Muhammad to ‘Abd al-Bārī’s Sufi understanding and the role of the pīr in enabling the disciple to draw close to the Prophet.

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  • ‘Abd al-Bārī. ‘Urs-i ḥaḍrat-i Bānsa. Lucknow, India: Qadri Book Agency, 1926

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    In this pamphlet, probably written just before his death in 1926, ‘Abd al-Bārī discusses what the Qādirī Sufi traditions associated with Sayyid ‘Abd al-Razzāq (d. 1724) of Bansa, some thirty miles from Lucknow, meant to him.

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  • Minault, Gail. The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

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    This classic work on the Khilafat Non-cooperation Movement, the greatest movement of Indian political protest between the Mutiny Uprising of 1857 and the Quit India movement of 1942, provides the broad context for Firangī Maḥallī contributions to politics during this period.

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  • Niẓām al-Dīn. Manāqib-i Razzāqiyya. Translated by Ṣibghāt Allāh Shahīd. Lucknow, India: Shami.

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    This is Mullah Niẓām al-Dīn’s exposition of the malfūẓāt associated with the saint Sayyid ‘Abd al-Razzāq of Bansa. The original was written in Persian during the first half of the 18th century; it was translated into Urdu in the 1930s or 1940s.

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  • Qidwaʼi, Alṭāf al-Raḥmān. Qiyām-i Niẓām-i ta’lim. Lucknow, India: Nami, 1924.

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    In this fascinating book, dictated by ‘Abd al-Bārī to Qidwaʼi, the leading Farangī Maḥallī of his time, outlines his approach to education in general, republishing the memorandum he wrote on the refounding of the family madrassa in 1905, and to teaching individual books in the Dārs i Niẓāmi curriculum in particular

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  • Robinson, Francis. Separatism among Indian Muslims: The Politics of the United Provinces’ Muslims, 1860–1923. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1974.

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    This book describes the considerable role the Farangī Maḥallīs played in the politics of India during the second and third decades of the 20th century.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Scholarship and Mysticism in Early Eighteenth-Century Awadh.” In Islam and Indian Regions. Edited by Anna Libera Dallipiccola and Zingel Ave Lallemant, 377–398. Stuttgart: Steiner, 1993.

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    This essay explores the environment in which the early Sufi traditions of Farangī Maḥall developed.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Living Together Separately: The ‘Ulama of Farangi Mahall c. 1700–c. 1950.” In Living Together Separately: Cultural India in History and Politics. Edited by Mushirul Hasan and Asim Roy, 354–365. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Through an analysis of the writings of Farangī Maḥallīs in the 18th and 19th centuries and their actions in the 20th, this essay demonstrates their limited engagement with the Hindu world that surrounded them until the mid-20th century, when some began to marry and work alongside Hindus.

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Leading Farangī Maḥallīs

Listed in these subsections are biographies of leading actors in the history of Farangī Maḥall by era. They are by no means the only leading actors, but they are those individuals whose lives have received biographical treatment outside the context of ‘Ināyat Allāh’s collective biography in 1928.

18th Century

Two enormously important Farangī Maḥallīs of this century were Mullah Niẓām al-Dīn (d. 1748), who encapsulated his father’s (Qutb al-Dīn Shahīd, d. 1692) distinctive teaching practices in the Dārs-i Niẓāmi curriculum, and his son, Mawlānā ‘Abd al-‘Alī Baḥr al-‘Ulūm (d. 1810), who carried the family’s teaching practices to Rohilkhand, Bengal, and Madras, where he is buried in the Wālajāhī mosque. The scholarship of both in the rational sciences was taken up in Cairo and Damascus in the early 19th century. Shafīʼ 1960 addresses aspects of Baḥr al-’Ulūm’s career. Anṣārī 1973 and Robinson 2004 address those of his father. Kokan n.d. was written by a member of the Nawayat Konkani Muslim community, long settled in Madras and providers of that city’s hereditary Qaḍis, who have supported the spiritual tradition of Baḥr al-’Ulūm and his descendants in the context of the Wālajāhī mosque.

  • Anṣārī, Muhammad Raḍā. Bānī-yi Dārs-i Niẓāmī. Lucknow, India: ‘Alīgaṛh Muslim University, Publishing Division, 1973.

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    This is the basic modern source for the life of Niẓām al-Dīn and his work, building on his father’s achievement in fashioning the Dārs-i Niẓāmī curriculum that has remained in use in madrassas in South Asia into the early 21st century.

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  • Kokan, Muhammad Yusuf. Bahr ul-Uloom. Madras: Dar al-Tasnif.

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    This biography of Baḥr al-’Ulūm sheds interesting light on the impact this great scholar had on Madras.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Mullā Muḥammad Niẓām al-Dīn.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 12 supp. Edited by P. J. Bearman, T. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 68–69. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    This brief overview places Niẓām al-dīn in the context of the flowering of ma’qūlāt scholarship in 18th-century northern India and offers a useful bibliography for further study.

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  • Shafīʼ, Muhammad. “Baḥr al-’Ulūm.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 1. Edited by B. Lewis, C. Pellat, and J. Schacht, assisted by C. Dumont and R. M. Savory, 936–937. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1960.

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    This brief article offers an overview of Baḥr al-’Ulūm’s life and is particularly useful for pointing to some of his more important works in the fields of philosophy, theology, Hadith, mathematics, ethics, and Arabic grammar.

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19th Century

The 19th century saw Farangī Maḥallīs beginning to confront the meaning of British rule in India and that of the rising tide of Islamic reform. ‘Abd al-Ḥayy (d. 1886) was the family member before all others that century who strove to refine the classical ḥanafị jurisprudential tradition: he issued legal opinions that enabled Muslims to respond positively, but within the boundaries of Islamic law, to the many challenges that rapid change, technological and otherwise, brought them under British rule. ‘Ināyatullāh 1960, Anṣārī 1971–1972, and Anṣārī 1978 address his scholarship and techniques as a giver of legal judgments. Qidwaʼi n.d. reveals ‘Abd al-Razzāq (d. 1889–1890) to be a consistent opponent of the British from his early days in Madras, through the Mutiny Uprising of 1857 in Lucknow, to the later years of the century.

  • Anṣārī, Muftī Muhammad Raḍā. “Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Farangī Maḥallī un kī ṭarikhī Khudat.” Majallāh ‘Ulūm al-Dīn (1971–1972): 139–177.

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    A discussion of ‘Abd al-Ḥayy’s well-developed sense of history and how he used it to make Islamic scholarship of the past a tool of continuing value in giving legal opinions.

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  • Anṣārī, Muftī Muhammad Raḍā. “Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Farangī Maḥallī ke fuqahī mu’aqif awr nai Hindūstān men uski maʼnīwiyyat.” In Fikr al-Islām Kītashkil-i Jadīd. Edited by Zīya al-Ḥasan Fārūqī and Mushīr al-Ḥaqq, 291–299. New Delhi: Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, 1978.

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    In this essay, Anṣārī examines ‘Abd al-Ḥayy’s technique as a writer of legal opinions and demonstrates the devices he uses to make the Sharia relevant to contemporary concerns.

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  • ‘Inayatullah, S. “Abd al-Ḥayy.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 1. Edited by H. A. R. Gibb, J. H. Kramers, E. Levi-Provencal, and J. Schacht, assisted by S. M. Stern, 66. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1960.

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    This all-too-brief overview points to some of ‘Abd al-Ḥayy’ more important works of scholarship.

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  • Qidwaʼi, Alṭāf al-Raḥmān. Anwār-i Razzāqiyya. Lucknow, India: Islamat Ulum.

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    In this book that was dictated to Qidwaʼi, probably in the 1920s, ‘Abd al-Bārī tells the life of his grandfather, ‘Abd al-Razzāq, along with a large number of malfūzāt (reports of his sayings and deeds). There is a strong anti-British tone to the biography and much circumstantial evidence.

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20th Century

The years from 1900 to India’s partition in 1947 saw considerable Farangī Maḥallī activity, especially in politics. ‘Abd al-Bārī (d. 1926) was the dominant figure, a friend of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and many leading nationalists, and a key figure in pan-Islamist politics, assuming a leading role in the development of a series of organizations. Most especially, he played a role in the Khilafat organization that drove the Khilafat movement (1919–1923) and the development, alongside the Indian National Congress, of a joint program of noncooperation with the British. Anṣārī 1980, ‘Ināyat Allāh 1928, Robinson 1974 (cited under Sufi, Educational, and Political Activity), and Robinson 2001 all deal with aspects of ‘Abd al-Bārī’s life in politics; ‘Ināyat Allāh 1928 also sheds light on his youth. Robinson 2004 offers a biography of ‘Abd al-Bārī, revealing among other things his pleasure in teaching. Anṣārī 1941 is a biography of ‘Ināyat Allāh, the writer of the family collective biography but also the much-loved headmaster of the family madrassa.

  • Anṣārī, Muftī Muhammad Raḍā. “Mawlānā Muḥammad ‘Alī awr Mawlānā Farangī Maḥall.” Jāmia Muhammad Ali 77 (February 1980): 109–128.

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    This article, which draws on the diaries and recollections of witnesses, depicts the scene at the death of ‘Abd al-Bārī and the grief of the Khilafat leader, Muhammad Ali, his spiritual disciple. In the months running up to ‘Abd al-Bārī’s death, the two had had major political differences.

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  • Anṣārī, Ṣibghāt Allāh Shahīd. Ṣadr al-Mudarrisīn. Lucknow, India: Nami, 1941.

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    An admiring biography of Mawlawī ‘Ināyat Allāh, the man who was the headmaster of the Farangī Maḥall madrassa and much admired by his pupils.

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  • ‘Ināyat Allāh, Mawlawī. Risāla-yi ḥasrat al-āfāq ba wafāt majmū‘at al-akhlāq. Lucknow, India, 1928.

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    This biography by a student and disciple gives an excellent sense of this charismatic leader of Farangī Maḥall.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Abd al-Bari and the Events of January 1926.” In The ‘Ulama of Farangi Mahall and Islamic Culture in South Asia. Edited by Francis Robinson, 145–176. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001.

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    This analyzes ‘Abd al-Bārī’s life, his pleasure in teaching, and the events of January 1926, when the news of ‘Abd al-’Aziz ibn Sa’ud’s victory in the Hijaz and the Khilafat leader Muhammad Ali’s rejection of him as his Sufi master caused ‘Abd al-Bārī to suffer a fatal heart attack.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Abd al-Bārī’.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 12 supp. Edited by P. J. Bearman, T. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 4–5. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    This brief overview covers ‘Abd al-Bārī’s contributions to mysticism and to teaching but in particular his contributions to public life.

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LAST MODIFIED: 05/25/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195390155-0024

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