Wali Allah, Shah (1703-1762)

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WALI ALLAH, SHAH (1703-1762)

Shah Wali Allah was the most prominent Muslim intellectual of eighteenth-century India and a prolific writer on a wide range of Islamic topics in Arabic and Persian. The fact that his writings are often characterized by a historical, systematic approach coupled with an attempt to explain and mediate divisive tendencies leads him to be considered a precursor to modernist/liberal Islamic thought.

From an early age his father, Shah ˓Abd al-Rahim, trained him both in Islamic studies and Naqshbandiyya Sufism. In 1731, Wali Allah left India to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, where he stayed for some fourteen months. His most important and influential work, Hujjat Allah al-baligha, in which he aimed to restore the Islamic sciences through the study of the hadith, was composed in Arabic sometime during the decade after his return to India.

After Shah Wali Allah's death in 1762, his teachings were carried on by his descendants, in particular his sons, Shah ˓Abd al-˓Aziz (d. 1823) and Shah Rafi˓ al-Din (d. 1818), and his grandson Shah Isma˓il Shahid (d. 1831). Shah ˓Abd al-˓Aziz was a noted scholar and teacher with a wide circle of pupils, some of whom are linked directly with the establishment of the Deoband madrasa.

South Asian Muslims with an anti-Sufi, puritan outlook such as the Ahl-e Hadith, and even the followers of Maulana Maududi, find in Shah Wali Allah's return to the fundamentals of shari˓a and political rejection of alien influences a precursor to their own reformist beliefs. Another group of his successors, best exemplified by his closest disciple and cousin, Muhammad ˓Ashiq (1773), seems to have pursued Wali Allah's mystical inclinations.

See alsoDeoband ; South Asia, Islam in ; Tasawwuf .


Baljon, J. M. S. Religion and Thought of Shah Wali Allah. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986.

Hermansen, Marcia K., trans. The Conclusive Argument fromGod: Shah Wali Allah of Delhi's Hujjat Allah al-Baligha. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996.

Marcia Hermansen