From Hinduism to Islamic scholar: Shaikh Ziya’s great work in Hadith

SHAIKH Muhammad Ziya al-Rahman al-A’zami, an outstanding Hadith scholar, passed away in Al-Madinah on July 31, 2020, the Day of Arafah 1441H, at the age of 77 and was buried in Al-Baqi.

The shaikh has an inspiring story of embracing Islam and making remarkable contribution to Islamic sciences. Born as a Brahmin in northern India, he belonged to the upper caste of Hindu society. He came across a book about Islam and read a verse that struck him: “Indeed, the religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.” (Qur’an, 3:19) The verse challenged him to research. He tried to learn as much as he could in order to refute Islam.

However, the more he learned about Hinduism from its scholars, the more he grew distant from it, and the more he learned about Islam, the more he was drawn towards it. Until he knew Islam was the truth and that Hinduism was no more than a bunch of myths.

The shaikh eventually embraced Islam when he was 16 and this caused an uproar in his town. He escaped for his life and moved from one town to another for refuge. Not finding much success, he moved to southern India, which was (and still is) more tolerant.

He referred to every single book of hadith written since the 5th century Hijri

He joined Jamia Darussalam, a madrasah in Oomerabad to learn Arabic and Islamic sciences. After finishing his education in Jamia Darussalam, he went to Madinah in 1966 to pursue further Islamic knowledge. He completed his Bachelors in Shari’ah and went to Umm al-Qura University for Masters in Hadith. He then went on to do his PhD. Although he had several work opportunities, he chose academics as he had a passion for learning and teaching.

After his PhD, he held a managerial role at Muslim World League for some time. He then quit and joined the Islamic University of Madinah due to his passion for staying connected with Islamic knowledge.

Collecting All Sahih Ahadith

After retiring from teaching and as dean of the College of Hadith, Shaikh al-A’zami took on a monumental task to collect all authentic ahadeeth in one book. The result was an encyclopedia titled al-Jami al-Kamil fi al-Hadith al-Sahih al-Shamil (18 volumes in the shaikh’s revised edition), which includes 16,800 narrations. He referred to every single book of hadith ever written since the 5th century Hijri to sift through and compile all authentic narrations.

It took him 15 years to complete this work. He also has several other reputable contributions such as his defense of Abu Hurairah against orientalists’ accusations in his Masters’ thesis, which was quoted and referred to by several scholars. May Allah have mercy on him and grant him jannah al-firdaws without account. Aameen.

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