His father was Naqi Ali Khan, and his great-grandfather Shah Kazim Ali Khan was a great Sunni scholar.
Ahmed’s mother named him Amman Miyān. Raza Khan used the appellation “Abdul Mustafa” (slave [or servant] of Mustafa) prior to signing his name in correspondence. He studied Islamic sciences and completed a traditional Dars-i-Nizami course under the supervision of his father Naqī Áli Khān, who was a legal scholar. He went on the Hajj with his father in 1878.
- Ahmed Raza Khan promulgated several beliefs regarding Muhammad:
- Muhammad, although human, possessed a Noor (Light) that predates creation. This contrasts with the Deobandi view that Muhammad was insan-e-kamil (“the complete man”), a respected but physically typical human.
- He is haazir naazir (can be present in many places at the same time, as opposed to God, who is everywhere by definition).
- God has granted him ilm-e-ghaib (the knowledge of the unseen). and on this matter he states:
- We do not hold that anyone can equal the knowledge of Allah Most High, or possess it independently, nor do we assert that Allah’s giving of knowledge to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is anything but a part. But what a patent and tremendous difference between one part [the Prophet’s] and another [anyone else’s]: like the difference between the sky and the earth, or rather even greater and more immense (al-Dawla al-Makkiyya (c00), 291).
- God has made him mukhtaar kul (having the authority to do whatever he desired)
Ahmed Raza Khan translated the Quran into Urdu, which was first published in 1912 under the title of Kanz ul-Iman fi Tarjuma al-Qur’an. The original manuscript is preserved in the library of Idara Tahqiqat-i-Imam Ahmed Raza, Karachi, and an English translation of Kanzul Iman has also been published. Ahmed Raza Khan also wrote several books on the collection and compilation of hadiths.
Raza Khan’s main work was Fatawa Ridawiyya which runs in 30 volumes of over 1000 pages each. The Raza Foundation under the leadership of Abdul Qayyum Hazarwi revised the work, translating all the Persian and Arabic sentences in Urdu, and published it in 30 volumes, running across 90,000 pages.
Raza Khan investigated numerous religious questions:
In 1915 he wrote a treatise describing 160 types of water which are acceptable for wudu (ablution), and 146 types of proscribed water.
He identified 181 acceptable and 130 unacceptable materials for tayammum (alternatives to water for ablution).
He was able to fill up the Naqsh-i-Murabba (a sixteen column quadrilateral) by 1152 methods.
He knew 800 names of Muhammad from books, and was able to gather 1400 more.
He analysed whether it was credible that Hussain was able to travel from Mecca to Kerbala on 3rd Zilhij and reach there on 2nd of Moharram. He investigated the types of horse, the loads they carried, the route of the caravan, the types of terrain, and other factors, and finally concluded that the caravan could feasibly have reached Kerbala by the 2nd.
Works in physics
Raza Khan opposed the belief in a heliocentric universe, instead stating that the sun and moon circulate around the Earth.
Works in economics
Raza through his book published in 1912, presented four points for the economic development of Muslims:
Barring the affairs wherein government is involved, Muslims should decide all their disputes mutually so that millions of rupees, which are being spent over litigations, may be saved.
- The affluent Muslims of Bombay (Mumbai), Calcutta, Rangoon, Madras and Hyderabad should open banks for other poor Muslims.
- Muslims should not purchase anything from anybody except Muslims.
- The sciences of Islam should be propagated and publicized.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian claimed to be the Mahdi (messiah) awaited by the Muslims as well as a new prophet. These claims proved to be extremely controversial among many in the Muslim community, and he was branded a heretic and apostate by many religious scholars of the time, including Ahmed Raza Khan. Ghulam Ahmad’s claims are controversial to this day, but his Mahdi status and prophethood is believed in by the Ahmadiyya religion. Some Muslim countries, such as Pakistan in 1974, have officially declared the Ahmadiyya non-Muslims.
When Ahmed Raza visited Mecca and Medina for pilgrimage in 1905, he prepared a draft document entitled Al Motamad Al Mustanad (“The Reliable Proofs”) for presentation to the scholars of Mecca and Medina. Ahmed Raza Khan collected opinions of the ulama of the Hejaz and compiled them in an Arabic language compendium with the title, Husam al Harmain (“The Sword of Two Sanctuaries”), a work containing 34 verdicts from 33 ulama (20 Meccan and 13 Medinese). The work concluded that Ghulam Ahmad’s beliefs were blasphemous and tantamount to apostasy.
During the period of the Indian Khilafat Movement, Gandhi was advised that he should meet with Raza Khan. When he was told that Gandhi wished to meet and speak to him, Raza Khan said, “What would he speak about? Religion or worldly affairs? If it is worldly affairs, what can I partake in, for I have abstained from the world and have no interest in it.”
Opposition to heterodox practices
Raza Khan condemned many practices he saw as bid’at (forbidden innovations), such as:
Qawali (religious music)
Women going to visit mazaar (tombs)
Tawaf (ceremonially walking in circles around a holy site) of tombs.
Sajda (prostration) to those other than God
Ta’zieh, plays re-enacting religious scenes
Positive Views and Admirers
Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi of Syria recently declared on national television his belief that the mujaddid of the Indian subcontinent was none other than Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Bareilly, going so far as to say that a person of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah can be identified by his love of Imam Ahmed Raza Khan, and that those outside the Ahlus Sunnah are identified by their attacks on him.
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He issued fatwas against other religious group such as Deobandis and Wahabbis, accusing them of being disrespectful towards Muhammad. Deobandi and Wahabi scholars believe that Ahmed Raza Khan has made these accusations due to his “exaggeration” in loving the prophet, which they claim violates hadith which proscribe deifying Mohammad.
He advocated the practice of tawassul (asking to deceased Muslims), which his opponents declared to be shirk (polytheism):
If you are embarrassed in your affairs, seek help from the inmates of the tombs,having beliefs that Allah is the one who is helping and the person in the tomb is just wasila.
Raza opposed labeling then-British held India to be Dar-ul Harb (“land of war”), thus opposing any justification of jihad (struggle) or hijrat (mass emigration to escape) under patronage of Gandhi. This stance was opposed by Deobandi scholars such as Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi.
Some of his books are as under: