In a recent diatribe, Nahiem Ajmal (“Mufti” Abu Layth al-Maliki) alleged that Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (d. 1943/1362), may Allah have mercy on him, married a 10 year old girl, referring to it as the “rape of an innocent underaged girl” and “forcing himself on her.” Ajmal, a former school-teacher, claimed that this “pulling an underaged girl” was committed on the back of a student’s dream in which Umm al-Mu’minin A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was seen coming to Mawlana Thanawi’s house. Ajmal asserts that people will never condemn Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi because he is one of their founding fathers, and that they misuse the name of the Prophet (ﷺ) to find justification for their “darkened, sickened kind of desire.”
Ajmal cites Muhammad Ali Mirza
Ajmal’s claims hinge on exactly the same claim made by Muhammad Ali Mirza, an engineer-turned-preacher based in Pakistan. In a recent programme, Ajmal played a clip in which Mirza is seen speaking in Urdu while he himself summarises what is being said in English for his audience. This is where Ajmal stumbles and it becomes evident that he had failed to do his homework properly when borrowing Mirza’s arguments. What is even more interesting is that Mirza emphatically affirms that Umm al-Mu’minin A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was married at a “very young age (bilkul choti umar) of 9.” Mirza also says that the attempt to present her age at the time of her marriage as 19 instead of 9 to appease non-Muslims is a pointless effort. In simple words, to allege “child rape” against Mawlana Thanawi, Ajmal uses the supposed research of an individual who entertains the very same notion regarding the Prophet (ﷺ), which Ajmal believes is “God damn disgusting” and “throwing the Prophet under the bus.”
It would have boded well for Ajmal if he had verified Mirza’s claims prior to repeating them. To the niche audience he caters for, that is of no concern. However, for people of sound disposition, it is highly insulting to be fed lies.
Mawlana Thanawi on Child Marriages
Considering that Mawlana Thanawi is alleged to have boasted about “pulling an underaged girl”, it is pertinent to present his stance on child marriages from his own works.
In Bahishti Zewar, the hyperfocus of Ajmal’s claims, Mawlana Thanawi states:
There are many harms in marrying off at a very young age. It is best to marry off when the boy is able to earn and the girl is able to bear the responsibility of running the household.Bahishti Zewar, part 9, pg 447.
In Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, Mawlana Thanawi writes:
Similar to this [i.e., not considering compatibility between spouses] is not considering the age difference, when the girl is voiceless i.e., young, or like a young girl who has no independent opinion. Some people get 63 year old men married to 13 year old girls. The harms stated above transpire here also. An additional harm in this case is that the elderly husband usually dies before the wife, and due to it [i.e., remarrying] being frowned upon in society – an ignorant practice that exists even till today in many communities – this poor woman remains a widow. Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, vol 2, pg 24-25.
He further writes:
Another shortcoming in some communities or some people is that they marry off at a very young age when the couple do not have any understanding of what marriage is and what its rights are. There are many harms that arise from this.Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, vol 2, pg 43-44.
Did Mawlana Thanawi marry a 10-year-old?
Nahiem Ajmal claims: “He [Mawlana Thanawi] mentions it in his magazine. I married an underaged girl, underaged girl [sic]. I think she was about 10. He marries like a 10 year old.”
On closer inspection, Ajmal’s outright dishonesty becomes very evident. In fact, he outshines Mirza’s dishonesty on this instance. Mirza, whose allegations Ajmal regurgitates, did not actually touch on the age of Mawlana Thanawi’s wife, Muniba Khatun, may Allah have mercy on her, at the time of their marriage. It is Ajmal, however, who alleged that she was 10 – something that he has repeated several times since.
What is clearly established is that Muniba Khatun was at least 18 when she married Mawlana Thanawi, not 10. The background to her marriage is that she was one of the two daughters of Pir Ji Zafar Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him, a close associate of Mawlana Thanawi. Muniba Khatun was originally married to Mawlana Thanawi’s nephew and distinguished student, Mawlana Sa’id Ahmad Thanawi, may Allah have mercy on him. Her sister was married to Mawlana Sa’id’s younger brother, Mawlana Zafar Ahmad Thanawi, may Allah have mercy on him, the renowned author of I’la al-Sunan among other works. Both marriages were arranged by Mawlana Thanawi.
However, Mawlana Sa’id Ahmad Thanawi passed away during a pandemic in 1330 AH (1911/1912), a mere six months after his marriage, leaving behind an expecting widow. A few months later, his widow gave birth to a daughter, whom Mawlana Thanawi named Rashida Khatun, may Allah have mercy on her.‘Aks-i-Jamil, pg 140; Karwan-i-Thanawi, pg 247, Tadhkirat al-Zafar, pg 55.
Mawlana Dr Khalil Ahmad Thanawi, the grandson of Muniba Khatun, writes:
When Muniba Khatun was married, she was only 14 or 15 years old. On seeing her become widowed at such a young age (kam sinni), her father became deeply distressed. After his daughter’s waiting period (‘iddah) was completed, he said to Hazrat Thanawi that I had given my daughter to you.A reference to the fact that he had given permission to Mawlana Thanawi to marry his daughters where he felt appropriate. Sa’id has passed away and the girl is young. I wish for you to marry her. Perhaps Allah will bless you with children as you have no children from your first wife. Hazrat performed istikhara, and after his heart felt at ease with the matter, he married her.‘Aks-i-Jamil (Biography of Mufti Jamil Ahmad Thanawi), pg 140.
The exact date of this marriage is recorded in the Al-Imdad periodical (Safar 1335 AH/November-December 1916), wherein Mawlana Thanawi detailed the circumstances behind his second marriage, as well as some of the difficulties and objections he subsequently encountered. These details were written in response to a letter he had received querying his second marriage, and were then incorporated into his work Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat.
Mawlana Thanawi states that his marriage to Muniba Khatun was in Ramadan 1334 AH.Al-Imdad (Safar 1335 AH), pg 14; Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, Vol 2, pg 88. Through a simple calculation, it is evident that Muniba Khatun, widowed in 1330 AH at the age of 14 or 15, was at least 18 at the time of her marriage to Mawlana Thanawi.
Dream regarding Umm al-Mu’minin A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her)
Mawlana Thanawi had initially contemplated marrying a second time. Pir Ji Zafar Ahmad had already made the proposal for Muniba Khatun, as mentioned above. However, due to a number of considerations, Mawlana Thanawi felt it was not in anyone’s best interests at the time and thus decided against it.Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, Vol 2, pg 86-87.
Mawlana Thanawi writes:
In this way, a long time passed. During this period, it was unveiled (makshuf) to a pious person of dhikr that Hazrat A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) is coming to the house of this humble one. When he told me, my mind immediately went to the fact that when the Prophet (ﷺ) married Hazrat A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), the Prophet (ﷺ) was over fifty years old and Hazrat Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was very young. The same is relevant here. However, I did not pay too much attention to this.Al-Imdad (Safar 1335 AH), pg 13; Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, Vol 2, pg 87.
When Mawlana Thanawi himself said that he did not pay much attention to this, the calumnious manner in which Ajmal frames this as “misconstruing people’s dreams” and “I am going to pull an underaged girl” becomes self-evident.
Casting malicious aspersions on others, whether living or dead, is Nahiem Ajmal’s forte. Hence his slander against Mawlana Thanawi, may Allah have mercy on him, is not at all surprising or out of character for him. Despite having his heterodox opinions thoroughly debunked over the years (like here and here), Ajmal relentlessly continues to project falsities without fear of scrutiny. Suffice it to say that no sensible person would take their religion from an individual for whom academic integrity is not even a priority.
Muhammad ibn Sirin, Allah have mercy on him, famously said, “This knowledge is religion, so consider who you take your religion from.”Sahih Muslim, 26
|1||Bahishti Zewar, part 9, pg 447.|
|2||Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, vol 2, pg 24-25.|
|3||Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, vol 2, pg 43-44.|
|4||‘Aks-i-Jamil, pg 140; Karwan-i-Thanawi, pg 247, Tadhkirat al-Zafar, pg 55.|
|5||A reference to the fact that he had given permission to Mawlana Thanawi to marry his daughters where he felt appropriate.|
|6||‘Aks-i-Jamil (Biography of Mufti Jamil Ahmad Thanawi), pg 140.|
|7||Al-Imdad (Safar 1335 AH), pg 14; Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, Vol 2, pg 88.|
|8||Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, Vol 2, pg 86-87.|
|9||Al-Imdad (Safar 1335 AH), pg 13; Islah-i-Inqilab-i-Ummat, Vol 2, pg 87.|
|10||Sahih Muslim, 26|