Early Education and Childhood
Hazrat Syed Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) was born on Monday, 1st Ramadan, 1275 A.H (14th April 1859 A.D) in Golra Sharif.
The birth of this greatest eminent scholar proved to be the dawn of Muslim Ummah. The time before Hazrat’s birth saw the war of independence of 1857 being fought between the British and the Muslims. After that unsuccessful war of independence, there was need for supporting the cause of Islam and the need to retain the light of true religion that was constantly being diminished by the wrong doings of the Muslims of the sub-continent. As said in the Holy Quran “We have, without doubt, sent down the message and we will assuredly guard it”. (XV-9)
Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah - a Born Wali
Hadith (tradition of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) is the most reliable source of guidance along the Holy Quran for the Muslims. According to an authentic hadith of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) traced to Abu Huraira (R.A):
“Abi Huraira (R.A) narrates that the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) said as follows: Verily Allah shall send to this Ummah, at the extremity of each Hijrah century, a person who will renew its din (i.e., religion) for it.”
Most of the eminent muhaddithin (masters of the science of hadith) have interpreted the word "extremity" as implying the concluding part of each part of Hijrah century, i.e., the concerned personality should be born towards the end of the Hijrah of each century. They conclude, furthermore: (i) that he should be well-versed in all the outer as well as the inner religious sciences; (ii) that a large body of people should derive abundant benefits from his teachings, writings, and preaching; (iii) that he should actively devote himself to the revival of the Prophet's sunnah (pattern of conduct) among people and elimination of "bid'at" (novel practices deviating from those approved and adopted by the Prophet (P.B.U.H) himself); and finally, (iv) that he should have an established renown for scholarship and erudition, and for having conferred religious benefits on the people in general belonging to the end of one century and the beginning of the next. Anyone not fulfilling these conditions would not qualify to be called a "Mujjadad".
In the light of this Hadith if we see the years of birth of the greatest Sufi saints:
- a) Hazrat Ghaus-e-Azam Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad born in 471 A.H (After Hijrah), died 562 A.H.
- b) Hazrat Shaikh Ahmad Sirhandi, alias Mujjadad Alf-e-Sani born in 971 A.H, died 1034 A.H.
- c) Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra Sharif born in 1275 A.H., died 1356 A.H.
All these Sufi saints were born at the extremity of each Hijra’s year. On that account too, Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah can be clearly entitled as a person who renewed the religion Islam, i.e. Mujjadad.
Portents Heralding Hazrat’s Arrival
Predictions about Hazrat’s birth had been current in his family circles well before his actual arrival on the scene. Further more an aged Majzub (A dervish “absorbed” in ecstasy) had come and stayed in the khankah of Golra a few days before Hazrat’s birth and often talked about of being blessed soon with the sight of an approved one of Allah Almighty. When Hazrat was born, he visited the outer Veranda of the family residence; called for Hazrat who was newly born, kissed his hands and feet, and then left the place and was never seen again.
Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) narrated himself that during his childhood, he used to feel uncomfortable in populated areas and found deserted places providing much serenity. Quite often, he said, he used to quietly leave the house at night after everyone else had gone to bed, and to spend much of the night wandering among the nearly bushes, trees and ravines. As he grew, he said, he started experiencing a feeling of such unusual heat within his body that he was sometimes compelled, even on cold winter nights, to bathe in the ice-cold canal water out in the open and also to rub pieces of it on his body. When he left his room late at night after finishing his studies, he used to experience the same kind of comfort from contact with the cold mountain air that a thirsty person normally derives from cool water at the height of summer.
In his book, Saif-e-Chishtiyai (The Chishtia sword) and Malfoozat-e- Mehria (Compilation of Hazrat's own sayings), Hazrat has stated that at the age of seven he had fought a duel with Satan (Shaytan) in a dream. After several ups and downs Hazrat kept repeatedly reciting the words:
Translation: "There is no power and no strength save in Allah the Most High, the Supreme".
Finally, Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) defeated Satan (Shaytan) by reciting the above-mentioned verse.
Hazrat received his early education of the Holy Quran at the Khankah and was given classes in Urdu and Persian in the local Madressah. Allah blessed Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) with tremendous mind abilities. Being very young, he had to be carried to and from the school by a domestic servant. The same was done at the time of final examination, which was held in Rawalpindi, a few miles away. The examiner put the first question to Hazrat, which was answered correctly by him. Seeing that so very young a child had given a correct answer to his questions, the examiner concluded that the concerned teacher was providing really good education to his students and decided to promote the entire class.
Hazrat (R.A) had such a phenomenal memory that he could memorize his daily lessons of Quran immediately after reading. As soon as Hazrat completed his oral reading of Quran, the entire Holy Book became embedded in his memory without any conscious effort by him towards that end. Once Hazrat’s teacher asked him to memorize a portion of a religious book which had become badly moth-eaten with the passage of time. Hazrat pointed out that the relevant portion of the book had been almost completely destroyed due to worn-out condition of those pages, and it was impossible to read. The teacher refused to accept any apologies and insisted on his order and warned Hazrat of the punishment if it was not done. The next day, Hazrat, went out and sat under the shadow of the tree where he usually sat for studying purpose. He tried to read the misprinted lines but in vain. Finally he looked heavenwards fervently implored Allah Almighty to let him know the contents of the passage so as to save him from the teacher’s punishment. Suddenly a greenish writing appeared among the leaves of the tree, and after remaining there long enough for Hazrat to commit it to memory, vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.
Hazrat immediately went back to his teacher and read the passage out to him. There upon the teacher sought out an un-mutilated addition of the book in question from Rawalpindi, and was astonished to find that the related passage tallied completely with that with Hazrat had read out to him.
Sometime after this incident, Hazrat’s teacher Maulvi Ghulam Muhyuddin advised Hazrat Nazruddin Alias Ajji Sahib (Hazrat’s father) and Hazrat Fazal din (Hazrat’s Uncle) to place the young Meher Ali under the care of a more learned teacher as he had done whatever he could do in educating him as much as he could do and that he deserved to be trained by a truly distinguished teacher. Accepting this advice, Hazrat was admitted to the Madressah of an eminent scholar Maulana Muhammad Shafi Qureshi in the village Bhui, near Hasan-Abdal.
Hazrat completed his intermediate level religious education here. His stay in this Madressah was for 2 –21/2 years.
Completing the intermediate level education, Hazrat’s return home coincided with the annual festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. After the Eid prayers Hazrat decided to proceed for higher studies and for this he chose Angah, which is about 100 miles away from Sargodha. Hazrat’s teacher at that Madressah was Maulvi Sultan Mehmood.
Hazrat's visit to Sial Sharif
Hazrat’s teacher at Angah was a disciple of Hazrat Khwaja Shamsuddin Chishti of Sial Sharif, District Sargodha. Hazrat Khwaja Shamsuddin was a great Sufi saint of his time. Hazrat Sahib (Hazrat’s Pir Meher Ali Shah's (R.A) teacher) used to visit to Sial Sharif to pay his regards to his venerable Murshid and Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah used to accompany him during these visits. This eventually resulted in Hazrat Syedna Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) also becoming a disciple of Hazrat Khwaja Shamsuddin (R.A).
Quest for higher education
After completing his education at Angah at the age of 15 years, he decided to continue further studies in the United Provinces of India (U.P). Therefore, Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib, in 1290 A.H set out his quest for higher education, to different parts of India such as Lucknow, Deoband, Rampur, Kanpur, Aligarh, Delhi and Saharanpur , which were the then known major centers of religious education. Hazrat got education from the best of the religious scholars of that time.
Hazrat’s stay at Aligarh at the Madressah of Maulana Lutfullah of Aligarh was 21/2 years. During this period of time, he earned the admiration and the respect of both his teachers and his classmates because of his ability, beauty of character and explanatory conduct.
Appreciation of a European Examiner
During Hazrat’s stay at Aligarh, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the celebrated educationist of India and the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University, had drawn up a plan for the reform of the Arabic religious madressahs found lagging behind in quality education and thereby decided to close them down. The money was to be diverted to the college at Aligarh. As a part of this project, Sir Syed suggested to Maulana Lutfullah to conduct an annual examination at his madressah, with a view to both testing the standard of education and providing an incentive for hard work among the students. Since a large number of students at the madressah were Punjabis or Pathans, and were not well versed in writing , Maulana Sahib was somewhat reluctant to accept this suggestion. Hazrat however, assured him that he and his schoolmates were ready to undergo any type of test, oral or written, and that he should therefore accept Sir Syed’s suggestion without hesitation. So Maulana Lutfullah gained some confidence and accepted the proposal.
So for this purpose a high-class scholar from Europe was invited to Aligarh by Sir Syed to give the required examination. A day before the exam, the Maulana himself gave a proficiency test to the students in Euclidean Geometry in order to judge their ability in that subject. In his answer to the question prescribed in the test paper ,Hazrat first wrote down the solution that was contained in the Euclidean text. He followed this up by raising certain objections and reservations about the solution given in the text, and answering the same objections himself. Maulana Sahib was so deeply impressed by this display of insight and perspicacity that he placed Hazrat’s answer sheet in an envelope, sealed it and sent it to the European examiner who had also arrived in Aligarh. The next day, all the students kept waiting for the examiner to come but he didn’t show up. When Sir Syed was informed of this, he intimated that the examiner had gone back home during the night, and had left a note to effect that he found himself unable to give a test to students who had the ability to raise objections to the views of Euclid. Maulvi Sahib was very happy that his madressah had been saved from possible closure because of Hazrat’s brilliant academic performance.
Combination of strong physique with mental and spiritual excellence
Allah Almighty blessed Hazrat with a strong physique and a highly cognitive and spiritual excellence. Most of his time was spent in the pursuit of education, and he took no exercise other than horse riding. His health remained as strong as those taking regular exercise, even at the advanced age of 60 years.
Usually Hazrat’s class fellows used to seek help in their studies from him and Hazrat always helped them out in their problems.
Charity and Munificence
The money, which Hazrat received from home as monthly subsistence, used to be distributed by him among the poor and needy school-mates, with himself either fasting or otherwise going without food. In moments of extreme hunger, he collected and ate crumbs left over by fellow students. These expressions of charity, self sacrifice, and voluntary hardships deeply impressed everyone around and many of them became his admirers and devotees.
Aversion to sport and petty amusements
Due to his serious and sober outlook on life, Hazrat never developed any real interest in sport or petty entertainment. Fairs and exhibitions of different kinds held in Saharanpur from time to time had no attraction for him. These included a major fair held in that city on the eve of British Viceroy’s visit there. Hazrat did, however enjoy listening to good devotional music, which struck a responsive chord in his spiritually inclined heart.
After completing his religious education from Aligarh, Hazrat Syedna Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) was awarded certificates by Maulana Lutfullah of Aligarh. These certificates certified the completion in the following branches of Islamic learning, along with permission to teach these subjects to others and to otherwise make use of them for scholastic and exposition purposes as and when required.
i) The Holy Quran, its translation and commentaries
ii) All the authentic compilations of the Prophet’s Hadith, including the Sihah Sittah
When Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah returned home after completing his studies, his marriage took place with the daughter of Syed Charagh Ali Shah who belonged to his respected mother’s family living in Hasan-Abdal Town, a few miles away from Golra.
Passing away of Ajji Sahib (R.A) and Hazrat Fazal Din (R.A)
Soon after Hazrat’s marriage Hazrat Fazal Din Shah, the maternal uncle of Hazrat’s father Ajji sahib and Hazrat’s Murshid in the Qadriyah School, passed away in 1311 A.H (1892 A.D) and so did Hazrat Ajji sahib (Hazrat’s father) himself in 1323 A.H (1904-05 A.D).