Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi, referred to by many South Asian Muslims as Hakim al-Umma (“Spiritual Physician of the Muslim Umma”) and Mujaddid al-Milla (“Reformer of the Nation”), is a towering figure of Islamic revival and reawakening of South Asia in the twentieth century. Mawlana Thanawi was the “most eminent religious figure of his time, a prolific author, and believed to be the greatest Sufi of modern India.”
“He led a very active life, teaching, preaching, writing, lecturing, and making occasional journeys” (Naeem 94). The distinguishing mark and guiding principle that led to the vast success of his message was a remarkable sense of balance and straightforwardness in his speeches and writings. Mawlana Thanawi was an exemplar of the Qur’anic verse “And thus have We made you a nation justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over mankind” (Qur’an 2:143). An astounding, comprehensive knowledge of all branches of Islamic learning was evident in his personality, explicated in his lectures, and recorded in his writings. The Indian jurist Qadi Mujahid al-Islam Qasimi said, “It is hard to think of an area of Islamic sciences left unattended by his writings” (Zayd 11).