ʿABD-AL-ḤAYY, ABŪ’L-ḤASANĀT MOḤAMMAD, 1264-1304/1848-86, Indian theologian from the distinguished Farangī Maḥall family. His father, Mawlavī ʿAbd-al-Ḥalīm (1239-85/1822-68), was a noted teacher, writer, and judge in Hyderabad (Deccan). His mother was a granddaughter of Malek-al-ʿolamāʾ Mollā Ḥaydar, who established the Hyderabad branch of the Farangī Maḥall family. Born in Banda, Uttar Pradesh, ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy studied under his father, Mawlavī Ḵādem Ḥosayn, and Mawlānā Neʿmatallāh. At 17 he was sufficiently knowledgeable to assist Mawlavī ʿAbd-al-Ḥalīm as a teacher. Twice he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, where he met Moftī Aḥmad b. Zaynī Dahlān and received his permission to teach many works of Hadith. On his father’s death, ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy declined to succeed him in Hyderabad, preferring to devote his life to teaching and writing. He received financial support from Sir Sālār Jang, prime minister of Hyderabad state. Returning to Lucknow, ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy worked there till his death.

At a time when Indian Muslims were beginning to feel threatened by the modernizing influences of British rule, ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy promoted an understanding of Islam based on a fresh examination of the basic principles of traditional learning. An enlightened ʿālem, he supported Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s attempts to found the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh. Concerned for Islam and traditional learning, he was once prosecuted for converting a man to his faith; with his uncle, ʿAbd-al-Vahhāb, he founded the Maǰles Moʿīd al-Eslām to promote the šarīʿa. He defended with vigor the great tradition of Indo-Islamic scholarship focusing on the Hanafite path and relying on Borhān-al-dīn ʿAlī’s highly esteemed manual of feqh, the Hedāya. The leader of the Ahl al-Ḥadīṯ Navvāb Ṣeddīq Ḥasan Khan of Bhopal, declared that the Koran and Hadith were the sole sources of the šarīʿa and discounted the value of eǰmāʿ and qīās; ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s reply, revealing the inadequacy of the Navvāb’s research, was set forth in Ebrāz al-ḡayy al-wāqeʿ fī šefāʾ al-ʿayy (“The sprouting of manifest error in curing the stammer,” cited in Saeedullah, Muhammad Siddiq, pp. 93-101). ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s arguments for eǰmāʿ and qīās as sources of law, the legality of visiting the Prophet’s tomb, and other Hanafite positions may be found in Nāfeʿ al-kabīr, Moqaddamat al-hedāya, al-Seʿāya fī kašf mā fī šarḥ al-weqāya, and al-Saʿy al-maškūr.

ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy was perhaps the greatest Muslim teacher of 19th-century India, and his pupils came from all over South Asia and beyond. He was a prolific writer, producing 110 books, most of which were in Arabic. ʿEnāyatallāh (Taḏkera, pp. 133-37) sets forth a list of his major works, which principally consist of glosses and annotations on textbooks, though he also wrote substantial commentaries. They are still widely used in the madrasas in and beyond South Asia. The following works were especially important in establishing his reputation: 1. al-Seʿāya, mentioned above; 2. al-Taʿlīq al-momaǰǰad ʿalā mowaṭṭaʿ Emām Mālek; and 3. Ẓafar al-amānī. Also of interest is his collection of fatāwā, Maǰmūʿ al-fatāwā Ḥażrat Mawlānā ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Marḥūm Ferangī Maḥallī, which is widely used in India and Pakistan. There is also his al-Fawāʾed al-bahīya fī tarāǰem al-ḥanafīya (Cairo, 1925), an abridgment with additional biographical notices of Maḥmūd b. Solaymān Kavafī’s Katāʾeb aʿlām al-aḵyār. Among scholars of the Farangī Maḥall family, ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy is matched only by ʿAbd-al-ʿAlī Baḥr-al-ʿolūm and Mollā Neẓām-al-dīn.

Although ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s work focused on traditional Islamic scholarship, he did not neglect his family’s great tradition of mystical learning. He regarded attendance at the dargāh of the Qāderī saint Shah ʿAbd-al-Razzāq of Bansa as important for his spiritual health (ʿAbd-al-Bārī, ʿOrs, p. 10). In his will he urged all members of his family to study Imam Ḡazzālī’s monumental work Eḥyāʾ ʿolūm al-dīn (Aǰmērī, Ḵādemāna, p. 53). Yet one should not overemphasize ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy’s interest in mysticism; his grave in the Bāḡ-e Mawlānā Anvār at Lucknow is that of a scholar and not a Sufi.


Mawlavī ʿEnāyatallāh, Taḏkera-ye ʿolamā-ye Ferangī Maḥall, Lucknow, 1930, pp. 131-37.

Shaikh Inayatullah, “ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy,” EI 2 I, p. 66.

Raḥmān ʿAlī, Taḏkera-ye ʿolamā-ye Hend, ed. Moḥammad Ayyūb Qadrī, Karachi, 1961, pp. 287-92.

Nūr-al-Ḥasan Aǰmērī, Ḵādemāna gozāreš, Lucknow, 1923, p. 53.

Ahmad, Ind. Arab. Lit., pp. 114-15, 186-87.

ʿAbd-al-Bārī, ʿOrs Hażrat Bansa, Lucknow, n.d., p. 10.

Saeedullah, The Life and Works of Muhammad Siddiq Hasan Khan Nawab of Bhopal 1248-1307/1832-90, Lahore, 1973, pp. 93-101.

Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, Muslims in India, 2nd ed., Lucknow, 1976, pp. 28-29.

(F. Robinson)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 14, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, pp. 114-115

Cite this entry:

F. Robinson, “'Abd-Al-Hayy, Abu'l-Hasanat,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 114-115; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abd-al-hayy-abul-hasanat-1848-86-indian-theologian (accessed on 12 January 2014).