Manchester Metropolitan University

The Veneration of Teachers in Islam by their Pupils: Its Modern Significance

Francis Robinson looks at the relationship between teacher and pupil in Islamic society.

On January 19th, 1926 Maulana Abdul Bari died. He was a learned man, the most learned man in his family in his generation. His family was the great Firangi Mahal family of Lucknow, capital of the Awadh province of India's Gangetic plain. Three days later the Nawab of Rampur, a leading Muslim prince, came to the quarter where Abdul Bari's relatives lived to offer his condolences. He met the family; he also visited the large madrassa , or school, which the family ran. While doing this, he said to one of his attendants 'this is our teachers' madrassa ... I wish to be of some service to it'. And he made a large donation to the madrassa's funds.

When the Nawab said 'this is our teachers' madrassa', he did not mean that he had been a student in the madrassa himself, nor even that his teachers had been taught there. Such an event was unlikely as the Nawab belonged to a minority Muslim sect, the Shias, while the Firangi Mahal family were Sunnis, the orthodox majority sect, and the two sects did not get on too well. He was referring to the fact that nearly 200 years before, when his forefathers had been Sunnis, two members of the Firangi Mahal family had come and taught in Rampur. The knowledge which his own teachers had passed on to him owed much to the work of these two Firangi Mahalis. The Nawab regarded himself, although he was a Shia, and in spite of the gap of nearly two centuries, as a pupil of the Firangi Mahal family. So he made his donation.

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