Dr Mustansir Mir /DrShehzad Saleem
Al-Farāhī was born in 1863 in Phriha (hence the name al-Farāhī), a small village in Azamgarh district (Uttar Pardesh, India). He was a cousin of the famous theologian-historian Shiblī Nu'mānī (d. 1914), from whom he learnt Arabic. He studied Arabic literature withFayd al-Hasan al-Sahāranpūrī (d. 1887), who was considered a master in this field at that time. At the age of twenty one, he took admission in the Aligarh Muslim College to study modern disciplines of knowledge. Here he also learnt Hebrew from the German Orientalist Josef Horovitz (d. 1931). After his graduation from the Allahbad university, he taught at various institutions including Muslim University in Aligarh, Sindh Madrasah al-Islam in Karachi and Dār al-'Ulūm in Hyderabad.
Whilst teaching in Hyderabad, al-Farāhī proposed the setting up of a university where all religious and modern sciences would be taught in Urdu. Later, his vision materialized in 1919 in the form of Jāmi'ah 'Uthmāniyyah, Hyderabad. In 1925, he returned to his home town Azamgarh and took charge of the Madrasah al-Islāh. Here, besides managing the affairs of the Madrasah, al-Farāhī devoted most of his time in training a few students. Among them, was Amīn Ahsan Islāhī (d. 1997) who was destined to become the greatest exponent of his thought after him. Al-Farāhī died on 11th November 1930 in Mathra, where he had gone for treatment.
For almost fifty years, al-Farāhī reflected over the Qur'an, which remained his chief interest and the focal point of all his writings. His greatest contribution is to re-direct the attention of Muslim scholars to the Qur'ān as the basis and ultimate authority in all matters of religion. He stressed that the Qur'ān should be practically regarded as the mīzān (the scale that weighs the truth) and the furqān (the distinguisher between good and evil), a status which it invests on itself. Thus no narrative can alter or modify the purport of the Qur'ān. Narratives should be interpreted in the light shed by this divine book and not vice versa. It was as a result of this status of the Qur'ān that he insisted on the univocity of the Qur'ānic text and rejected that variant readings be regarded as the Qur'ān per se.
It was his deep deliberation on the Qur'ān that led him to unfold its nazm (coherence) in a unique way. By taking into consideration, the three constituents of nazm: order (tartīb), proportion (tanāsub) and unity (wahdāniyah), he proved that a single interpretation of the Qur'ān was possible.
Al-Farāhī also made another significant contribution by rewriting and reconstructing most sub-disciplines of the Arabic language needed to study the Qur'ān.
Almost all of al-Farāhī's works are in Arabic. Except for a few, most of them are in the form of notes and unfinished books. He could only complete a few of them. Foremost among them is a collection of his interpretation of fourteen sūrahs of the Qur'ān by the name Tafsīr Nizām al-Qur'ān wa tā'wīl al-Furqān bi al-Furqān. In his Mufradāt al-Qur'ān, he explained some difficult words and constructions of the Qur'ān. He elucidated the nature of oaths and adjurations in the Qur'ān in his book entitled Al-Im'ān fī aqsām al-Qur'ān. In his book, Al-Rā'y al-sahīhfī man huwa al-dhabīh, he elaborated upon the philosophy of sacrifice and by furnishing evidence from the Qur'ān and the Torah conclusively refuted the claim of the Jews that it was Isaac (sws) whom Abraham (sws) had intended to sacrifice not lshmael (sws). He re-laid the principles of rhetoric needed to study the Qur'ān in Jamhurah al-balāghah and outlined some special Qur'ānic styles and constructions in Asālīb al-Qur'ān. The arguments he presented to verify the principle of coherence are soundly enlisted in Dalā'il al-nizām. His complete mastery of Arabic and Persian can be seen from his poetical works in both these languages.
Besides these scholarly dissertations, there are at least twenty other unfinished works which need to be completed and developed further.