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From Hinduism to an Illustrious Scholar of Hadith

From time to time we hear stories about people reverting to Islam. But there are people whose transition from the darkness of their ancestral religion to the light of Islam creates a remarkable impact on Islamic scholarship.

If one looks at the profound legacy left by converts such as Mohammad Asad, Maryam Jameelah, Dr. Maurice Bucaille, Muhammad Pickthall, Michael Wolfe and Pamela Taylor, their stories are truly astonishing. Professor Dhiya ur-Rahman Azmi is one such personality whose legendary contributions to Hadith literature will be hallmarked in the history of Islam.

Dhiya ur-Rahman Azmi, than named Banke Laal, was born in 1943 in a Hindu family of Bilarya Ganj, a village located in the district of Azamgarh in India. He reverted to Islam at the age of 18, impressed by the concept of equality and justice preached by Islam. It was Islam’s unique and humanistic message which led many truth seekers in the Indian subcontinent to the righteous path by their own desire and freewill.

In India there was a series of religious conversion activities, known as Ghar Wapsi, facilitated by Indian Hindu organizations to facilitate conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism.  There is neither Ghar Wapsi program in Islam nor donation of money for a convert. The call to Islam is based on the Command of Allah, good intention, and sincerity. If you want to be a Muslim you should try to understand the true message of Islam.

The late Hakeem Ayub guided Banke Laal to reach the height of becoming Professor Dhiya ur-Rahman Azmi and retiring as Dean of Faculty of Hadith at the famous Islamic University of Madinah. After retirement, he was appointed as a teacher at the Prophet’s Mosque by the decree of the Head of the Prophet’s Mosque Affairs in the year 2013. Today he is a legend in making.

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Azmi completed his undergraduate studies at the Islamic University of Madinah. He was the first Hindu convert to be accepted to Madinah. He obtained his Master’s degree from King Abdul Aziz University in Makkah, which later became known as Umm al-Qura University.

Azmi went on to attain his PhD from al-Azhar University, Cairo. In recognition of his outstanding knowledge on Hadith, he was appointed as a professor at the Faculty of Hadith at the Islamic University of Madinah. He undertook several academic and administrative positions, including at the Muslim World League in Makkah until he became the Dean of the Faculty of Hadith at the Islamic University of Madinah until he retired.

In recognition of his original contribution to the science of Hadith, he was granted citizenship of Saudi Arabia.

Although Professor Azmi has authored dozens of books on various important Islamic topics, his voluminous compilation of authentic Hadith titled “Al-Jami’ al-Kamil fi al-Hadith al-Sahih al-Shamil” is considered the most important. It is one of the most comprehensive books on Hadith by a single scholar since the dawn of Islam. Azmi has taken pain to collect the authentic Hadiths dispersed in numerous classical books.

It is made up of more than 20 volumes, containing about 16,000 Hadiths dealing with various issues such as creeds, rulings, worship, biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him), chapters of jurisprudence, interpretation of the Glorious Quran and many more. Azmi will be remembered for this great service like those earlier compilers of Hadiths collections such as Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, Imam al-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Imam Malik.

Another legendary work accomplished by Azmi is the “Encyclopedia of the Glorious Quran” in Hindi language. Muslims had ruled India for about 800 years, but there were not many books available in their native languages explaining the meanings of the Quran, and shedding light on the humanistic values preached in the Holy Quran.

This unique encyclopedia authored by Professor Azmi explores over 600 topics. It is the first ever book of its kind authored in Hindi language. In a very short period, eight editions of this book have been published in India. In response to the growing demand by the Urdu and English audience, the English and Urdu translations of the encyclopedia will be available soon.

This book can be considered one of its kind in dealing with the topics mentioned in Quran. Topics are sorted by the alphabetical order.

There are photos and maps of some famous places.

His Master’s thesis titled “Abu Hurayrah in the Light of his Narrations” refutes the accusations made by some which questions the authenticity of Hadith. The PhD dissertation of Azmi was on “The Judgment of the Prophet”.

In his book “From Ganga to Zamzam” in Urdu, Azmi narrates the story of his conversion to Islam and the hardships he had to go through. His text book “Comparative Study of Judaism, Christianity and Indian Religions” is part of the higher studies syllabus at various Saudi universities. Currently, he is engaged in penning comparative study of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism which will be published soon.

No one could guess that a boy born in a Hindu family one day would become the teacher of Hadith at the Prophet’s Mosque. Indeed, Professor Azmi belongs to the group of born brilliant for whom the wheel of fortune must complete another rotation before the world is able to appreciate their tremendous contributions.

Modesty has a vital role to play in character-building. It restrains a man from behaving in an undesirable manner, and it shields one from becoming arrogant. Modesty is the key to piety and good-doing.

In spite of being a celebrated scholar and renowned personality in the Muslim world, Azmi’s modesty, simplicity, and humility has impressed me a lot when I personally met him at his residence during my last visit to Madinah Al-Munawarah. I am thankful to my brother in faith, Ammar Ajmal Islahi, one of Azmi’s students, for arranging the meeting with this illustrious scholar of Hadith.