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1280-1362 AH: Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

Born 19 August 1863
Died 4 July 1943 (aged 79)
Resting place Thana Bhawan
Nationality Indian (British subject)
Ethnicity Indian
Era Modern era
Region Islam
Occupation Islamic scholar
Jurisprudence Sunni islam
Movement Deobandi
Alma mater Darul Uloom Deoband
Disciple of Haji Imdadullah

Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi (August 19, 1863 – July 4, 1943) (Urdu: اشرف علی تھانوی‎) was a prominent Indian scholar of the Deobandi school. Ashraf Ali was from the first wedlock of Abdul Haq Sahib. From his first wife, Maulvi Abdul Haq had four sons. The eldest one was Ashraf Ali Thanvi himself, followed by Akber Ali Sahib Thanvi and Akhtar Ali. Thus Thanvi had seven immediate siblings and four step siblings. Ashraf Ali Thanvi himself wed twice. From the first wife he had no children. However, he took his nephew Shabbir Ali Sahib Thanvi from his brother and took responsibility of his upbringing. Thanvi married second time with a widow who brought with herself a daughter. Hence Thanvi had no biological son or real daughter of his own.

Thanwi graduated from the Darul Uloom Deoband in 1884. It is claimed by Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, one of the founders of the institution, arrived for the graduation ceremony, Maulana Mehmud Hasan informed him that Thanwi, an especially intelligent student was about to graduate. Gangohi wanted to test this student by asking the most difficult questions that he could think of. Thanwi’s answers reportedly amazed and pleased Gangohi, who himself conducted the Dastārbandī Jalsa, the turban-tying ceremony marking graduation.

After his graduation, Thanwi taught religious sciences in Kanpur for fourteen years. Over a short period of time, he acquired a reputable position as a religious scholar, of Sufism among other subjects. His teaching attracted numerous students and his research and publications became well known in Islamic institutions. During these years, he traveled to various cities and villages, delivering lectures in the hope of reforming people. Printed versions of his lectures and discourses would usually become available shortly after these tours. Until then, few Islamic scholars had had their lectures printed and widely circulated in their own lifetimes. The desire to reform the masses intensified in him during his stay at Kanpur. Eventually, Thanwi retired from teaching and devoted himself to reestablishing the spiritual centre (khānqāh) of his shaikh in Thāna Bhāwan. Upon this transition, Imdadullah remarked, “It is good that you have arrived in Thāna Bhāwan. It is hoped that people will benefit from you spiritually and physically. You should engage yourself in revitalizing our madrasah and khānqāh once more in Thāna Bhāwan. As for myself, I am always praying for you and attentive towards you.

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