International Journal for Muslim World Studies (IJMWS)

Formerly known as International Journal of Muslim Unity (IJMU)

Attaining Felicity and Success (Sa’ādah): Shāh Walī Allāh’s Prescription for Social Reform

Attaining Felicity and Success (Sa’ādah): Shāh Walī Allāh’s Prescription for Social Reform

Noor Mohammed Khalid


Among the great reformers and revivalists of Islam and Muslims in the 18th Century, the name of Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi figures most prominently. Even though he was born at a time when the Muslim political power in the Indian sub-continent began to decline, he rose as a phoenix to stem the rot that had set in among Muslims in the region. Though he was an Islamic scholar, his efforts were not just confined to academic pursuits and spiritual exercises. The decline of Muslim power and the depredations of Muslim lands, properties, life, and honour carried out by the non-Muslim groups represented by the Marathas, Sikhs and the Jats caused great restlessness in Shāh Walī Allāh. The decline of the Muslim political power, he realized, was a result of the decay of the social order; this in turn was the result of the moral collapse of the society. Indeed, he was fully cognisant of other factors of decline like the disunity among Muslims, the selfishness of the nobility, who fleeced the people and gave them nothing in return. But, his focus was on the reformation of the individual who he believed was the main building block of society. This paper, therefore, focuses on the remedies that Shāh Walī Allāh prescribed for the moral reformation of people, which he discusses in Book Four of his magnum opus, Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bālighah (The Conclusive Argument from God). In the chapter captioned ‘The Fourth Investigation: Human Felicity”, Shāh Walī Allāh talks of four qualities (khiṣāl) that lead to sa’ādah or felicity (or success). These factors are ṭahārah (purity), ikhbāt (humbling oneself), samāḥah (magnanimity) and ádālah (justice). Shāh Walī Allāh goes to the extent of saying that God sent Prophets with the very purpose of ensuring people inculcate in themselves the aforesaid qualities.” The Shāh’s emphasis remains throughout on the healthy, balanced, purposeful and theocentric cultural growth of individuals, which leads to the development of society and state, displaying these characteristics on the collective plane.”

Keywords: Shāh Walī Allāh, Mughals, Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bālighah, reform, revivalists, spiritualism, felicity, success.