By Dr. Shahnawaz Ahmed Malik
Allama Mufti Mohammed Akhtar Raza Khan Azhari (23 November 1943 – 20 July 2018) was one of the most influential Islamic scholar, philosopher, author, poet, preacher and man of pious virtues of recent era who passed his whole life in serving Islam. He guided the community towards straight path of Islam by writing extensively and vocally according to Quran and Sunnah. His knowledge of Islam, personal virtues and Taqwa influenced crores of learned and common people all over the world.
He was chief cleric of the influential Dargah Aala Hazrat at Bareilly which is a famous Markaz (Center) of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat in South Asia. He was successor of Mustafa Raza Khan known as Mufti-e-Azam of India who was son of Mujadid Imam Ahle Sunnat Imam Ahmed Raza Qadri (1856-1921).
Allama Azhari was among the most influential Muslims of the world and had occupied 24th place in the annual list of 500 Most Influential Muslims of the world in 2015-16 by Royal Islamic Strategy Centre, Jordan.
Qadri was son of Mufassir-e-A’zam, Hadrat Mawlana Ibrahim Raza Khan. Allama Azhari. He was born on the 25th of Safar 1942, in the Saudagran area at Bareilly Shareef, India. Allama Azhari attained his knowledge at the feet of pious and learned scholars from his family. He was later enrolled in Darul Uloom Manzare Islam in Bareilly Shareef. Where he studied books such as, Mizaan, Munsha’ib, Nohmeer and proceeded to study much more advanced books such as Hidaya Akhirain, etc. 
Revered Sufi master Ahsanul Ulama, Mawlana Sayed Hassan Mian, the then, Sajjadah Nasheen of Khanqah Aaliyah Barakaatiyah Marehrah (Marehrah Shareef Etah U.P India granted him all the Khilaafah and the Spiritual permissions of the Sufi-spiritual orders – Qaadriya, Barakaatiyah, Nooriyah.
In 1963, at the age 21, he was sent to Cairo in Egypt to study at the Al Azhar University. He studied Tafseer of the Holy Qur’an and Ahadith for 3 years at this Islamic University. He acquired in-depth understanding of Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), Shariat and Tariqat. Hadrat Mawlana Mufti Mohammed Akhtar Raza Khan Azhari also has an excellent command of the English language.
In 1967, at the age of 25, he was appointed a Lecturer at Darul Uloom Manzare Islam. In 1968, he was appointed as Principal and worked as the head Mufti of the institute. The service continued for the next 12 years. In 1986 and 1987, he performed the completion of the Sahih Bukhaari Shareef at Jamia Islamia Ganj Qadim in Rampur and at Jamia Amjadia, Karachi.
Allama Azhari was entrusted by his teacher Muti Azam e Hind Mustafa Raza Qadri to write fatawas on various issues. His verdicts (Fatawa) are recognized and accepted throughout the world. As a point in passing, the Islamic verdicts issued by him stands at nearly 5000, enough to fill many volumes.
Allama was never involved or interested in politics. Maulana Shahabuddin Razvi writes that he refused to meet (the then) Indian Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao due to demolition of Babri Masjid during Rao’s tenure. P. V. Narasimha Rao kept waiting for about 8 hours in the circuit house of Bareilly to meet Allama Azhari. 
Shaykh Azhari was appointed as the Qadiul Qudat fil Hind for the entire India. This announcement was made by Muhaddith-e-Kabeer, Hadrat Allama Mufti Zia-ul-Mustafa Qadri Amjadi on the occasion of the Urs-e-Razvi in October 2006 in the presence of thousands of ‘Ulema, Scholars and lacs of people.
Jamiatur Raza, a renowned institution was established by him in 2000. Presently, more than two thousand students are studying up to the level of Tahtania, Fauqania and Aalia which is approved by Madrasa Education Board. Many courses approved by NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) are also taught. Master and PhD level courses in association with a Al Azhar university are being run.
Alama Azhari remained chief leader of historical Sunni organization Jama’at Raza e Mustafa. Jamaat was founded by Imam Ahmed Raza Qadri and it played a significant role during Shuddhi movement in British India. Shuddhi movement was initiated by Arya Samaj to convert Muslims into Hinduism. The Jama’at Raza-e-Mustafa prevented around four hundred thousand conversions to Hinduism in eastern U.P and Rajasthan during its activities under anti- Shuddhi movement.
He was Chief Mufti of Sharai Council of India, a body of Indian Islamic scholars which meet annually at Bareilly Markaz to discuss Islamic jurisprudential issues.
He had good relation with prominent Sunni scholars all over the Islamic world. Prominent Ulemas of of south Asia, Egypt, Syria, Gulf and Europe were his friends and many were regular visitors to his Khanqah at Bareilly, India. Mawlana Sayed Alawi Maliki of Makkah Shareef was his good friend. Many such Ulemas visited him during Urs Razvi at Bareilly.
Shaikh Abdullah bin Fidiq Hashmi of Makkah, Dr. Isa ibn Abdullah bin Maani Humairi (Professor at Imam Malik College Dubai), Shaikh Watiq Fawad al Ubaidi and Shaikh Moosa Abdud Yusuf Ishaqi appreciated his writings and Fatwas.
During 2008 & 2009, he traveled extensively especially to the Levant (Syria, Jordan & Palestine) & Egypt. Here he visited the holy shrines of many Sahaba & other notable Islamic personalities. The meetings with the scholars of the Middle East revived the centuries-old connections of South Asian Sufism with scholars of Syria & Egypt. Some of those great scholars who wrote reflections & eulogies after the visit were Sheikh Ramdan Saied Al Bauti, Shiekh Abdul Huda Al Yaqubi, Shiekh Abdul Fattah Bazzam (Then Grand Mufti of Damascus), and Shiekh Muhammad Khair Tarshan).
In 2009, the Egypt trip also included the spiritual & scholarly exchange along with lectures in International conferences attended by the participants from more than sixty countries. Sheikh Sayyad Tantawi, the ex-grand Imam of Al Azhar, Shiekh Ali Gomaa (18th Grand Mufti of Egypt), & Sheikh Yusri were some of the renowned scholars who exchanged Ijazah & blessed with reciprocal gains from him. Tajush Sharia left a huge body of work & chain of the students who were spreading the tolerant message of Islam at different corners of the globe including the UK, United States, and European countries.
Due to his excessive travel and a large number of events and programs all across the world, he had very little time for writing. During his lifetime, he has compiled more than fifty books in Arabic, Urdu & English language covering diverse topics of Islamic studies.
His prominent Fatawas book which is known as Azhar-Ul-Fatawa is published into two volumes in English and five volumes in Urdu covering more than five thousand jurisdictions (Fatwas) related to all walks of life. It covers the questions that were submitted to him which commonly emerges amongst Muslim communities living in Western countries.
Some of the famous books authored by him are:
- Taliqaat e Zehra on the subject of Sahih Bukhari
Difa-e-Kanzul Iman Translation of Quran
Fazail Syyedna Siddiq-e-Akbar
Tie ka Masla Issue of Tie
Hijrat-e-Rasool Immigration of Prophet
Al Haq ul Mubeen (arabic)
TV Video ka Sharai Operation
Tasweeron ka Sharai Hukm
Fazeelat-e-Nasab (Urdu Tarjuma)
Hazrat Ibrahim ke walid Tarikh ya Aazar
Aik aham Fatwa
Maraat un Najdiyah Aljawabul Barailwia
Teen Talaq ka Sharai hukm
Suno aur chup raho
Kia Muhim puri ho chuki
Jashn-e-Eid Meelad un Nabi
Al Mu’taqid al Muntaqid (Urdu Tarjuma)
Barakaat ul Imdad (Arabi Tarjuma)
Shumool ul Islam (Arabi Tarjuma)
Al Atayal Qadeer (Arabi Tarjuma)
Taiseer ul Ma’oon (Arabi Tarjuma)
Ahlaak ul Wahabiyeen (Arabi Tarjuma)
Fiqahi Shahanshah (Arabi Tarjuma)
Sharah Hadees e Niyat (Arabi and Urdu)
Aqeeda ul Shuhda Sharah Qaseeda til Burda (Arabi Hashia)
Hashia tul Sahih al Bukhari (Arabi)
Azhar ul Fatawa (2 hisse English)
Azhar ul Fatawa (5 jilden Urdu)
In 1986 during Umrah, Mufti Akhtar Raza Qadri was interrogated and taken in to illegal custody by Saudi Mutawwa Police due to their his Sufi background. He was asked innumerous questions about his faith to which he relied from Quran and Sunnah and convinced intelligence officers but was not released. 
In reaction to this detention, during the month of September 1986, massive protests started against the Saudi government in many parts of the world. Sunni leaders submitted memorandums and letters to Saudi embassies in India, Pakistan, Gulf and in the United Kingdom. On 13th Sep Allama Zia-ul-Mustapha Al Qaderi Amjadi led a massive protest of fifty thousand people in Mumbai city against Saudi government’s action to arrest Mufti Akhtar Raza, which included many Imams, Ulama and renowned Islamic leaders. One of the famous Urdu Naat ‘Daaghe Furqat Taiba” was written by him during his eleven days detention at Makkah. He was released to India without allowing him to visit Madinah Munnawara. At this moment, he wrote the couplets: 
Daagh-e furqat-e Tayba Qalb muzmahil jaata
Kaash Ghumbad-e Khazra dekhne ko mil jaata
The spot caused by the separation of Madinah, causes my heart to shudder.
Oh! How I wish I could have seen the Green Dome (of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam).
Saudi government realized their mistake and Allama was later offered special family visa in May 1987 & he performed his Umrah with a visit to Holy Prophet ( Peace be Upon Him).
Later, he was selected among very few scholars who got entry inside the Khana-Kaaba at Makkah to pray Namaz.
Tajush Sharia Mufti Akhtar Raza Khan inspired Fatwa against ISIS in 2015, which was published by Times of India as “70,000 clerics issued fatwa against terrorism, 15 Lakh Muslims support it”.
He was the lone cleric in India to get a title of Tajushariya (Chief of Islamic Law). He had tens of millions of followers globally among them Islamic scholars, Sufis and academicians were more in numbers. He was loved and respected by all classes of people. He left the world after long illness in his 70s on 20th July 2018/ 06th Dhulqada/1439 Hijri. His funeral prayer was attended by thousands of scholars and millions of people. The Bareilly city had not witnessed such massive sea of people in recent times. 
Several reputed personalities, scholars and Shaikhs around the world paid their obituaries on the death of Tajus Shariah Mufti Akhtar Raza Khan Qadri and prominent among them were the President of Turkey Reccep Tyyab Erdogan, Grand Mufti of Turkey, Al-Sheikh Imam Abdul Aziz (Alaih Rahma), the speaker of Nabhani foundation, Shaikh Sayyid Muhammad Al Yaqoubi, Sayyad Muhammad Madni Madni Miyan.
His son Mufti Asjad Raza Qadri was appointed as Qadil ul Quzzat during the meeting of Sharai Council of India at Bareilly in 2019 in the presence of leading scholars.
Author is associated with Aligarh Muslim University Malappuram Campus, Kerala, India
 For more information about Imam Ahmed Raza and Mustafa Raza see, Usha Sanyal (1998). “Generational Changes in the Leadership of the Ahl-e Sunnat Movement in North India during the Twentieth Century”. Modern Asian Studies. 32 (3): 635–656. doi:10.1017/S0026749X98003059
 Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (2018). “Muhammad Akhtar Raza Khan Qaadiri Al-Azhari”. The Muslim 500. Available at https://web.archive.org/web/20180612163437/https://www.themuslim500.com/profiles/mufti-muhammad-akhtar-raza-khan-qaadiri-al-azhari/
 Mufti Azam Hindi aur Unke Khulafa Vol 1 page 150.
 Life History of Mufti Akhtar Raza Khan available at http://www.taajushshariah.com/Life%20History.htm
 Mujalla Al Nizamia Lahor Tajush Shariah No.lr 2018, published by Majlise Ulama Nizamia, Lahore, Pakistan
 Owasi, Allama Monis, Sawaneh E Taj Ush Shariah published by Jamia Rizvia Kanzul Iman, Pune, India available at https://archive.org/details/SawanehETajUshShariahByAllamMonisOwasi/page/n247/mode/2up
 Siddiqi, Ghulam Ghaus Death of Tajush Sharia -A True Embodiment of Shariat and Tariqat- Who Inspired 70 Thousand Clerics to Issue Fatwa Against Terrorism, is An irreparable Loss to the Muslim World by By New Age Islam 30 July 2018 available at https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/death-of-tajush-sharia–a-true-embodiment-of-shariat-and-tariqat–who-inspired-70-thousand-clerics-to-issue-fatwa-against-terrorism,-is-an-irreparable-loss-to-the-muslim-world/d/115980
 Dainik Jagran, Urs Razwi special issue, October 2006, Urs-Razvi concluded by appointing Azhari Mian as Mufti-e-Azam-Hind
 Sections and Branches of Jamia tur Raza Islamic Institute available at https://www.jamiaturraza.com/branches
 Jackson, William Kesler, “A Subcontinent’s Sunni Schism: The Deobandi-Barelvi Rivalry and the Creation of Modern South Asia” (2013). History – Dissertations. page 188 & 189. https://surface.syr.edu/hst_etd/102
 Farooqi, Abdurraheem Nashter, ‘Introduction-Wa-Ta’Arruf Sharai Council of India, Bareilly Sharif’ published by Tajush Shariah Foundation, Karachi, Pakistan available at https://www.scribd.com/doc/192477014/Introduction-Wa-Ta-Arruf-Sharai-Council-of-India-Bareilly-Sharif
 Raza Khan, Maulana Salman (Al-Azhar University Cairo, Egypt) in Urdu, Hudur Taajush Shari’ah’s Journey To Egypt (May 2009) published By Http:// www.taajushshariah.com. /Egypt%20trip.Htm .
 Asad, Dr. Rehan, ‘Obituary to Akhtar Raza’ published at rehanist portal available at http://www.rehanhist.com/aye-akhtar-raza-khan-kahaan-tum-chal-diye/
 Azharul Fatawa published by Habibi Darul Ifta, Durban, South Africa http://www.razvinetwork.net/Books//ISLAMI%20BOOK;S%20URDU%20ARBI_/Azhar-Ul-Fatawa-by-Huzur-Tajjush-Shariah-Hazrat-Allama-Muhammad-Akhtar-Raza-Khan.pdf
 Scholarly Works of Taajush Shariah, Mufti Akhtar Rida Http://www.Taajushshariah.Com/Scholarly%20works.Htm
 Qadri, Maulana Faizanul Mustafa, Tazkara e Tajusshariah 2018, published at Mustafa Amjadi Book Depo Ghosi Uttar Pradesh, India. Maulana is principal at AL-Noor Institute of Islamic Sciences, United States of America available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1A-1AYs-KpcYxD1gFFgqwRJ7ZV-gKi5DT/view .
 70000 Clerics Issue Fatwa Against Terrorism 15 Lakh-Muslims Support It, Dec 09 2015, Times of India https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/70000-clerics-issue-fatwa-against-terrorism-15-lakh-Muslims-support-it/articleshow/50100656.cms
 “Noted Barelvi cleric Azhari Miyan dies – Times of India”. The Times of India. Retrieved 30 January 2019. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/noted-barelvi-cleric-azhari-miyan-dies/articleshow/65075272.cms
 “Massive gathering in last journey of Tajush Shariah”. Dainik Jagran. Retrieved 30 January 2019 available at. https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/bareilly-city-more-people-in-intkaal-18229329.html
 Asad, Dr. Rehan
 Asjad Raza appointed leader of Barelwi Muslims, Daily News, Sri Lanka, 6th April 2019 available at http://www.dailynews.lk/2019/04/08/local/182553/asjad-raza-appointed-leader-barelwi-muslims