Farangī Maḥall

Francis Robinson

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
Farangī Maḥall


Farangī Maḥall (the European Palace) was the name of a family of ulama that flourished in India from 1700 to c. 1950. The family acquired the name after Mullah Quṭb al-Dīn, a leading scholar of the day, was murdered in a quarrel over land in 1692 and the Mogul emperor Awrangzīb recompensed his four sons by assigning them the sequestered property of a European indigo merchant in the city of Lucknow, Awadh. In the 17th and 18th centuries the family was notable, first for developing maʿqūlāt (the rational sciences) in Indian Islam to the extent that the reception of such scholarship in Egypt and West Asia in the early 19th century led to a revival in that field, and second for the development and promulgation of the Dārs-i Niẓāmi madrassa curriculum, which was essentially a method of teaching that enabled students to learn more quickly and which has remained in use in modified form in the early 21st century. For the Farangī Maḥallīs, learning and mysticism went hand in hand. Strong supporters of Ibn ‘Arabi’s waḥdat al-wujūd, they believed that the best scholars were those whose work was informed by spiritual understanding. From the 18th century Farangī Maḥallīs spread throughout India, from Rampur to Madras and from Calcutta to Haydarabad. The family’s numerous pupils spread more widely, as did the reputation of its many scholars. These connections and their reputation meant that when some entered politics in the 20th century, they were able to persuade many to follow them. This, in part, explains the impact of Mawlānā ‘Abd al-Bārī on India’s pan-Islamic politics in the second and third decades of the 20th century and the contribution of his son, Mawlānā Jamāl Miyān, to the politics of the All-India Muslim League in the 1940s. In the mid-20th century the family lost its prominence as ulama: its brand of scholarship, embracing the rational sciences, was opposed by reformers, including, those of the Deoband school, in favor of an emphasis on Hadith and Qur’anic studies. Its preparation of students for courtly service along with princely patronage also declined in the new circumstances of colonialism; the education it provided was, in a world dominated by Western learning, no longer a route to jobs in government. The partition of India and land reform reduced its support in men and money.

Article.  2569 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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