The power of the pen or the written word is signified in every culture from across the globe. The men and women with a pen have chronicled the history of the world as we know it today. Out of billions of human beings to brace the earth, very few have impacted it more than writers. And out of this rare breed of intellectuals, very few were able to revolutionize their generations.
While revolutionary authors can be found as early as the history of the civilized world exists, we will look at the five most influential authors in the modern era. To be precise, we will look at the authors from the 19th and 20th centuries only. Why this period? Because most of the ideologies in existence today, except the prominent world religions, were, more or less, shaped during this period.
The global power structure, the political affluence, the educational reforms, the agitations of the lowest in the economic structure – every socioeconomic and political aspect of the world at the moment has its roots in the last two centuries. Books by these stalwarts continue to move revolutions, agitations, and ideologies in various parts of the world. Criteria for the selection of the authors is as follows:
1. The author should be born between 1800-1950
2. The author must have followers in more than a single continent
3. The author must have written works that influence socioeconomic & political affairs of the regions they influence
So, let’s discuss the first of the top 5 revolutionary authors of the modern era:
Ahmed Raza Khan – The Underrated Muslim Polymath
Ahmed Raza Khan, also known as AlaHazrat, was born in 1856 in a family of Islamic scholars from Bareilly, a famous town in the United Provinces. The young boy was given formal education within his home and was primarily taught by his father, Naqi Ali Khan. At a very early age, he learned to read the Quran and subsequently studied Islamic sciences till the age of 13, when he graduated. Later, he studied under prominent personalities like Syed Ahmad bin Zayni Dahlan, the famous Islamic Scholar of the Ottoman Era, and Syed Abul Hussain Noori, the revered Islamic mystic from Marhera, Etah District.
Following his formal education, he took the office of Dar al Ifta, where he passed Islamic judgments for about 54 years. During this particular period, he challenged many scientific theories of his time, formulated some of his own, and refuted the British and other British-sponsored sects that plague the world even today. While Sunni Muslims across the globe revere him, in this particular article, we will discuss his scientific, social, and political achievements and his influence over people in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Turkey, and the West.
Refutation of Theory of Gravity, Rotation & Revolution of the Earth
During the British Raj, the Indian polymath did not only challenge the theories of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Albert Porta but also wrote books that stood head and shoulders above the rest in his era. To understand Ahmed Raza Khan’s impact on the scientific world, we will first analyze the theories he refuted. In his work, ‘A Fair Success in Refuting the Motion of the Earth’ (1919), Ahmed Raza Khan refuted multiple theories related to modern earth theories, including Newton’s theory of gravity and Einstein’s theories drafted to prove the motion of the earth.
While this may sound quite radical, a little research shows that Newton’s theory of gravity has been refuted by modern scientists as well. In August 2019, scientists dismissed Newton’s theory of gravity and indicated that the next in line would be Albert Einstein. Subsequently, in September 2020, a group of scientists also termed Einstein’s theory flawed and called for a review of the theory of relativity. This comes 101 years after Ahmed Raza Khan refuted him and 90 years after a consortium of German scientists published ‘A Hundred Authors Against Einstein.’
Refutation of Prof Albert F. Porta
Ahmed Raza Khan was the first scientist to refute American astronomer Albert F. Porta’s prediction that several countries of the world would cease to exist after a meteoric explosion due to a certain alignment of stars and the sun. He predicted that the explosion would occur on December 17, 1919. However, Ahmed Raza Khan refuted Porta’s prediction and wrote a booklet proving that according to astronomic calculations, the alignment of stars isn’t possible the way Porta had predicted.
Khan’s research was published in two Indian newspapers – Express, a daily from Bakipur, and Al Raza, an Urdu newspaper from Bareilly, and was compiled under the name ‘A Fair Guide on the Revolving Sun and the Static Earth.’ According to experts, Ahmed Raza Khan’s research was also published in the New York Times on December 16 and 18, 1919. While many discarded his research before the 17th, considering that Porta was a Professor at the prestigious University of Michigan and Khan was only a “Molvi” from a backward Indian city. However, when the prediction fell flat and Khan’s research proved to be correct, he received appreciation from various factions of the civilized scientific world.
Other Great Examples of Ahmed Raza Khan’s Scientific Influence
Another example of his scientific prowess was his work written in 1880, ‘Refutation of Ancient Philosophy.’ According to the popular narrative, “an atom can be further divided” was an idea presented by J.J. Thompson in the year 1897. However, the AlaHazrat, as his followers across the globe refer to him, wrote a similar treatise, proving the divisibility of an atom almost a decade earlier. Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources at the time of the British Raj, the publishing of the book was delayed until it was published in 1919-1920. He was also well-versed in phonetician science, as can be found in his famous book, ‘Clarification on the Question of Gramophone’ (1909). Likewise, in work ‘Light and Luster for the Ruling on Absolute Water’ (1915), the polymath discusses forms of water and ultimately documents a staggering 306 types.
Refutation of the Wahabi Ideology
Ahmed Raza Khan’s greatest achievement that continues to impact the world is his staunch refutation of the Anglosphere-backed Islamic extremist groups like the Wahabis, an extremist sect emerging from the Eastern Arabian Peninsula in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Most of the terror groups like Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Lashkar e Taiba, etc., have their ideological roots in the Wahabi movement, which began in the late 18th century. So articulate and effective was the great scholar in his refutation and opposition to the Wahabis that ISIS or any other terror group hasn’t been able to infiltrate wherever his followers are found in vast numbers.
For instance, in countries where the influence of Ahmed Raza Khan prevails over others, like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, England, Nepal, South Africa, Morocco, etc., the Wahabi ideologue terror outfits haven’t been able to recruit as many Muslims as they have in the regions with the lesser influence of Khan. This alone is a great achievement, and hadn’t he been in India, the situation could have been much worse.
A Literary Giant
Ahmed Raza Khan has written over 1,000 books, most of which have been published. In ‘Ijazat ul Mateena’ (1904), he himself mentions that he’s written books on at least 55 subjects, including physics, chemistry, biology, linguistics, philosophy, theology, economics, and logarithms. His magnum opus, Fatawa Razviyya, spans 30 volumes and is regarded as the encyclopedia of the Hanafi School of Jurisprudence. You can find a list of his popular books here.
His collection of poems, ‘Orchards of Forgiveness’, is a three-volume mammoth work in Urdu literature. Various Islamic jurists from the sub-continent and elsewhere have written voluminous commentaries on this magnificent collection, which includes the likes of Faiz Ahmed Owaisi and Ghulam Hasan Qadri. ‘Orchards of Forgiveness’ consists of poems in Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Hindi, and Bhojpuri. Ahmed Raza Khan was also very well conversant in English, as many questions he received from the West were usually in English, to which he replied in the same language.
In fact, he answered all the questions in the language they were asked. Moreover, there were instances when a question was asked in the form of poetry, and Khan answered it in a similar fashion. He mastered many such unique traits, which made his books interesting in many aspects. One such trait was the Arabic writing system of Abjad, a science applying which one can derive the numeric value of words. Khan applied this science to the title of each of his books, and the derived numeric value became the Hijri year in which the book was written.
Ahmed Raza Khan’s Legacy and Influence in Current Times
Ahmed Raza Khan’s mausoleum in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, India, is one of the most famous and revered Sufi shrines in the sub-continent. On the 25th Day of the second month of the Hijri Calendar, hundreds of thousands of his devotees gather at his shrine to commemorate his death anniversary. Dargah e AlaHazrat, Khan’s resting place, is regarded as Islamic Jurisprudence for Sunni Muslims across the globe.
There are numerous academic and non-academic social organizations around the globe named after him and/or functioning on his principles. The most prominent institutions following Khan include the World Islamic Mission (Mecca, KSA), Centre of Islamic Studies Jamiatur Raza (Bareilly, India), Al Jamiat ul Ashrafia (Mubarakpur, India), Raza Academy (Mumbai, India), Imam Mustafa Raza Academy (Durban, South Africa), Sunni Hanafi Organization (Nagpur, India), Al Mustafa Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland (Dublin, Ireland), Jamia al Karam (Eaton, UK), and more.
American historian and researcher Dr. Usha Sanyal completed her Ph.D. dissertation analyzing Ahmed Raza Khan. Currently, a lecturer at the Queen’s University of Charlotte, North Carolina, Sanyal has two monumental works on the great scholar – ‘Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmed Raza Khan Barelwi and His Movement, 1870-1920’ and ‘Ahmed Raza Khan: In the Path of the Prophet.’ Till 2007, about 23 scholars had completed their Ph.D. on Khan, which includes Dr. Ghulam Jabir Shams, Dr. Abdul Naeem Azizi, Dr. Muhammad Anwar Khan, and Dr. Syed Shahid Ali Noorani.
Popular Books on Ahmed Raza Khan:
Hayat e Ala Hazrat – Syed Muhammad Zafaruddin Bihari
Sawaneh Ala Hazrat – Badruddin Ahmad Qadri
Ahmed Raza Khan: In the Path of the Prophet – Dr. Usha Sanyal
Scientific Work of Imam Ahmed Raza – Dr. Majeedullah Qadri
Ikram e Imam Ahmed Raza – Hakim Abdul Baqi Siddiqui
Imam Ahmed Raza Arbaab e Ilm o Danish Ki Nazar Mein – Yaseen Akhtar Misbahi
Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.