As salaamu alai kum wa rahmatullahi wa barakath,
A few years ago I came across a report which said that the Bahishti Zewar (The Heavenly Ornaments) – that famous book written by Hakeem al Ummah Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (may Allah have mercy on him) was not actually written by him!
The book is mainly written for the day to day guidance of the Muslim women in matters of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and others subjects within the teachings of Islam, the book has been very successful and has sold millions of copies and continues to do so, translated into various languages, carries the name of Maulana Thanwi on its cover.
So then, this was truly surprising, who then was the author? The report said the actual author was one Maulana Sayyid Ahmed Ali Saheb Fatehpuri (may Allah have mercy on him) and not Maulana Thanwi, if that was so, then why is the book sold under Maulana Thanwi’s name?
(The report did provide a link to a page of Bahishti Zewar as proof even though when I last checked, it turned out to be a dead link.)
Yet, as you’d know all of this sounded outrageous, millions of copies of Bahishti Zewar have been sold and continue to sell and yet this obscure report said the book wasn’t written by him? So I did what everyone else usually does, close the page and move on.
When researching for my article on the 40 days of Greek Mathematician, Pythagoras which I posted here I happened to garner something which I’m sure you would find very interesting.
Here’s why it gets interesting.
Firstly, it is actually true that even though Bahishti Zewar carries the name of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi and even though started by him, the book was actually written by Maulana Sayyid Ahmed Ali Saheb Fatehpuri, so this does confirms with that earlier report.
So what is it I bring new to the table?
And here it is.
What you just read earlier really means that Maulana Sayyid Ahmed Ali Saheb Fatehpuri wrote the book and attributed it to Hakeem al Ummah Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi who clearly was one of the foremost Scholars of Islam of the past century and the reason why the book, Bahishti Zewar carries Maulana Thanwi’s name and NOT Maulana Sayyid Ahmed Ali Saheb Fatehpuri’s.
1. So how does this connect to Pythagoras?
2. Why is the book even though not written by Maulana Thanwi yet sold in his name? Is there any such precedence where a written work has been attributed to a Scholar and sold under his name?
What I found out:
Not only is there such a precedence but its been practiced…hold your breath…since 2500 years!
Apparently, it was a practice even among the Greeks of that era to attribute their works to their teachers (don’t ask me why, perhaps they did it so if there were any mistakes, their teachers would be taken to task !!) and hence its found to be that the students of Pythagoras actually wrote many of the works attributed to him.
Yes, even the famous Pythagoras theorem is said to be actually a work of his students !!
Pythagorean theoremSince the fourth century AD, Pythagoras has commonly been given credit for discovering the Pythagorean theorem, a theorem in geometry that states that in a right-angled triangle the area of the square on the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares of the other two sides—that is, .
While the theorem that now bears his name was known and previously utilized by the Babylonians and Indians, he, or his students, are often said to have constructed the first proof. It must, however, be stressed that the way in which the Babylonians handled Pythagorean numbers implies that they knew that the principle was generally applicable, and knew some kind of proof, which has not yet been found in the (still largely unpublished) cuneiform sources. Because of the secretive nature of his school and the custom of its students to attribute everything to their teacher, there is no evidence that Pythagoras himself worked on or proved this theorem. For that matter, there is no evidence that he worked on any mathematical or meta-mathematical problems. Some attribute it as a carefully constructed myth by followers of Plato over two centuries after the death of Pythagoras, mainly to bolster the case for Platonic meta-physics, which resonate well with the ideas they attributed to Pythagoras. This attribution has stuck down the centuries up to modern times. The earliest known mention of Pythagoras’s name in connection with the theorem occurred five centuries after his death, in the writings of Cicero and Plutarch.
This article was not to discredit Maulana Thanwi as the pious Shaikh was easily one of the greatest Scholars who ever lived, and his knowledge speaks for itself, but it was just to show that the practice of students attributing their works to their teachers has been a common practice since millenniums and perhaps the only thing common between Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi and the Greek Mathematician, Pythagoras.
Wa alai kumm as salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakath.
1. Bahishti Zewar.
3. JazakAllah Khair to Shaikh Mufti Qasmi (damath baraka tuhum) for helping me to find the exact page in the Urdu edition where Maulana Thanwi himself thanks Maulana Fatehpuri for taking up the huge task (may Allah have mercy on them both).