Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi (rahimahullah) – Part Three
Exercising Caution when Communicating with Women
Observing purdah with women and exercising caution when communicating with them is a great means of saving oneself from sins and fitnahs. Hence, Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would exercise extreme caution when communicating with women.
Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would emphasize that if any woman wished to write a letter to him to enquire regarding some deeni mas’alah or to seek advice, then in the case where the woman was married, it was necessary for her to first show the letter to her husband and get him to sign it before sending it. In the case where the woman was not married, then Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would instruct that she get one of her mahrams to sign the letter. If a woman was married, then Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would not accept the signature of any mahram besides her husband.
One of the reasons for Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) adopting this principle was so that if there is a misunderstanding between the husband and wife later on, then the letter which she wrote should not become a means of creating misunderstanding in the nikaah and the husband becoming displeased with his wife for writing to Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah).
In this regard, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) said, “I regard it to be more important for me to assist the husband and wife to maintain a good relationship between themselves, than for me to respond to her queries (in the case where the husband is unhappy with his wife writing a letter as this can create doubts and misunderstanding in the nikaah).”
Similarly, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) disapproved of women traveling for the purpose of taking bay’at (pledging allegiance) to him. Instead, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) preferred that women take bay’at to him via a letter. If any woman arrived in Thaanabhowan on her own and wished to take bay’at, then Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) would not give her bay’at until her mahram was present with her. (Seerat-e-Ashraf 1/314-315)
Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi (rahimahullah) was blessed with a temperament of extreme humility. After becoming well-known and renowned among people, his younger brother, Munshi Akbar Ali, once said to him, “You are now regarded as a great aalim among people and have become quite famous. You are no longer viewed as a normal person in the sight of people. Thus, I feel that when you are traveling, you should at least sit in the second class compartment instead of the third class.”
Hearing this, Hazrat Thaanwi (rahimahullah) replied, “What can I do? It is against my temperament to travel in the first and second class. When traveling by train, I feel comfortable to sit with the simple and poor people such as the toilet cleaner and skin tanner. Why should I worry about image? A few days after passing away, just as the toilet cleaner and skin tanner will turn to dust, I also will turn to dust.” (Seerat-e-Ashraf 1/322-333)