Muhammad Shafee Okarvi (February 2, 1930 – April 24, 1984), also known by his honorific as Maulana Muhammad Shafee Okarvi, was a Pakistani religious scholar and orator. He was one of the founders of the Jamaa’at-e-Ahle-Sunnat Pakistan and the Gulzaar-e-Habeeb Trust. He has received various honors from the Pakistani government and private institutes including the Sitara-e-Imtiaz. Over a span of thirty-eight years, Okarvi delivered over 18,000 speeches on many religious topics.
Early life and Education
Okarvi was born in Khem Karan, East Punjab, India, to Haaji Shaiekh Karam Ilaahi, a local businessman. He was the eldest son of seven siblings. He began his education by learning to read and memorize the Quran and he completed middle school. In 1947 his family migrated from Khem Karan to Kasur and then to Okara, Pakistan, where he continued his religious education and completed Dars-e-Nizaami and courses in Hadith and Qur’anic exegesis from Madrissah Arabiyah Islaamiyah Anwaar-ul-Uloom in Multan, Pakistan, under the guidance of Ghulaam Ali Saahib Ashrafi Okarvi and Ahmad Sa’eed Saahib Kaazimi.
Okarvi married at a young age and fathered eleven children, these being five sons and six daughters. In 1952, however, his two eldest sons, three-year-old Muneer Ahmad and 14-month-old Tanveer Ahmad, died within a week of each other. His eldest son, Kaukab Noorani Okarvi, continues his father’s religious work and is considered one of the leading scholars of Islam.
Throughout his life it was his daily routine to engage in research and occupy himself in worship in the night time, resting after Fajr prayers. He would rise at 11 in the morning. From late afternoon until late evening (Isha prayer) he would sit in his library where he would meet and receive visitors and devotees. Daily, he met hundreds of people and was known to deliver up to as many as ten speeches.
Religious and Academic Work
In 1947, after migrating from India, he and his father built Masjid Ghausiyah in Okara. In 1950, he began leading Friday prayers and teaching the congregation at Jaame Masjid Muhaajireen in Sahiwal and became the head of the Department of Religion at Birla High School (renamed Sutlej Cotton Mills High School) in Okara.
From 1952 to 1953 he contributed to the Tahreek-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nubuwwat (Protection of the Finality of Prophethood Movement). In 1954 he also established the Jaami’ah Hanafiyah Ashraf-ul-Madaaris on Grand Trunk Road in Okara and remained one of its mentors and sponsors.
In 1955 he visited Karachi for the first time when he lectured at the Jaame Masjid Aaram Bagh on the first Laylat al-Qadr. The following year he became the lecturer and Imam of Memon Masjid and he founded Jamaa’at e Ahle Sunnat and became its first chairman.
Okarvi preached in the Far East, Middle East, India, Palestine, South Africa, United Arab Emirites, Mauritius and many other countries. He sold 100,000 cassettes of his speeches in South Africa before 1980. Video cassettes of his speeches are also widely distributed internationally.
In 1962, Okarvi travelled to Baghdad, Syria, Karbalaa, Beirut, Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah. He visited the shrines of many spiritual and religious scholars as well as many notable mosques and historical holy places.
In 1976, Okarvi established in South Africa, Anjuman Ahl-e-Sunnat Wa Jamaa’at.
In 1974, Okarvi formed the Jamaa’at e Ahle Sunnat in Durban, South Africa, which attracted up to 10,000 members. He gave lectures in mosques and other notable places.
Okarvi made the journey to Mecca for Hajj, Ziyaarat and Umrah sixteen times
His main focus was of honor and devotion to Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم), his family, companions and true followers.
He was non violent and disliked it when the preachers of the religion would themselves not follow the Sunnah of Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and misinterpret or change the actual meaning of the Qur’an and the ahadith.
Okarvi’s teaching attracted large masses.
He was not deterred by threats or attacks on him. To his critics, Okarvi would say:
“I am not taking anyone’s name in my speech. I am talking about those who have wrong beliefs according to Quran and Sunnah. Whatever I say, I say it with full confidence. I have only explained those qualities of hypocrites that the holy Prophet (Sallal Laahu ‘Alaiehi Wa Sallam) has explained and their signs so that the true Muslims can safeguard their beliefs and articles of faith. If those qualities are present in anyone and they can see a mirror then why are you blaming me? Why don’t you correct yourself and accept the truth.”
Political and Social Contribution
He was made the Chief of Tahreek-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat in Sahiwal district in 1952-1953.
During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Okarvi gave thousands of rupees to the National Saving Fund and from the congregations of his speeches collected provisions worth millions of rupees in the form of clothes and other personal necessities. With other religious scholars he went to refugee camps in Kashmir and distributed thousands of rupees in cash with his own hands. He delivered speeches to the soldiers on the topic of the importance of “Jihaad Fi Sabeelil Laah” (Jihad in the way of Allaah) and on the excellence of the Mislim warrior.
In 1970, Okarvi successfully contested as an anti-socialist candidate for Karachi in the National Assembly.
In 1980, Okarvi was nominated as a member of the Parliament of Pakistan established by Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan. He remained as a member of the Standing Committee established by the Ministry of Religious affairs as well as an administrator of the Federal Department of Auqaf, Pakistan and a member of University Grants Commission until a few months before his death.
Okarvi was a founding member of the National Seerat Committee in the Government of Pakistan. He contributed to Ittihaad-e-Bainal Muslimeen (Unity among the Muslims), the National Saving Fund for the refugees and people afflicted by numerous floods and earthquakes. He continuously assisted extensively people affected by any catastrophic disasters.
Okarvi suggested canging the name of Karachi’s area “Golimar” to “Gul Bahaar” and “Ram Bagh” to “Aaraam Bagh,” which was accepted and applauded. In the era of General Zia-ul-Haqq, Okarvi requested the Deputy Martial Law Administrator to provide transport to the Karachi Police. This was accepted and for the patrolling of the Karachi Police Suzuki pickups were supplied for the rapid response of combatting crime.
Okarvi was arrested for his participation against the Qadiani Movement. He remained in Montgomery prison for 10 months. During this period of imprisonment his first two sons, Muneer Ahmad (3 years old) and Tanveer Ahmad (1 1/4 years old), died within a week. Several influential people[who?] met the Deputy Commissioner of Montgomery and made recommendations for him. The Deputy Commissioner visited the prison and privately told Okarvi:
“Due to the sudden death of your children, the conditions of your family are not good. I have received many recommendations for you. You sign the letter of apology. Your apology letter will be kept hidden from the public. And just today you will be released.”
“I have worked for the respect and honour of the holy Prophet (Sallal Laahu ‘Alaiehi Wa Sallam) and it is my belief that the holy Prophet Saiyyidinaa Muhammad (Sallal Laahu ‘Alaiehi Wa Sallam) is the Last Prophet of Allaah Ta’aalaa, therefore; the question of asking for apology does not even arise. The children have passed away; even if my life is also taken away I will still remain steadfast on my belief and will not ask for any apology.”
On 16 October 1962 in Khadda Market, Karachi, an assassination attempt was made on Okarvi during one of his speeches. He received wounds on his neck, shoulders, head and upper back. Okarvi stayed under treatment in the hospital for two and a half months. While giving his statement to the police officer Okarvi said:
“I have no personal grudge with anyone. Nor I am a criminal. If I did any crime it is only this that I preach the religion of Islam and do praise and glorification of Saiyyid-ul-‘Aalameen (Master of the entire Universes’), Muhsin-e-Insaaniyat (Benefactor of the humanity), Huzoor Rahmat-ul-lil Aalameen (Mercy of the Universes) (Sallal Laahu ‘Alaiehi Wa Sallam). I do not want to take any revenge from anyone and nor do I want anything to be done against the attackers. My blood has been shed unnecessarily. My Allaah, Rabb-e-Kareem accepts this and makes this mediation for my salvation. I forgive the attackers. Whereas, for establishing peace, you people do what is appropriate so that this kind of incident does not take place again.”
He did not appoint a lawyer for this case or follow any hearings. On recovery he occupied himself in preaching Islam and delivered his very first lecture at the same place where the attempted assassination happened.
Afterwards, three more attempts were made on Okarvi’s life. While delivering his lecture, a stone was thrown at him. On another occasion he was attacked with a knife. Daggers were also put in his shoes on a third.
Okarvi’s literary work includes sermons, discussions, discourses, treatises, and books. He was a translator of the Quran and a scholar of ahadith. He authored many books, including:
- Zikr-e-Haseen (2-Vols)
- Imaam-e-Paak aur Yazeed Paleed
- Barakaat-e-Meelaad Shareef
- Safeena-e-Nooh (2 Vols)
- Musalmaan Khaatoon
- Mas’alah-e-Siyaah Khizaab
- Angoothay Choomnay ka Mas’alah
- Akhlaaq-o-‘A’maal (broadcasted speeches)
- Ta‘aaruf ‘Ulama-e-Deoband
Death and Legacy
In 1974, Okarvi had a heart attack but this did not prevent him from preaching and organizing services. In 1975, he had another heart attack and came to Karachi, where he received cardiac treatment for six weeks.
On 20 April 1984, he delivered his last speech at the congregation of Jum’ah Salaat at Jaame Masjid Gulzar-e-Habeeb. That evening, Okarvi had a third heart attack and was admitted to the National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease. After three days, on 24 April 1984 he died at at the age of 55.
On 25 April, at Nishtar Park, Karachi, under the Imaamat (leadership) of Ahmad Sa’eed Kaazimi after the Salaat of Zuhr, millions of people attended the funeral prayer of the honourable Hazrat Khateeb-e-A’zam Pakistan. On the same evening, Okarvi was laid to rest next to Masjid Gulzar-e-Habeeb, Karachi. A mausoleum is being constructed there.
Concerning Okarvi, the late President Zia-ul-Haqq wrote in a letter:
“He was a prominent, vibrant orator and an influential preacher of Islam. Due to his immense religious knowledge, outstanding oration and his fascinating speech he truly became famous by the title of Khateeb-e-Pakistan. He dedicated every moment of his life in the service of Islam, “Ittihaad-e-Bainal Muslimeen” (Unity among the Muslims) and the propagation of Islamic teachings.
Jahan Dad Khan, the Governor of Sindh in February 1985 wrote in a letter:
“He was a versatile genius but also vociferous orator. Through his powerful preaching he not only impressed his co-religionists but he also became equally popular among the non Muslims who embraced Islaam in large numbers. As a renowned religious leader, his capabilities transcended the boundaries of Pakistan. As a preacher par excellence, he has been internationally acknowledged.”
Yousaf Raza Gillani, a former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was formerly the Minister of Railways, wrote in a letter:
“Due to the departure of the prestigious orator of the country, Muhammad Shafee Okarvi, the world of Islaam has been deprived of a great skilled research leader. He spent all his life in the propagation of Islaam. His beautiful speeches used to develop the warmth of the love of the Prophet (Sallal Laahu’Alaiehi Wa Sallam) in the hearts of the Muslims. Often he would visit to Multan on our invitation and benefit us with his speeches.”
On 23 March 1985, President Zia-ul-Haqq awarded the Sitaara-e-Imtiaaz to Okarvi due to his contributions to religious services.