Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlvi (February 21, 1703 – August 20, 1762) was Islamic scholar and reformer. He worked for the revival of Muslim rule and intellectual learning in South Asia, during a time of waning Muslim power. He despised the divisions and deviations within Islam and its practice in India and hoped to purify the religion and unify all Indian Muslims under the banner of truth . He is also thought to have anticipated a number of progressive, social, economic, and political ideas of the modern era such as social reform, equal rights, labour protection, welfare entitlement of all to food, clothing, housing, etc.
Shah Waliullah is a descendent of the Quraish tribe of Arabia and his genealogy can be traced to the second khalifa of Islam, Umar on his paternal side. His father, Shah Abdur Rahim, named his son 'Qutbuddin Ahmad'. He was dubbed as 'Shah Waliullah' because waliullah means friend of God and he was a pious individual. He was from the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah and was an adherent of Hanafi jurisprudence. His complete name was Shah Waliullah Qutbuddin Ahmad and he was born in Phulat, a town in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, India on February 21, 1703.
Shah Waliullah received his education at Madrasa Rahimiyya. His father was his teacher and source of spiritual guidance. He commenced his studies at the tender age of five and completed the recitation and memorization of the Qur'an by the age of seven. Thereafter, he commenced primary lessons in Persian and Arabic, which were completed in a year. Then, he studied the grammar and syntax of Persian and Arabic. He completed his studies in philosophy and theology at the age of fifteen and then commenced his studies in mantiq, fiqh, hadith, tibb, algebra, mathematics, kalaam, spirituality, mysticism, oratory and metaphysics under his father. Thereafter, he was inducted into the tradition of bay'at by his father and, by the age of seventeen, he was permitted to provide spiritual guidance to and reform his fellow Muslims.
Shah Waliullah rose to be an eminent scholar of Islamic studies. He was a prominent intellectual figure whose mission was to reform the Muslims he saw as misguided. His activities were not confined to spiritual and intellectual spheres only. He lived in troubled times and witnessed a number of rulers occupying the throne of Delhi. With his keen political insight, he observed the deterioration of Muslim rule in India and wrote to a number of political dignitaries to attempt to bolster the political life of Muslims in India. He established several branches of Madrasa Rahimiyya in Delhi in order to effectively disseminate his knowledge.