In 1973, during his college days, Jāvēd Ahmad Ghāmidī was introduced to Mawlānā Islāhī . Mawlānā Islāhī was writing his tafsīr (exegesis), Tadabbur- e Qur’ān. Ghāmidī was greatly impressed by his personality, his thinking and his work. Thus, began his days of private tutelage under him. Ghāmidī writes:
I was in my final year of my honors program when I had the opportunity of browsing through some books written by Imām Hamīd al-Dīn Farāhī. It was a unique world of knowledge, vision, understanding and wisdom that sprung before me as soon as I turned the pages of these books. In the preface of one of these books, I found mentioned his dear student, Mawlānā Amīn Ahsan Islāhī. I had an uncontrollable urge to meet the Mawlānā. A friend from Islāmī Jamī‘at told me that he resided in a village outside Lahore. I also knew that Dr. Isrār Ahmad also had some association with him. Dr Isrār Ahmad ran his clinic and lived in Krishn Nagar in those days. I got up from the library and, asking my way around, reached his house. There, I found Dr Israr in a room at the back of his clinic, talking to his friends. On inquiring about Mawlānā Islāhī, he told me that by coincidence he had arrived that very day from his village, Rahmān Ābād, and was presently staying with Nu‘mān ‘Alī, his son-in-law, in WAPDA colony. I had a bicycle. I understood the address, and left for WAPDA colony. By the time I reached there, it was close Maghrib (sunset) time. On inquiring about the address from a passerby, I was guided straight ahead. Mawlānā was coming out of his house for Maghrib prayer. I moved forward to greet him. That was my first meeting with my future teacher. Mawlānā Islāhī stayed in Lahore for about two weeks. I would visit him daily and, every time, come back with a new vision. It was in these meetings with Mawlānā Islāhī that it dawned on me that religion is not just something to be simply accepted, but that it is something that could also be understood and explained. It became clear to me that the Qur’ān is the decisive factor, a balance on which to weigh any understanding of dīn (religion) and sharī‘ah (Divine law), and, for the entire world, it is God’s hujjat (conclusive argument). In its guiding light, we can understand hadīth (non-concurrent records of tradition), fiqh (Islamic law), philosophy, tasawwuf (mysticism), history, and biographies on the Prophet (sallá Allāh ‘alayh wa sallama).
For me, it was as the discovery of a new way of approaching the Qur’ān. I told him that I would like to study the Qur’ān through his approach. Giving him a brief background of my education, I inquired of him what I would need to do in order to achieve that goal. The Mawlānā gave me a list of books on various subjects including the core books of knowledge that I would need to read, understand, and absorb. He told me that the process would require years of hard work. Mawlānā Islāhī said: “If you have to study according to this approach, you will have to keep aside any dreams of leadership you might have and you will have to lead a life of seclusion, committed to cultivating knowledge, vision, thought and deliberation. Make this resolution: Even if your shadow deserts you, you will stand by the truth and only the truth. In the academy of ‘my thought and learning,’ no student can be admitted without this determination and firm resolve.”
That was the last day of visit. The next day Mawlānā was leaving for his village. I made a careful assessment of mind and heart, considered all the pros and cons and came to the conclusion the very same day that I would bid college adieu, and from the very first day get into Mawlānā’s madrasah-e ilmī (school of knowledge), and, for that whatever learning was required, I would leave no stone unturned to acquire it.
The second phase of my student life began from here. It was an evening in the year 1973. After that, this period of my life continued more or less for ten years. During this time, Mawlānā also taught me himself. I studied under him from Sūrah Zukhraf until the end of the Qur’ān, al- Mu’attā’ Imām Mālik, the fundamental of understanding the Qur’ān and Hadīth, and some debates and discourses of contemporary philosophy based on his understanding and technique. The Mawlānā always remarked that in these times, there are many who love to write but very few who love to read. He always said that the pen should be moved to write only when a new reality comes to notice. In my days of student life, I did not have the inclination write. I did compose poetry, but did not have much interest in writing prose, though I did commit to paper a few things in Arabic and Urdu. These were however dilettantish scribbles of a novice writer.