His initial education was taught by (1) Mirza Qadir Baig al-Baraylwī (d. 1297 AH) and he completed his education with his father, (2) Mawlana Naqī Alī Khan al-Baraylwī. He also took knowledge of Islam and Ijazahs in Hadīth from the following scholars:
1. Mawlana Abdul Ali Khan Rampurī (d. 1303 AH) – student of ‘Allama Fazle Haq Khairabadī
2. Shah Abu’l Husain Ahmad al-Nūrī Marehrawī (d. 1324 AH) – student of Mawlana Nūr Ahmad Badayunī
3. Shah Aale Rasūl Marehrawī (d. 1297 AH) – student of Shah Abdul Azīz Muhaddith Dihlawī (d. 1239 AH)
Imam Ahmad Rida went to Shah Aale Rasūl Marehrawī Radi Allahu Ta'ala 'anhu along with his father and ‘Allama Abdul Qadir Badayunī (d. 1319 AH) who was the son of ‘Allama Fazle Rasūl Badayunī (d. 1289 AH). During their very first meeting, Imām Ahmad Rida was granted Bay’ah, Ijazah and Khilafah. Upon seeing this extraordinary event, some of the disciples of Shah Aale Rasūl exclaimed that they had been busy in worship and spiritual training for such a long time yet had not received the same benevolence. Shah Aale Rasūl answered this query by saying: “Others have to be trained whilst these people came already trained”. He then said:
“I was worried for a long time over a problem, but, by the grace of Allah, today that issue has been resolved. When Allah asks me on the day of Judgement, “Oh Aale Rasūl! What have you bought with you?” I will then present my Ahmad Rida”.
4. Imām al-Shafi’iyah Shaykh Husain Salih (d. 1302 AH)
5. Mufti Hanafiya Shaykh Abdur Rahman Siraj (d. 1301 AH)
6. Mufti Shafi’iyah Shaykh Ahmad bin Zayn Dahlan (d. 1299 AH) – Qadi al-Quddat, Makkah
Imām Ahmad Rida specialised in over fifty branches of knowledge including: Tafsīr, Hadīth, Fiqh, Usūl al-Fiqh, ‘Aqaid and Kalam, Tasawwuf, Nahw, Sarf, History, Logic, Philosophy, Astronomy, Astrology and Mathematics.
Imām Ahmad Rida lived for 28 years, 2 months and 5 days in the 13th century, in which he gained recognition due to his efforts in writing and research, teaching and sermons; and he lived for 39 years, 1 month and 25 days of the 14th century, which he spent in holding up the flag of Islam, refuting the innovators, promoting the truth and fighting against falsehood. He supported the Sunnah and challenged the Bid’ah. Whenever and howsoever he possibly could, he used his knowledge to promote the Sharī’āh and refute all types of falsehood – and in doing so – he did not let anything stop him including any important personalities. He never craved fame and praise nor did he care what people said against him as long as he spoke the truth.
He was given such a brilliant mind that he completed his religious education at the age of 13 years and 10 months. He is amongst the greatest Hadith scholars of his age and in Fiqh, the whole of the 14th century did not produce a jurist to his like. Hence, ‘Allama Iqbal pays tribute to his juristic brilliance thus:
Hindustan did not produce such a genius Faqīh as him. I have read his fatawa and they are proof of his extraordinary intellect. When Mawlana forms an opinion; he sticks to it. This is because he only decrees a ruling after careful thought. Hence, there is never any need to change any ruling.
Imām Ahmad Rida was also a poet par excellence. His collection of religious poetry, Hada’iq-e-Bakhshish, has received praise by hundreds of poets, researchers, critics and scholars. There have also been Ph.D. theses that have been completed on his poetry.
He was also a master of ancient and modern philosophy. This can be seen from books of his such as al-Kalimatu’l Mulhima, Nuzul-e-Ayaat-e-Furqan and Fauz-e-Mubeen. As for his acumen relating to secular sciences, his answer to Sir Dr. Ziauddin’s mathematical problem is proof enough. Sir Ziauddin, vice chancellor of Muslim University, Aligarh, was sent to Imām Ahmad Rida by Mawlana Sayyid Sulayman Ashraf. Mufti Burhan Ul-Haq was eye-witness to this event and said:
Dr. Ziauddin came outside and addressed Sayyid Sulaiman Ashraf and said that it is doubtful that such a fine scholar is alive today. Allah has given him such knowledge that my mind is baffled. Alongside religious knowledge, he has such plentiful knowledge of mathematics, algebra and geometry that he solved that problem in a matter of minutes that I could not solve in weeks. He is certainly worthy of a Nobel Prize but he is not hungry for fame. May Allah grant him a long life and may He let people benefit from him. 
Imām Ahmad Rida possessed a very powerful memory. He himself says that some people who are not well acquainted with me write Hafidh with my name. I am not a Hafidh but when I hear someone recite a part of the Holy Qur’ān, I can then repeat the same part back to them. When he did memorise the whole Qur’ān, it only took him a month where he would memorise one chapter a day between ‘Asr and Maghrib.
He was also able to read very quickly and retain what he had read. He borrowed ‘Uqud ad-Dariya from Mawlana Wasī Ahmad Muhaddith Surati and managed to read the two-volume work in one day. When asked what he would do when he needed to quote from the book, he replied that the contents of the book were now in his mind for ever.
His mastery of Fiqh
It is normally the case that scholars begin to pen their works after they have graduated from their religious education. However, Imām Ahmad Rida is amongst those scholars who began to author books during their student days. He began to issue judicial verdicts the very day he graduated and the very first fatwa he ever decreed was so well researched and comprehensive that his father, Mawlana Naqī Ali Khan - himself a renowned Mufti of his era - was astounded. Imām Ahmad Rida began writing fatawa at the tender age of 13 years and 10 months and continued this till his demise in 1340 AH – a total of 54 years.
It is unfortunate that some of his earlier fatawa could not be kept safe. Those that remain have been gathered in the form of al-‘Ataya al-Nabawiya fi al-Fatawa al-Ridawiyah. They cover 12 volumes, each of 900-1000 pages. Finding such a voluminous fatwa work is rare and the research qualities of Imām Ahmad Rida can be seen throughout the work. The fatawa have been a source of reference for the Hanafi School ever since they were written.
The total number of monographs and books written by him number around 1000 that cover over 50 subject areas. By 1887, at the age of 30 years, he had already written 75 books and treatises and by 1909, at the age of 43 years, this number had increased to approximately 500.
As is evident, Imām Ahmad Rida did write a lot of books but what must be noted is that the quantity of books is not what makes Imām Ahmad Rida great; it is the quality of each one that makes him great. In many cases, one page written by Imām Ahmad Rida is more valuable than whole books of other scholars.
His excellence in Fiqh can be seen from the number of references he cites for each issue. Some examples of this are seen below:
1. Can the Janazah prayer be repeated? Imām Ahmad Rida compiled a monograph on this matter and dealt with the issue by segregating it into 10 categories. He cited 207 references and at another place also gathered 40 other references of Hadith and books of Fiqh.
2. Can the Awliya hear and assist after their demise? He answered this by compiling a lengthy monograph named Hayat al-Mawat fi Bayani Sama’il Amwat. He first cited 60 ahadith and then gathered 200 sayings of the Sahaba, Tabi’in and then gathered a further 100 references of those scholars that are revered by the Wahābīs. Not just this, he then compiled another 150 page book on this issue.
3. He was asked about making Dū’ā after Salah. He cited one verse of the Holy Qur’ān and then presented a hadîth from 10 different books whereas Mawlana Abdul Haleem Farangi Mahalli only presented one hadîth as his answer and Molvi Muhammad Nazeer Husain, the leader of the Ahle Hadith, also only managed one hadîth.
4. Abiding by times of Salah is compulsory and joining prayers is impermissible. He wrote a monograph on this issue named Hajiz al-Bahrain in which he presented 7 verses of the Holy Qur’ān and 36 ahadīth from famous books of Hadīth.
5. The famous Hadith scholar of the age, ‘Allama Wasī Ahmad Muhaddith Surati, asked Imām Ahmad Rida a question regarding the ‘Imaama . The latter gathered 40 ahadith on the blessings of the ‘Imaama and also their references. Muhaddith Surati also questioned about a Hadīth that some claimed was weak. Imām Ahmad Rida replied in a way that all allegations were refuted.
Other aspects of his superlative knowledge of Fiqh can be seen from his answers to perennial issues. For example, when the issue of currency notes arose, the scholars were baffled. Even the Hanafi Mufti of Makkah, Mawlana Jamal bin Abdullah, was unable to provide a comprehensive answer and left it by saying:
العلم امانة في اعناق العلما
It is a favour upon the whole Muslim ummah that Imām Ahmad Rida answered the question with utmost clarity. When he went to his second Hajj in 1323 AH, news of the brilliance of al-Dawlah al-Makkiyah had spread far and wide. Hence, the scholars took advantage of his visit and asked 12 questions about currency notes. Imām Ahmad Rida wrote Kifl al-Faqih al-Fahim and when he went to the library of Haram on 4th Safar 1324 AH, he found the Mufti-e-Hanafiya, Mawlana Abdullah bin Siddiq, reading Kifl al-Faqih and when he reached the point where Imām Ahmad Rida had cited Fath al-Qadir which said that: If a man wishes to sell a piece of paper for Rs. 1000, then this is permissible; the Mufti was shocked and whilst hitting his thigh he exclaimed: “Jamal bin Abdullah, how did you miss such a clear evidence?” By saying this, the current Mufti was addressing the Mufti of old .
Imām Ahmad Rida was a great Faqīh because he was able to convey what Fuqaha before him had researched in their own books but he was also able to add his own research to issues. For example, Fatawa Ridawiyah has 311 points on Tayammum whereas previous works of Fiqh have 72. The additional 239 points have been derived by Imām Ahmad Rida himself.
His Mastery of Hadīth
For one to be a Muhaddith; it is not necessary to be a Faqīh but to be a Faqīh, one must be a Muhaddith and Imām Ahmad Rida was an undisputed Imām of Fiqh. He had a vast knowledge of Hadīth and its related sciences including Turuq, Nasikh and Mansūkh, Rajih and Marjūh, Tatbīq and Rijal. Sayyid Muhammad Muhaddith Kachochawi writes:
His knowledge of Hadīth can be seen by the fact that all the ahadīth that are the foundation of the Hanafi School were in his memory and those ahadith by which the Hanafi school is challenged; Imām Ahmad Rida knew the weaknesses of their Sanad and the meanings of all of them. The knowledge of Asma’ al-Rijal is the most difficult science of Hadīth; however, if any Sanad was recited before Imām Ahmad Rida and he was asked about any narrator, he would mention the strengths and weaknesses of each narrator with specific words and when the books of Rijal were checked, those exact words were found therein. 
Concerning the etiquettes of Takhrīj al-Hadīth, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote a monograph named al-Rawd al-Baheej fi Adab al-Takhreej. Mawlana Rahman Ali writes about this work:
If there is no book before this on this topic, then the writer can be called the inventor of this science. 
Sayyid Muhammad Muhaddith Kachochawi once asked his teacher, Mawlana Sayyid Wasī Ahmad Muhaddith Surati: “Was the rank of Imam Ahmad Raza the same as yours in the field of Hadith?” The latter replied, “Not at all, not at all”. He then said, “Do you understand what I mean by this? Imām Ahmad Rida is Amīr al-Mu’minīn fi’l Hadīth and if I study Hadīth at his feet for many years, I will still not reach his rank”.
Imām Ahmad Rida was once questioned about how many books of Hadīth he had studied. He replied with the names of 29 books and said that he had studied over 50 books of Hadīth. Moreover, when one researcher studied 356 books of Imām Ahmad Rida, he found citations therein from not just 50 books but 240 books of Hadīth. As mentioned, these 240 books are mentioned in just 356 of his books whereas he has authored approximately 1000 books; hence, this number is likely to be much greater.
Many a time, for only one hadîth, he cites up to 25 references. He wrote 45 books specifically on Hadīth and when answering questions, he would cite extensively from the books of Hadīth. A few examples are given:
· Is it allowed to refer to Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam as ‘the remover of difficulties’? Answering this, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote al-Amnu wa’l ‘Ula wherein he proved his motif by presenting 60 verses and 300 ahadith.
Some Wahabis denied the fact that Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam is the best of creation. Imām Ahmad Rida answered this fallacious claim by gathering 100 ahadith and named this monograph Tajalli al-Yaqeen bi Anna Nabiyyina Sayyida’l Mursaleen.
· When asked about having a feast to remove the difficulties of famine and smallpox, Imām Ahmad Rida presented 60 ahadith to show its permissibility.
· Whilst burying the nonsensical claim of Prophethood by Mirza Qadiani, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote a monograph wherein he presented 121 ahadith which demolished Mirza’s claim.
· On the issue of the second Adhan for Jumu’ah, Imām Ahmad Rida wrote Shama’im al-Anbar in Arabic in which he gathered 45 ahadith.
· Regarding the hearing of the dead, he presented 60 ahadith.
· On the creation of Angels, he cited 24 ahadith.
· About dyeing the hair, he presented 16 ahadith.
· Regarding Mu’aniqa , he cited 16 ahadith.
· On the importance of the beard, he gathered 56 ahadith.
· On the rights of parents, he presented 91 ahadith.
· Regarding the impermissibility of the prostration of reverence, he put forward 70 ahadith.
· On intercession, he gathered 40 ahadith.
· On the issue of pictures, he cited 27 ahadith.
His Knowledge of Tafsīr
Though he did not compile a single Tafsīr of the whole Qur’ān; he did compile numerous works that relate to Tafsīr. He wrote marginalia to books of Tafsīr and when he did write a commentary of just one Surah – Surah ad-Duha – he wrote 600 pages. Glimpses of majestic knowledge of Tafsīr can be seen in numerous works of his.
His Translation of the Holy Qur’ān
One of his most outstanding works is his translation of the Holy Qur’ān into Urdu which he named Kanzu’l Iman fi Tarjamatu’l Qur’ān which is unique and unparalleled in every sense. Each and every line of this translation gives glimpses of the beauty of the Holy Qur’ān and shows his mastery of the sciences of Tafsir. The translation takes into account the Glory of Allah and the perfection of His Messenger şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam; hence, it is free from the faults that are found in other translations.
Hajj and visitation to the Sacred Sanctuaries
Imām Ahmad Rida performed Hajj twice – in 1295 AH and 1323 AH. His books al-Muneeratu’l Wadiya, al-Jaamu’s Sunnah, Fatawa al-Haramayn, Husam al-Haramayn, al-Dawlah al-Makkiya and Kiflu’l Faqih al-Fahim are all masterpieces in the Arabic language that he compiled during his visits to the sacred lands. Some of these books have scores of taqaridh from the scholars of Haramayn. This shows that the views and beliefs of Imām Ahmad Rida were the same as those held by the scholars of the sacred lands.
Imām Ahmad Rida was loved by the scholars of Haramayn. Shaykh Karimullah Muhajir Madani [student of Shaykh al-Dala’il Muhammad Abdul Haq Muhajir Madani (d. 1333AH)] writes his account thus:
I have spent many years in Madina. Thousands of people of knowledge including scholars and mystics come here. They can be found in every street of the city and the locals do not pay much attention to them. However, I see that many great scholars flock towards him and continuously show their respect and reverence. This is the favour of Allah that He grants to whomsoever He wishes. 
The famous historian, Mawlana Rahman Ali, adds:
After Maghrib at the station of Ibrahim ‘alaihis salam, Imam al-Shafi’iyah Husain bin Salih Jamalu’l Layl, without any introduction, grabbed the hand of Mawlana Ahmad Rida al-Baraylwī and looked at his face for a long time. He then said, اِنِّى لَاَجِدُ نُورَ اللّٰه مِن هٰذا الجَبيْن . He then granted him Ijazahs for both the Sihah Sitta and the Qadrī order with a special signature in which he named him as Ziauddin Ahmad. The sanad that he granted was unbroken till Imām Bukharī. 
Abu’l Hasan Ali Nadwi writes:
The scholars of Hijaz discussed some issues of Fiqh and Kalam with Imām Ahmad Rida and he wrote some monographs to present to them. He also answered some questions for them. His multitude of knowledge, speed of writing, acumen and intelligence left people amazed and astonished. 
The ‘Ulama turn to Imām Ahmad Rida [Marja’ul ‘Ulama]
Mawlana Waqaruddīn, the student of Mawlana Amjad Ali Aa’zmī, writes regarding the knowledge of Imām Ahmad Rida:
I taught at Madrasah Mazhar-e-Islam in Bareilly for approximately 9 years and was in charge of teaching the most advanced books. Whenever I came across any difficulty I would go to the library of Imām Ahmad Rida and look for the book within which I was having difficulty and would always find that Imam Ahmad Raza had written a marginalia in the book which solved my problem. I also found that those complex parts that are left alone by other commentators, Imām Ahmad Rida had written marginalia to even those.
Volumes 1-7 and 10-11 of Fatāwa Ridawiyyah contain a total of 4095 fatāwa. Out of this, 1061 are questions sent to Imām Ahmad Rida by other scholars. This shows that along with the general public, the scholars also turned to Imām Ahmad Rida to find solutions to their problems.
His refutation of Ahlu’l Bid’ah
Those who wished to challenge the greatness of Allah by attributing deficiencies to Him were refuted by Imām Ahmad Rida. He wrote Subhan al-Subbuh ‘an ‘Aybi Kadhibi al-Maqbuh and wrote another 5 monographs on the issue of Imkan-e-Kidhb. He also refuted those who believed in Allah having a body by compiling Qawari’ al-Qahhar ‘alal Mujassamatu’l Fujjar. Refuting ancient philosophers, he wrote a lengthy monograph named al-Kalimatu’l Mulhima. He strongly refuted those who insult and curse the dear Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam, his companions, his family, the Mujtahid Imams and the saints. As for the fitna of Qadian, he tore it from the roots by writing 5 monographs against it and was the first scholar to issue a fatwa of Kufr against it. It can easily be seen from his literary masterpieces that he strove against all the prevalent innovations of his era and saved the Muslim ummah from their dangers.
His love for Sayyidina Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam
Many scholars have paid tribute to his sincerity, honesty, piety and to the purity of his heart but the whole world pays tribute to his unfaltering adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah and his love for Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam. Not only his followers; even unbiased opponents of his are witness to the reality of his love. He awakened such an inspiring love for the Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam that the dwellings of the heart began to shine like mirrors. Every day and night in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, England, Holland, the USA and Africa, his poetic masterpiece is heard thus:
مصطفٰى جانِ رحمت په لاكهوں سلام
شمع بزم هدايت په لاكهوں سلام
Whenever someone returned from Hajj, he would ask them if they had been to visit Sayyidinā Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam and if they had, he would immediately kiss their feet.
Imām Ahmad Rida was not just a personality revered and accepted by the scholars of the Indian Subcontinent – even the scholars of Haramayn accepted his leadership and his status as the Mujaddid of his era. These are the words of some scholars of Makkah in praise of Imām Ahmad Rida.
Mawlana Muhammad Yusuf al-Afghani al-Makki writes:
الذى افتخربوجوده الزمان
He whose existence the era is proud of. 
Shaykh Salih Kamal Mufti Hanafiya writes:
A sea of merits, the coolness of the eyes of scholars, Mawlana, Muhaqqiq, the blessing of the era, Ahmad Rida Khan al-Baraylwi. May Allah preserve him. 
Shaykh Abu’l Khayr Mirdad writes:
Indeed he is that ‘Allama and Fadil who solves problems with the light of his eyes – his name is Ahmad Rida Khan. 
Shaykh Abdur Rahman Dahlan writes:
The one on whom the scholars rely; the ‘Allama of his time; the unique; for whom the scholars of Makka bear witness that he is the leader; the unmatched; the Imam; my master; my refuge; Hazrat Ahmad Raza Khan Barelwi. May Allah make us and all Muslims benefit from his life and may He give me his mission as his mission is the mission of Rasūlullah şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam. 
Shaykh Muhammad Mukhtar bin ‘Ata al-Jawi al-Makki writes:
Indeed the writer is the leader of the scholars and researchers and all his words are the truth. He is from the miracles of our Prophet sallallahu 'alaihi wasallam and Allah revealed this miracle at the hands of the Imam. 
Shaykh Musa Ali Shami al-Azhari Ahmad Darderwi Madani writes:
امام الاٮٔمة المجدد لهذه الامه
The Imam of Imams and the Mujaddid of the Muslim ummah. 
Shaykh Muhammad Yaseen Ahmad al-Khayari Madani praises him thus:
هو امام المحدثين
He is the Imam of the Hadith scholars. 
‘Allama Mawlana Tafaddal al-Haq Makki writes:
These answers show that the writer is an ‘Alim, ‘Allama, Fahhama and he is to the scholars as the eye is to the body. 
Due to weakness, Shaykh al-Khutaba, ‘Ustad al-‘Ulama, ‘Allama Mawlana al-Shaykh Ahmad Abu’l Khayr Mirdad was not able to visit Imām Ahmad Rida at the latter’s residence. The Shaykh heard al-Dawlah al-Makkiya from cover to cover and when Imām Ahmad Rida was about to leave Makkah, he respectfully touched the feet of the Shaykh. The Shaykh addressed Imām Ahmad Rida and said:
انا أقبل أرجلكم انا أقبل نعالكم
I would kiss your feet and I would kiss your shoes. 
Shaykh Mirdad also addressed Imām Ahmad Rida as:
شيخنا العلامه احمد رضا خاں بريلوى
Shaykh Sayyid Alawi Maliki Makki says:
When someone from India comes to Makka and we want to see if he is Sunni, we simply mention the name of Imām Ahmad Rida before him. If his face lights up with happiness, we know he is a Sunni and if he shows unhappiness at his mention, we know he is something else.
The Imam of Ahlus Sunnah, the Mujaddid, Shaykh al-Islam wa’l Muslimīn, Imām Ahmad Rida Khan al-Hanafī al-Qadrī al-Barkatī al-Baraylwī passed away on 25th Safar, 1340 AH, at the age of 65. From beginning to end, this shining star of the Ummah was an embodiment of Sharī’āh. Hence, even on his death bed, he ordained that nothing be done in contravention to the Sunnah. He said:
From the food of the Fatiha, nothing should be given to the rich. Only the poor will be fed and that too with utmost respect. No-one will treat the poor badly and nothing will happen that is against the Sunnah. 
In the majority of cases, food from the Fatiha is only for the rich and only the poor miss out. Imām Ahmad Rida destroyed this ugly practice which was snatching the rights of the poor and in doing so he revived a dying Sunnah of the dear Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam.
The benevolence of Allah and His Prophet şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam remained with Imām Ahmad Rida till his demise. He said that my weakness has left me in such a state that I may not even recognise some of my own relatives but all the matters of the Sharī’āh are still with me and I have not forgotten any of them.
May Allah shower abundant blessings on the grave of the great Imam and may He raise us with him on the day of Judgement.
 Ikram-e-Imam Ahmad Raza, p.59-60, Lahore, 1981
 Maqalat-e-Yawm-e-Raza, ‘Abdun Nabi Kokab, vol.1, p.41
 Tadkirah ‘Ulama-e-Hind, Molvi Rahman Ali, Pakistan Historical Society, p.100
 Translation from Arabic – al-Ijazat al-Mateena, Mawlana Hamid Rida al-Qadrī al-Baraylwī
 Tadkirah ‘Ulama-e-Hind, p.16, Lucknow, 1914
 Translation from Arabic – Nuzhatu’l Khawatir, vol.8, p.38-39, Da’iratu’l Ma’arif, Hyderabad, 1970
 Salla’s Suyuf al-Hindiya - Imām Ahmad Rida
 Ashaddu’l Adhab, p. 13
 Husam al-Haramayn, p.62
 Ibid, p.25
 Ibid, p.23
 Ibid, p.46
 al-Dawlah al-Makkiya, p.166
 Ibid, p.203
 Rasa’il-e-Ridawiyyah, Mawlana Abdul Hakeem Shahjanhanpuri, p.148
 Ibid, p.136
 al-Malfūdh, vol.1, p.10 - Imām Ahmad Rida
 Wisāya Sharīf, written on 28th October, 1921 – Imām Ahmad Rida