Moulana Muhammad Ilyas was born in 1885 in India. His mother, Bi Safia, was a Hafiz of the Quraan. His father was Moulana Muhammad Ismail, a scholar of Islam. Moulana Ilyas did his early Maktab education and completed the Hifz of the Quraan.
He furthered his education in Gangoh in 1896 under his brother Moulana Yahya. He began his spiritual training under Moulana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi. In 1908 he went to Deoband where he studied Hadith under Moulana Mahmood Hassan. He continued his spiritual training under Moulana Khalil Ahmed Saharanpuri.
He was filled with the spirit of Jihad and took the pledge of Jihad at the hands of Moulana Mahmood Hassan. In 1910 he started teaching secondary books at Mazahirul Uloom Madresa in Saharanpur. In 1912 he married his cousin and performed his first Hajj in 1915.
He took over the Madresa in Nizamuddin when his elder brother passed away. He was devoted to his prayers. Near Nizamuddin was an area called Mewat where the Muslims were weak in faith. Moulana Ilyas set up Maktabs in the 1920’s to provide basic Islamic education to the children there. Eventually hundreds were opened.
He initiated the revival work of Tabligh and people began to take to this reformist movement of Islam. Today it is one of the biggest Muslim movements with branches found in most countries, and is a powerful grass root Islamic movement. The first tabligh conference was held in Mewat in 1941 and 25,000 people attended. Today, millions attend such conferences worldwide.