Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, commonly known as Mujaddid-e-Alf-Sani (the reformer of the second millennium), was born on 26 June 1564, in Sirhind, a city of East Punjab. He was educated at home and was inducted into mysticism by his father, Sheikh Abdul-al-Ahad, who was himself an eminent Sufi. At the age of 36, he went to Delhi and there he met Khawaja Baqi Billah who introduced him to the Naqshbandi Silsilah. Sheikh Ahmed was not new to the Sufi discipline as he had made remarkable progress and soon reached the sublime heights of experience and the beatific vision. He died on 15 December 1624, at the age of 60 years.
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Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi Successful Jihad against Deen-e-Elahi
During his period the Muslims in India had become so deficient in the knowledge of true Islam that they had more belief in Karamat or miracles of the saints than Islamic teachings. The Ulema and theologians of the time had ceased to refer to the Quran and Hadith in their commentaries and considered jurisprudence the only religious knowledge. Akbar, the Mughal King had started a series of experiments with Islam, propagating his own religion Deen-e-Elahi, an amalgamation of Hindu and Muslim beliefs. In these circumstances, Sheikh Ahmed set upon himself the task of purifying the Muslim society. His aim was to rid Islam of the accretions of Hindu Pantheism. However, the Mujaddid succeeded in his efforts at last and Jahangir canceled all those orders of his father which were against the spirit of Islam and thus Deen-e-Elahi came to an ignoble end.
Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi Refusal to prostrate before Jahangir
As soon as Akbar died and Jahangir ascended the throne, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi came out to reform and to do away with all Un-Islamic practices and beliefs initiated by Akbar among the Muslims. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi never entered into any political conflict directly. He wrote letters to all the nobles of Jahangir’s court. Most of them were the same who were present in Akbar’s court. The opponents of Sheikh also came out and he was dubbed as an atheist by them. So Sheikh was summoned to the court of Jahangir and was asked to bend down. He was so rigid in his approach towards Islam that he did not bend before the emperor as per the prevalent custom. His plea that bending down before anyone except Allah was un-Islamic annoyed Jahangir, who ordered for his imprisonment in the Fort of Gwalior for two years due to his discourteous behavior.
Preaching of Islam during the Imprisonment in Gawaliar’s Fort
Hazrat Mujaddid continued preaching of Islam during the imprisonment in the Fort of Gwalior. Due to his efforts, thousands of Non-Muslims accepted Islam. After a year, however, Jahangir under the influence of his Islamic writings released him from jail and offered huge gifts to him. The king befriended and respected the Sheikh. He listened to his advice. After Maghrib prayers, the king would grant him a special audience where Sheikh would talk about religious affairs to Jahangir. He asked his son Shah Jahan to become a spiritual disciple of the Sheikh.
The philosophy of Wahdat-al-Wujud was presented by some Sufis of Akbar’s time. They believed that the entire universe is the symbol of Almighty God and a source of revelation of God’s sovereignty. He vehemently opposed the Sufi doctrine of Wahdat-al-Wujud which maintained, that the real Being is Allah and we are all His manifestations. This approach resulted in bringing about greater unity among people of different religions, races, and tribes.
He was highly critical of the philosophy of Wahdat-al-Wujud, against which he gave his philosophy of Wahdat-al-Shuhud. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi preached the doctrine of what he called Wahdat-al-Shuhud i.e. unity of witnessing. Thus he maintained that we are not manifestations of One Being but it is only an appearance, not reality. The implications of the doctrine of Wahdat-al-Shuhud were quite grave as it emphasizes the superiority of people of one religion on the other and for that reason that religion should be kept pure and divested of all other influences.
Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi adopted an effective method of persuasion by writing letters to the leading nobles of the royal court. His letters are known as Maktubat-e-Imam Rabbani. Through preaching, discussions, and his maktubat addressed to important nobles and leaders of religious thought, he spread his message amongst the elite in particular. Letters and messages were sent to them exhorting them to serve the cause of Islam. He also requested the scholars to show the right path to the people and the King. He asked the saints to give up their Un-Islamic practices and beliefs.
Books and Magazines of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi (Risala)
Rejecting the heterodoxies of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, this eminent Islamic mystic of this time and a hardcore Sunni Muslim strongly refuted the Shia point of view in his writing entitled Risala Tahliliyya and made a major contribution towards the rehabilitation of orthodox Islam in India.
He wrote many books, including his famous works, Isbat-ul-Nabat and Risal-i-Nabuwat. In these works, the need and importance of prophethood were described. His greatest work on Islamic philosophy was the Tauheed-i-Shuhudi. Sheikh Ahmed continued preaching Islam till the end of his days. He urged peopled to adhere to the accepted and clearly laid down path of Islam.
Two Nation Theory
Mujaddid Alif Sani cleared on the Muslims that they were a separate nation from Hindus and nothing was common in them. Therefore, the Muslims should keep themselves distinct from Hindus with reference to food, dress, social custom, and way of life. With this declaration, he founded the first stone of Two Nation Theory in the Indo-Pak subcontinent which led to the success of the Pakistan Movement and the establishment of Pakistan. That’s why Hazrat Mujaddid was rightly called the First Founder of Pakistan.
The efforts of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindito to purify the religious and practical life of the Muslims left an indelible impact on the history of Muslim India. Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani was the most powerful religious personality in the history of the sub-continent who opposed Akbar and thereby invited his wrath. He was a widely read scholar and a magnetic orator. He got an opportunity in a liberal atmosphere in Jahangir’s reign to use his powerful pen to denounce Akbar’s religious innovations. He is considered as a pioneer of Muslim self-assertion by denouncing Un-Islamic practices.
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