HAZRAT SHAYKH AHMAD SIRHINDI (r.a) – THE REVIVALIST
By Zeeshan Rasool Khan
Shaykh Ahmad FaruqiSirhindi was a Sufi saint of Naqshbandiya order, a great Islamic scholar, and jurist of Hanafi school of thought. He was born on 26 June 1564 in Sirhind (Punjab) in a devout family, which was from the lineage of Hazrat Umar IbniKhitaab (r.a). His father Shaykh Abdul AhadFarooqi was also a prominent scholar who mentored him at initial stages of childhood. Sirhindi acquired different branches of knowledge from his blessed father and under his blessed guidance; he learned the basics of religion. Onwards, he received the patronage of other great scholars like AllamaKamaal Kashmiri, Sheikh YaqoobSarfi Kashmiri, and BehloolBadakhshi. After completing studies, Sirhindi went to Agra and started his activities as a teacher. The great personalities would come to take lessons from him. In 1599 after getting discipleship of Khawaja BaqiBillah and joining Naqshbandiyah order, he expedited his mission of ‘dawah’ by giving lectures, educating people, and training disciples.
Last years of Akbar’s era were historically significant in the life of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi. It was the phase when Akbar interfered in religion, issued ‘decree of Infallibility’ in 1579, and propounded a new religion called ‘Din-i-Illahi’ in 1581. Both the ‘Decree of Infallibility’ and ‘Din-i-illahi’ were challenging for Muslims especially Muslim intelligentsia. Decree of Infallibility required Ulamas to recognize Akbar as the supreme authority in religious matters, which made him the final interpreter of Islamic Law. He also introduced a new Khutaba written by Faizi and this way dishonouredUlamas. Later he promulgated Din-i-illahi or Tauhid-i-Illahi, which was an insult to the Muslims and their religion. Under the garb of Din-i-illahi, the practices of Islam were opposed. Polytheism replaced monotheism. According to writers, Akbar began to worship everything around him. Akbar developed visceral hatred for Islam. He disavowed the Quran, life after death, and Day of Judgment.
What is permissible in Islam was prohibited in his religion and vice-versa. Cow slaughter was banished. Animals that have not been preferred in Islam would be found in Akbar’s court and were elevated to the status of signs of God. Even the Muslim credo was changed. Few of his followers would say; ‘There is no God but Allah and Akbar is his Khalifa (vicegerent).’ Akbar’s followers greeted each other with Allah Akbar and responded with greeting Jalajalahu. Azhan was banned. Mosques were demolished. Hijri calendar was replaced by illahi-calenders. In nutshell, all Islamic practices were replaced by emperor’s orders. Though majority abstained from emulating Akbar, yet negative impact of his new religion was evident. Muslims were dumbstruck with this invidious development. No one could beard the lion. Many (corrupt) Ulamas worked hand in glove with the emperor. Thus, Islamic influence was fading with every passing day.
In these circumstances, ShaykhSirhindi proved himself the descendant of Umar-e-Farooq (r.a) (who helped Muslims to gain confidence and furnished power to the Islamic faith in Mecca during the Prophetic era) and debuted his operation. He tried to instill an intellectual awakening among Muslims. He worked for the inculcation of Islamic law in everyday life of people. He opposed Din-Illahi that was cloaking hostility against Islam in the name of enlightenment and moderation. However, it is notable that the opposition was non-violent, based on merit- transmission of truthful knowledge. He started his mission by focusing on three groups; Ulamas, Sufis, and Elites. He believed this Islamic poverty was because of the deviant Ulamas (ulma-i-su), deviant Sufis, and Elites. He initiated the movement of reformation by urging Ulamas, Sufis, and Nobilities to practice Islam is true senses. He was of the faith if these three groups would practice shariah, thoughts like deeniillahi will never arise. His will prompted him to write letters to opportunist ulmas and elites, serving the emperor, to awake their conscience. He did not stop here but also approached to other intellectuals of society to invigorate them for protection of Prophet (Pbuh)’s religion. He trained a multitude of disciples and dispatched them to several regions with the purpose of promoting Islamic teachings with a special emphasis on Itiba-i-sunnah (following Prophetic way) to revive the Prophetic tradition. He employed every possible means to influence the minds of people to uphold pristine of Islam. And with the death of Akbar in 1605, Sirhandi’s movement flourished greatly and succeeded to a large extent. After Akbar, Jahangir rose to the power and Sirhindi did not look back but worked tirelessly. Prime minister of the Emperor Jahangir, Asif Khan motivated former to cease Sirhindi, whose influence was extending to Iran, Turkey, Badhakshan etc. He provoked Jahangir to imprison Sirhandi but it was not easy because of Sirhandi’s great influence. However; Sirhindi was ordered to present himself in court and was asked to prostrate, which he refused by saying, ‘This head is meant to bow before Almighty and not before worldly rulers’. Refusal to prostration (sajdah) served as a pretext for the King to incarcerate Sirhindi in Gwalior fort for 2 years. Even inside the prison walls, he carried out reformative activities. Many non-Muslim prisoners accepted Islam and others underwent a spiritual transformation under the guidance of Sirhindi.
Due to some divine intervention, as writers write and Sirhindi’s conduct in prison, Jahangir desired to meet Sirhindi with the intentions to release him. But Sirhindi refused to come out of prison before getting his demands fulfilled; that were; renovation and construction of Mosques, permission of preaching religion with freedom and release of all other prisoners etc. Most of his demands were accepted and was given robe of honor by the king. Afterwards the world witnessed the revolution – same Mughal dynasty giving birth to Aurangzeb Alamgir, who endeavored for true Islamic governance throughout his life.
For such a huge struggle in enlivening the Islam, cleansing it of extraneous elements and restoring its purity, Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi is truly known as ‘Mujadid Alf Thani ’- the reviver of the second millennium’. Allama Iqbal deservedly writes about him in Bal-e-Jibril;
Jiskenafs-e-garam se haigarmi-e-ahraar
(Who to Jahangir would not bend his neck: Whose passionate breath fans every free heart’s passion)
Wo hind meinsarmaya-e-millatkanagheban
Allah nay bar waqtkiyajiskokhabardaar
(Whom Allah sent in season to keep watch: in India on the treasure house of Islam)
His Maktubat ,Ithbat-ul-nabuwah , Marif’ ludnia and others writings are witness to his thoughts and ideas of rejuvenating Prophetic Tradition. Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi passed away in 1624 on 10 December. His burial place, known as ‘RauzaShariff’ in Sirhind is a site of pilgrimage.