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Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624)
Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, commonly known as Mujaddid-e-Alf-Sani (the reformer of the second millennium), was bora on 26 June, 1564. in Sirhind, a city of East Punjab. He was educated at home and was inducted into mysticism by his father, Shaikh Abdul-al-Ahad, who was himself an eminent Sufi. He learnt the Quran by heart very early. After receiving his early education from his father, he proceeded to Lahore and Sialkot for higher education. At Sialkot he obtained religious education from such reputed scholars as Maulana Kamaluddin Kashmiri and Maulana Yaqub Kashmiri.
At the age of 36, he went to Delhi and there he met Khawaja Bagi Billah who introduced him to the Naqshbandi Silsilah. Shaikh Ahmad was not new to sufi discipline as he had made remarkable progress and soon reached the sublime heights of experience and supreme vision. He died on 15 December, 1624, at the age of 60 years and was buried in Sirhind.
Mujaddid’s Reforms: When Akbar reached the heights of his atheistic activities and promulgated Deen-e-Blahi, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi was a scholar and Saint in the making. As soon as Akbar died and Jahangir ascended the throne, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi came out to reform and to do away with all un-lslamic practices and beliefs initiated by Akbar among the Muslims.
Shaikh Ahmad 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 Shaikh also came out and he was dubbed as an atheist by them. They misguided Jahangir and instigated him to take action against the Shaikh. The result was the imprisonment of Shaikh in the Fort of Gawaliar from 1619-1620. His exemplary character and teachings revolutionized the life of the criminals who came into contact with him in the jail and became pious Muslims. In prison he also converted to Islam several hundred idolaters who were his companions ih the same prison. Allama Iqbal, the poet-philosopher of Islam, pays appropriate tributes to the Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi in Bal-e-Jabril when he says:
Whose neck did not bend before Jahangir,
Whose breath warms the hearts of freedom fighters.
He was the protector of Islamic faith in India,
One who was alarmed by God at the right moment.
At last wisdom dawmed upon Jahangir and Shaikh was released. The king befriended arıd respected the Shaikh. He listened to his advices. After Maghrib prayers the king would grant him special audience where Shaikh would talk about religious affairs with Jahangir. He asked his son Shah Jahan to become a spiritual disciple of the Shaikh. Jahangir had himself requested the Shaikh to remain with the Imperial army. The Shaikh complied and preached true lslam among the troops which greatly contributed to enhancing the moral of armed forces as well as prepared them for their duties towards Islam and the State.”
Some of the so-called and time-server mystics and scholars interpreted Shariat in their own interest and thus spread ignorance among the masses. One example to bow down before him. When Mujaddid came to know of it he wrote a letter to Nizam and warned him on that atheistic practice. In Akbar’s age, the moral degradation of Muslims, which resulted in the distortion of Islam, was caused mainly by the Wrong concept of utilization of political powers on the part of the King and his clique. I was supported and supplemented by the so-called scholars and mystics who were opportunists and paid only lip-deep service to Islam. The Mujaddid directed his efforts towards the nobles and rich people and through them to the Ruler. Letters and messages were sent to them exhorting 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.
At last Mujaddid succeeded in his efforts. Jahangir cancelled all those orders of his father which were against the spirit of islam and thus he came to an ignoble end.
Mujaddid and Theory of Wahdat-ush-Shuhud The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw the introduction of many new elements into Islam in India. One was conflict between the followers and opponents of wahdat-ul-wujud, embittered by the arrival of the discip!es of Shaikh Alaud Daula Simnani (1261-1336), the great Irani opponent of Ibn al-Arabi. In contradiction to Ibn al-Arabi’s theory, Alaud Daula said that Being cannot be identified with God; it is distinct from His essence although eternally inherent in Him. He believed that wahdat-ul-wujud was the initial stage in the development of sufism, the final stage being his own theory of wahdat-ush-shuhud (Unity of Perception). He urged his followers to lead an active life of missionary work, and strongly denounced the quiet and passive life of the khanqah.
Among his band of followers Mujaddid was a prominent figure in the subcontinent. Mujaddid had first attained the experience of monism, wahdat-ul-wujud, in which he felt that he existed only in God and had no existence of his own. Then he advanced to a stage where he felt that his existence was a shadow of the existence of God, separate from His existence as the shadow is separate from the substance. He proceeded further in the development of his mystic consciousness until he felt that his existence was different from the existence of God, dependent upon God’s will for it’s being, subservient to God, yet separate. If he was separate, how had he felt unity with him? The first experience was the result of his false imagination; because of his love for God and his intense desire, he had been so submerged in emotion that he had come to feel that he was not separate from him. This is what he felt but that did not make it the reality, monism is not the reality, it is only a feeling, an experience. Hence the wahdat, unity is not wujudi, in existence, but shuhudi , in experience or feeling.
However, the Chishti traditions of wahdat-ul-wujud were too strong for Mujaddid, and his opposition to Ibn Al Arabi’s thought did not find much popularity. In addition to this, as the theory of wahdat-ush-shuhud was orthodox religious approach and took the approval harmony between Hindus and Muslims.