Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi Mujaddid-i alf-i thani (revivalist of the second millennium) was born in 971/1563 in Sirhind (East Punjab, India). His family lineage joins with that of Amir ul-Mu’mineen ‘Umar the second Great Caliph of Islam at the 29th tier of the genealogical order. He learnt Philosophy, logic and the Traditional sciences from his father Shaykh ‘Abd-al-Ahad (d. 1007/1598) and other scholars of the time including Mawlana Kamal al-din Kashmiri, Mawlana Muhammad Yaqub Kashmiri and Qazi Bahlul Badakhshi. He acquired proficiency in these disciplines and sciences when he was only seventeen years of age. He arrived in the capital city Akbarabad in 998/1589. Here he met the two famous personalities of the Royal Court of Akbar, Shaykh Abu al-Fazl (d. 1010/1601) and his brother Shaykh Abu al-Fayz Fayzi (d. 1004/1595). He also helped Fayzi in compiling his Tafsir Sawati ‘al-llham. He carried along with them for a good time but when they drifted and deviated from the established norms of Sharia (Islamic Law) he parted company with them at grave risk of his own future ambitions for the cause and uplift of the mission of Islam in its true pristine and uncorrupted form.
Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi had permission to impart and enlist in various chains of mystic orders, notably in the Silsila-i-Chishtiya from his father Shaykh Abdul Ahad (d. 1007/1598), in the Silsila-i-Naqshbandiyya from Khawaja Muhammad Baqibillah (d. 1012/1603) and in Silsila-i-Qadiriyya from Shah Kamal Kaythali (d. 981/1573). Khawaja Baqibillah acknowledged and appreciated the spiritual accomplishments of Shaykh Mujaddid and showed honour and reverences on him as befit the Shaykh or the head of the Silsila.
He started the mission of social reforms for the benefit and uplift of the masses within the criterion of Sharia. During the reign of King Akbar (963/1556—-1014/1605) he carried on his mission with resolute despite the displeasure of the Royal Court. The rest of the Mughal emperor’s rule was the period of the Mujaddid’s strenuous endeavors in his grand mission; but real success eluded him till after the end of Akbar’s rule and it was in the reign of Emperor Jahangir (1014/1605—-1037/1628) that his endeavours bore fruit. He had cordial relations with the ministers and other dignitaries of the Royal Court. The familiarly and acquiescence of the royal personages afforded him grand opportunities, not secretly but in the full knowledge of the king, for the dissemination of his mission which attracted a large segment of the general public and maintained the affairs of the government. He was made the target of Emperor Jahangir’s fury by those who held enmity towards him at the Royal Court. Hence, Jahangir had the Mujaddid imprisoned at Gawalior Fort for one year (1028-1029 AH). Afterwards he felt ashamed and released the Mujaddid awarding him some valuable gifts. Henceforth Emperor Jahangir kept him in his company (1618-24-1028-34) along with other ministers and high officials of the State. This provided the Shaykh the facility and opportunity to carry on his mission with calmness and rectitude in enlightening the people with the teachings of Islam. He brought about a revolution and reformation in the timeworn attitude and behaviour of the people, and presented before them the pristine and sacrosanct teachings of the Divine Religion of Islam. This resulted in an unbelievable transformation in their social and personal life. In other words, he proved to be the real ‘Mujaddid’ (revivalist) or a ‘vanguard’ of the great revolution of revivalism, which paved the way for the onward advancement of the Divine mission of peace and tranquility on earth.
He continued his efforts for the establishment of an Islamic state (in India); non co-operation with non-Muslims (as their presence or inclusion) in any exclusive and purely Islamic revivalism might encourage them under some alien influence to sabotage the movement. He also worked tirelessly for the establishment of Muslim India. He rendered invaluable services in the fields of Sharia (Islamic Law), and Tariqa (mystic interpretation and application of Qur’an and Sunna), politics, government, social and economics reforms. The people in general as well as the well-to do among them were drifting away from the Sharia and falling prey to un-Islamic ceremonies and rituals. The Mujaddid, through his scholastic dissertations, mutual conversations and letters to inquisitive personalities of the country, transformed the thinking and modes of behaviour of the people and brought them round the norms of Sharia and thus showed them the line of guidance and liberation from the darkness of transgression to which they had fallen; if it were not for the timely deliverance by the great Mujaddid they would have become the victims of evil and liable to serious accountability not only in this world but also the hear after.
The dismal picture of the drift from the right path was not only confined to the laymen but the men who claimed to be the Sufis and saints were also the unwilling victims of unsaintly and blind emulators of customary and ritual practices borrowed from non-Muslim neighbours and comrades in professions, and thus tarnished the fair visage of Islam and its Divine revealed teachings. Such persons were salvaged from the path of deceptive practices and brought back to the pristine track of righteousness by the constant persuasive endeavours of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi.
On the pathways of scholastic ideologies, the situation was not all that rosy. The two broad based concepts of Wahdat al-Wujud (unity of existence) and Wahdat al-Shuhud (unity of witnessing), were intermingled and confounded in a manner and on a pattern that led many unwary participants to the blind alleys in which lay only darkness. The Shaykh not only cleared the confusion regards this but also convinced the truth-seekers that true deliverance lay in the correct understanding and adherence to the ideology of Wahdat al-Shuhud rather than that in the Wahdat al-Wujud, which latter worked as an intoxicant to the self-seeker, while the former (Wahdat al-Shuhud) opened the mental perspective to witness and admire the colour and beauty scattered all over the expanse of nature and the universe. Incidentally this was the ideological concept (Wahdat al-Shahud) interpreted and propounded by Mujaddid-i alf-i thaniwhich attracted and influenced the ideological outlook of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1357/1938) and which prompted the great poet to consolidate the foundational base of his Islamic philosophy (specially the concept of Khudi) and arouse the slumbering intelligentsia to truer and more lasting reality of wakefulness and persistent endeavours for the success of Divine Message of Prosperity of the humanity at large. It is, therefore not wrong to say that had there been no Mujaddid there would have been no Iqbal. Mujaddid-i alf-i thani was the ideological goal of Iqbal as also his everlasting desire, eager to be fulfilled as a thirsty tavern visitor looks at the cupbearer to quench his thirst!
In the fields of Politics and administrative governance of the country which was based on nationality rather than foresight and performance, the Mujaddid’s vision had a negative impact on Emperor Akbar’s Hindu/Muslim one nation theory, and affirmed the separatist entity of Hindus and Muslims constituting two national entities rather than the one envisaged by Akbar; this in due course of time became the famous ‘Two Nation Theory’ which led to the Freedom Movement in the sub-continent and the ultimate emergence of Pakistan in 1366/1947 as a sovereign Islamic state. In a sense he gave a fresh and renewed impetus to the everlasting irreconcilable entities of Islam and Kufr (disbelief) or Muslim and Non-Muslim religious-cum-political blocs on the surface of the globe. This theory or ideology gained momentum and expansion with time and latter on great personalities took up the cause of Muslims. Amongst whom were Shah Wali Allah (d. 1176-1762), Ahmad Riza Khan Bareilwi (d. 1340/1921), Dr. Iqbal (d. 1357/1938) and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (d. 1367/1948).
The efforts of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi bore fruits during the time of Emperor Jahangir whom at the behest of the great Shaykh appointed a commission to manage and regulate the affairs of the state in accordance to Islamic Law. This commission comprised the learned scholars of the time. Hence, this reduced the influence and intervention of non-Muslim officials in state problems particularly those related to Islamic jurisprudence and other sacred laws. This also led to the gradual but sustained disintegration of infra communal Institutions under the auspices of the state and the Muslim establishment came to be recognized as a separate and self-existing entity. This helped the growth and expansion of Muslim society and Islam as a religion flourished far and wide till by the time of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir (d. 1068-1658/1118-1706) the endeavours by the great Mujaddid and his sons reached the zenith of their success. Emperor Alamgir himself was the mystic disciple of Khawaja Muhammad Ma’sum (d. 1079/1668) who was the son of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi and received spiritual guidance and enlightenment from Khawaja Sayf al-Din the son of Khwaja Ma‘sum. Undoubtedly the Mujaddid dynasty left a permanent impact on the Mugal Empire and on the thought process of Muslim intellectual and religious scholars. It also brought about the great revolution in spiritual and intellectual patterns of the Muslim establishment. Dr. Iqbal has rightly proclaimed the Mujaddid as the guardian patron of Islamic culture and education in India, who was endowed with a foresight which guarded the Islamic treasure of knowledge and warned the Muslim nation of the pitfalls that lay ahead, so as to make precautions to offset and thwart the impending dangers.
After having accomplished his revivalist and reformatory mission he bade farewell to Emperor Jahangir (in 1033/1624) and came back to Sirhind were he undertook solitary confinement which consumed the remaining days of his auspicious life in the remembrance of Almighty Allah and prayer for the unity and sustained development of the Muslim people, whom had yet to pass through graver and more complex trails and tribulations for the cause of Islam and its own survival in the land of uncertainties that was the Indian subcontinent.
After a few months he left this mortal world on 28th Safar 1034/1624. He was survived among others by his two illustrious sons Khawaja Muhammad Sa’id(d. 1070/1660) and Khawaja Muhammad Ma’sum(d. 1079/1668) at whose door steps the princes of the Royal Family proudly paid their respect and homage and whose patronage the rulers regarded as a great honour and privilege.
The marvels of his authorship are the famous Maktubat (letters) which run into three volumes and are invaluable treasures of enlightenment and wisdom, continuously shedding the Divine Light which Khawaja Baqibillah had observed, this Light reached far and wide illuminating the nooks and corners of its own dissemination.