The following article, “How Did the Reform Movement of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi Influence the History of Muslim India?“, is written by Safina Naz, a student of Sir Syed Kazim Ali. Moreover, the article is written on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. Sir Kazim has uploaded his students’ solved past paper questions so other thousands of aspirants can understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.
2- A brief overview of the prevailing circumstances of the subcontinent
- ✓Elevation of the anti-Islamic concepts like, Deen-e-Ilahi, Bhakti movements, Policy of Sulh-i-Kul, and Infallibility Decree
3- The contributions of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhandi to the revival of the Muslim India
- ✓Elimination of Bid’at
- Case in point: Reference to ‘Kitab wa Sunnah’to eliminate the acts of innovation
- ✓Reversion of the reconciliation of Islam with other religions
- Case in point: Negation of Akbar’s concepts through his effective writings and teachings, reflecting ‘True Islamic Ideologies’
- ✓Elimination of the religious Incarnation’s concept
- Case in point: Introduction of an orthodox theory of ‘Wahdat-ul-Shuhood’, contrary to the heterodox theory of ‘Wahdat-ul-Wujood’
- ✓Emphasis on the Islamic law and Shariah
- Case in point: Propagation for the entailment of Shariah and re-imposition of Islamic laws, like Jizya, on the Hindus
4- Critical Analysis
Answer to the Question
The credit for the revivalism of Islam and the propagation of true practices of Islamic culture in the heterodox era of the Mughal emperor Akbar goes to Sheikh Ahmed Sirhandi, who was a major figure and also the most controversial one among the Ulamas during the Mughal period. Undoubtedly, his conspicuous role in that era led to the reversion of Muslims from a deep state of pluralism into a bright future, paving the way for the coming generations in the light of ‘Shariah’. He left great impacts on the religious as well as political views of the Muslim population, which can be further observed particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries. His greatest achievement was the elimination of Bid’at as it was, under no consequences, acceptable in the Quran and Hadith. Furthermore, as an alternative to Wahdat-ul-Wujood, he presented his doctrine, Wahdat-ul-Shahood, to keep the Muslims intact to their Islamic beliefs. He also guided the rulers to implement Quran teachings and Sunnah for the well-being of Muslim society, which reflects his audacious and orthodoxical efforts in the history of Muslim India. This answer sheds light on the impacts of Sheikh Ahmed’s reforming movements on Muslim India.
A brief overview of the prevailing circumstances of the subcontinent
To encapsulate the situation of the Mughal period, the reign of liberal emperors inculcated a tense, chaotic atmosphere where concepts like pluralism and rationalism prevailed. Along with an air of adulterated Sufism, Bid’at was instilled throughout the society, which entangled the Islamic beliefs with the beliefs of other religions. A prominent event demonstrating the whole situation of that era is Deen-e-Ilahi by Akbar, where he openly merged all the existing religions of India and tried to promulgate a new religion of his own. Although he faced extreme criticism from religious scholars as they perceived this act of Akbar from the perspective of political interests for expanding his power and regime, he also implemented some anti-Islamic policies. He banned the use of names like Mohammad and Ahmed. Moreover, the Bhakti Movements, Policy of Sulh-i-kul, and Infallibility Decree were the most famous attempts by Akbar, which staggered the foundations of Islam for a very long period in the subcontinent.
Contributions of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhandi for the revival of Muslim India
Elimination of Bid’at
As mentioned earlier, the acts of Bid’at and karamaat prevailed immensely during the Mughal rules, which were highly unacceptable by the mystics and religious scholars of that era. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhandi stepped in to rescue the Muslim ideology and tried to overcome the misconceptions about the innovations in Deen e Islam. His relationship with Naqshbandya Silsila depicted that he was an orthodox mystic whose sole purpose was to purify Islam from the undesired changes made by rulers, even the diverted Muslims of that period. So, to condemn the act of Bid’at and revive the strict application of orthodoxy, he referred to Kitab wa Sunnah, where it is mentioned, “He who invents something false that has no linkage with the religion of Islam is forbidden.” Thus, he made his point of view very clear and, ultimately, guided the Muslims to the right path of the Quran and Sunnah.
Reversion of reconciliation of Islam with other religions
Akbar’s liberal timeline compelled Mujaddad Alf Sani to emerge as a protector of the religion Islam. Regarding the prevailing non-Islamic activities, Sheikh stood against the changes in the cultural and religious sections. Contrary to Deeni-Ilahi’s concept of Akbar, which immensely propelled the integration of the religions, Sheikh Ahmed negated the blurred concepts of the emperors effectively through his writings and teachings, reflecting Sunnah and true Islamic ideologies. He worked untiringly to oppose the incorporation of Islam with other religions and advised the rulers to inculcate religious means. Hence, it is fair enough to say that he reformed the distortions done by Deen-i-Ilahi and promoted Islamic teachings through the Quran and Sunnah.
Elimination of the Religious Incarnation’s concept
In the time of Mughal emperors, Wahdat-ul-Wajood, a theory proposed by Sheikh Ibn-e-Arbi, was seen to get fame and acceptance from every religious account of the liberalism of the Mughal emperors. Akbar admired this school of thought a lot, yet another reason behind his affiliation was the influence of the Faizi Brothers. This doctrine, respectively, gave rise to the amalgamation of different sects and religions and united them ideologically. Similarly, the Infallibility Decree of Akbar portrayed a superior and authoritative image of Akbar. Alternative to this, Sheikh Ahmed introduced his theory, Wahdat-ul-Shuhood, to condemn the excessive misleading of the previous unauthentic theories and proposed the outlook of ‘Tauheed’, which utterly clarified the oneness of Allah to all Muslims, specifically to the Elites. Thus, Sheikh Ahmed’s doctrine holds great significance in the reversion of Muslims from the harsh circumstances of the mixed religions.
Emphasis on the Islamic law and Shariah
Under the severe deteriorating conditions of Muslim India day by day, Sheikh Ahmed got stuck on the belief that deviant rulers and their unethical concepts were the reason for the elevation of Islamic poverty. However, he propounded to entail Shariah and Islamic laws to counter the depressing situation of that time. Further, he was so in favour of separatism between the Hindus and Muslim communities that he was determined to re-impose the Jizya on the Hindus. He demanded the destruction of the Hindu temples for the sake of their retraction. To add more, he enlightened the differences between Muslims and Hindus, which was seen to be a heavy blow to the Two-Nation Theory. He always emphasized the need for a true ruler to propagate true Islamic reforms only, as in his words, “If we are unable to find such an aul-al-Umar, the society will fall prey to anarchy.”
To critically analyze the debate, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhandi holds great importance and status in the history of Muslim India as his determined efforts led to the inculcation of religious reforms in the region. He tackled the heterodox environment around him so calmly and effectively that even the Great Ruler, Akbar’s Doctrines, could not last long before him. Nevertheless, it is a fact that revolutionists always have to face the music; akin to this, he had to go through a lot of hurdles during his lifetime to bring the revolution that he always wanted to see in Muslim India, and his achievements as a revivalist of the Islam and Shariah can never be ignored till eternity. As Hazrat Khwaja Baqi Billah stated very aptly about his beloved disciple, “Sheikh Ahmed is such a light that will illuminate the whole world.”
In a nutshell, the great reformer, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhandi’s immense efforts are clearly visible from the resurgence of the Islamic religion and its retrieval from the evil trap of the Mughal’s imperialistic approach for decades. Moreover, Sheikh never came to the frontline of political conflicts. Yet, he endeavoured conspicuously for the restoration of Islamic thoughts and compelled the Muslims, exclusively the Elite, to follow Shariah and Sunnah. He stepped forward, showed great courage against Akbar’s Deen-e-Ilahi, and worked splendidly to renew faith and belief in the Quran and Sunnah. Thus, it is very much correct to conclude that his reformist movements ultimately inaugurated a society where Muslim India flourished, and Islam emerged and prospered in its true essence, which can be witnessed today.
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