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Despite the promulgation of Akbar’s un-Islamic rituals and the negative role of Ulama-i-su, Shiekh Ahmed Sihindi changed the religiopolitical history of the Indian sub-continent through his tireless efforts to censure un-Islamic practices and preach the actual teaching of Islam. Consequently, he rejuvenated the Muslims, which later laid down the foundation of the two-nation theory.
- Historical background of the sub-continent during his era
✓Abolition of Jizya
✓ Formation of Ibadat Khana
✓ Proclamation of Akbar’s Din-i-Ilahi
✓ Mis-interpretation of Wahdat-ul-Wajood
✓ Innovation in the religion
✓ Demolition of mosques
✓ Widespread belief in Karamat
✓ Ban on cow slaughter
✓ Hindu dominance at the important offices and their revivalist movements
- Influence of Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi’s reform movement
- Religious influence
✓ Restoration of Jizya
✓ Ceased innovation in religion
✓ Reconstruction of mosques
✓ Restoration of cow slaughtering
✓ Restoration of Quran and Sunnah’s teachings
✓ Reviving people’s interest in Shariyat
✓ Reshaped the religious outlook of the ruling class
✓ Enunciation of Wahdat-ush-Shahud
- Political influence
✓ Set the foundation of Two Nation Theory
✓ Effect on the Mughal court’s Royal decrees
✓ Opposed Hindu dominance and their revivalist movement
- Social influence
✓ Prohibited the intermarriages
✓ Prohibited mixing of Muslim-Hindu culture
- Critical Analysis
Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, popularly known as Mujaddid-Alf-I-Thani, is one of the most influential reformers who altered the destiny of the Muslims of the sub-continent through his revivalist movements. He had not only changed the religious outlook of the Muslims, which was greatly distorted by Akbar’s un-Islamic policies but also helped them to change their social and political perspective. He blatantly opposed the un-Islamic practices, such as Din-i-Ilahi, innovation in religion, misinterpretation of Wahdat-ul-Wajood, and formation of Ibadat khana to revive the religiously, socially, and politically degenerated Muslims. Moreover, he compelled the Muslims to follow the true teaching of Islam and avoid widespread belief in Karamat detrimental to the very existence of the Muslim society. Therefore, despite Akbar’s un-Islamic policies and the opposing role of his courtiers and Ulama-e-su, Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi, through his strenuous efforts, changed the religiopolitical outlook of the Muslim society in an era that was becoming secular and laid down the foundation of the Two-Nation Theory.
The un-Islamic policies of Akbar, regardless of strengthening the Mughal empire, had severely affected the then-Muslim society religiously, socially, and politically. Forming ibadat-khana- a place of worship where Ulema and mystics of different religions used to participate- and marrying Hindu ladies by Akbar was the first step in bringing un-Islamic practices to the court. As Mullah Abdul Qadir wrote in his book about Ibadat-Khana, “They used to start a war of words and openly used to call each other Kafir and Heretic”. The Hindu wives used to bring pigs to the court and offer their customs and rituals as well, which became part of the state. Besides, the promulgation of Din-i-Ilahi- the religion of God, abolition of Jizya- a tax paid by non-Muslims, innovation in religion, misinterpretation of Wahdat-ul-Wajood- unity of existence, and cessation of cow slaughtering were the major un-Islamic policies of Akber’s regime. Furthermore, widespread belief in Karamat, inter-marriages between Muslims and Hindus, and the dominance of Hindus over important offices and their revivalist movements had greatly affected the teaching of Islam and its superiority. Thus, the Mughal empire and Muslim society as a whole were in darkness due to Akbar’s anti-Islamic policies, and that was the time when Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi appeared for the revival of the Muslims of the subcontinent.
Influence of Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi’s reform movement
Though the religious outlook of the Muslims during Akbar’s era was spoiled entirely due to Akbar’s un-Islamic policies, the reform movements of Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi have kindled the light in the life of Muslims to change their religious outlook. For that, he started preaching the true teaching of the Quran and Sunnah and blatantly opposed Akbar’s un-Islamic policies. In addition, he also began writing letters, called Makhtobat-e-Imam Rabbani, to the nobles and courtiers of the Mughal court. Consequently, he successfully neutralized Akbar’s work and influenced his successor’s mentality towards unorthodox Islam. He considered the ruler as a ‘soul’ and the people as a ‘body’ and said, “if the soul goes wrong, the body is bound to go astray.” Due to Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi’s influence, the later Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jehan promulgated numerous Islamic ordinances, which Akbar vitiated. He restored Jizya, ceased innovation-Bid’at, reconstructed mosques, restored the Quran and Sunnah teachings, restored cow slaughtering, and revived people’s interest in Shariyat. Moreover, the proclamation of Wahdat-ush-Shahud opposing the concept of Wahdat-ul-Wajood greatly influenced Muslim beliefs. Thus, Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi’s efforts revitalized the true teachings of Islam, changed Jahangir’s religious views, and purified the religious life of the Muslims.
Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi’s strenuous efforts not only changed the religious sphere but also left an imperishable mark on the political outlook of the Muslims of the subcontinent. Though he was never involved directly in politics, his preaching influenced the political sphere as well and set the foundation of the Two-Nation Theory. His teachings and letters to the Mughal courtiers influenced to a great extent the later Mughal emperors’ views about Islam and affected their decisions. Moreover, he believed the dominance of the Hindus in high offices and their revivalist movement- the Bakhti movement- could further affect the court’s religious values and endanger the separate identity of the Muslims as a nation. Therefore, he fought against Akbar and Hindus’ un-Islamic policies to protect the Muslims’ separate identity and religious values. Although, despite all the negative situations, Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi did his best to get the Muslims out of these crises and paved the way for the coming reformers to do their best in their political realm.
Despite his enormous contribution to the religious and political sphere, Shiekh Ahmed Sihindi played a crucial role in changing the social outlook of the then Muslims, which was at its lowest ebb. The intermarriages between the Muslims and Hindus were the major reason behind the social degeneration of the Muslims, in addition to leaving Islamic teachings. Moreover, mixing Hindu and Muslim cultural values was another threat to the very existence of the Muslim society’s social norms. Therefore, he, along with his colleagues, moved mountains and succeeded in overcoming the un-Islamic practices. Allama Iqbal considered him the Guardian of the Muslim Millah in India and said
He the Guardian of the estate of Millah in India
Whom Allah awakened at the right time
The one who did not bow his head to Jahangir
Whose warm breath lends heat to the freemen
Reformer of the second millennium, Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi, undoubtedly saved the Indian Muslims from the religious, political and social downfall at the time when Akbar’s un-Islamic brutal policies based on political gains had let the society to lost its prestige. The promulgation of Din-i-Ilahi, the negative role of Ulama-i-su, and innovation in religion distorted the religious and social outlook of the Muslims and, above all, endangered the separate identity of the Muslims. Furthermore, the dominance of Hindus at the high offices and their reform movement, the Bakhti movement, have further aggravated the already fragile situation of the Muslims. However, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi worked hard to revive and rejuvenate the true teaching of Islam and succeeded in achieving it, which helped the Muslims gain their lost prestige. So, it would not be wrong to consider him not only a religious scholar but also a social and political reformer who paved the way for the upcoming reformers to regain the lost glory of Islam.
To conclude, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, popularly known as ‘Mujaddid Alf-i- Sani’, was not only a scholar but also a reformer. He played a crucial role in regaining the lost glory of the Muslim society by focusing on the teaching of the Quran and Sunnah. He protected society from the un-Islamic Hindu practice, which was detrimental to the Muslims’ thoughts and beliefs. At that time, numerous un-Islamic practices had become part of the society due to the promulgation of Din-i-Ilahi, a new religion. Moreover, the anti-Islamic role of Ulam-e-Su, the worldly Ulema, had added fuel to Akbar’s ideology of having one religion for all. That was the time when he appeared and brought back the Shariyat to society through his teachings. He wrote a number of letters to nobles of the Mughal court and stressed upon them to follow the true teachings of Islam. The teaching of Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi undoubtedly influenced the officials and the upcoming Mughal rulers. As a result, the idea of the Two-Nation Theory emerged among Muslims that culminated in a separate homeland.
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