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The Reform movement of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi transformed society according to the teachings of the Quran, Shariat, and Sunnah; as a result, the then Muslims started practising Islamic customs and traditions in their lives by creating an unbridgeable gap between Islam and Hinduism. Thus, his different religious enactment laid down the notion of the Two-Nation Theory.
✓ Controversial Policies of Mughal emperor Akbar
✓ Believing in supernatural powers
✓ Practicing un-Islamic values
✓ Proclamation of Wahadat-ul-Wujud
✓ Neutralizing the effect of Din-i-IIlahi, an amalgamation of Muslim and Hindu Beliefs
✓ Criticizing innovation (Bid’at) in religion
✓ Imposing Shariat in society and emphasizing on actual teachings of Islam
✓ Transforming broad-minded Emperors and the people of the court into devout Muslims
✓ Slaughtering of cows by the Muslims of India
✓ Forbidding intermarriages between Hindus and Muslims
✓ Emerging the concept of Two-Nation Theory
✓ The re-imposition of Jiziya and Pilgrimage tax
Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, the reviver of the second millennium, was born in 971 A.H, remoulded the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent. He had to go through fire and water to rejuvenate Islam and rid it of the Hindu Pantheism by denouncing the controversial policies, like Sulh-i-Kul, peace with all religions; the then newly born deen, Deen-i-Elahi; the widespread belief in karamat; miracles of the saints; and the notion about Wahadat-ul-Wujud, which implies that there is no difference between man and the creator of man. Furthermore, he revitalized the Naqshbandiyah order, which retained its influence among Muslims in India and Central Asia for several centuries thereafter, neutralizing the work of Akbar, introducing the philosophy of Wahadat-ul-Shahud, and changing the mentality of his successors towards orthodox Islam. However, the result of his religious and political efforts for the cause of Islam laid the first stone of the Two Nation Theory, and the Muslim society had been protected from the anti-Islamic values, detrimental to the very existence of the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent. Still and all, on definite grounds, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi- commonly renowned as Mujadid Alif Sani– had considered himself more than a guardian and a renovator of religion who had projected Islam at the turn of the second millennium. In one of his letters Shaikh Ahmad writes,
“We should know that after every hundred years there has been a Mujaddid in Islam. But there is a great difference between the Mujaddid of the century and the Mujaddid of the millennium. These two types of mujaddids are as different to each other as there is a difference between a hundred and a thousand. It is the Mujaddid of the millennium through whom the followers of Islam, whether the saints of their times, receive God’s favours and blessing.”
Practising Hindu customs at the time of the Mughal era became part of the Muslim creed, and on the other hand, the commandments of Shariat and Sunnah were also being floated miserably. Moreover, the controversial policies of Mughal emperor Akbar, such as Sulh-i-Kul, initiated un-Islamic practices in the sub-continent, and the philosophy of Wahadat-ul-Wujud exploited many heretical customs and practices in United India. Apart from this, the non-Islamic values and belief in supernatural powers became a common tradition. Hence, it was the crying need of time that there should appear a man who might have the boldness to oppose the worship of the Emperor by refusing to bow before him and revive the true spirit of Islam in the sub-continent.
Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, indeed, purified the Muslim society from the accretions of Hindu Pantheism. According to the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, “if someone invents something false which has no linkage with the religion of Islam is forbidden”. However, Muslims in India became deficient in knowledge and started believing in miracles rather than the teachings of Islam. Moreover, Tauhid-e-Ilahi or Din-i-Ilahi, an amalgamation of Muslim and Hindu Beliefs, proclaimed by Akbar for his political gains had devastative impacts on the Muslims of India. Muslims started adopting rituals of Hindu culture, and the Islamic teachings had been vitiated by adopting customs and practices of other religions. Therefore, for the welfare of society, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi criticized innovation in religion, the main cause for the change in Islamic values. Hence, by neutralizing the effect of newborn religion and saving the Muslim society from dogmatism and secular beliefs of unorthodox mystics, Mujadid Alif Sani started social reforms that were purely based on Sunnah and Shariat. Nevertheless, in this way, Din-i-Elahi and innovations in the religion came to an ignoble end, and the Muslims started living their lives according to the teachings of the Holy Quran thereafter. Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi writes,
“As you know better than in the previous regime all types of darkness and disturbances were only because of the avarice of the ulama-i-Su”
Apart from it, Mujadid Alif Sani had a great role in bridging the gap between the religious and political history of the then Muslims. According to Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi was the only person during the period of the Mughal era who is responsible for the revival of Islam in its true sense. Moreover, in the reign of Akbar, preaching Islamic teachings in the Mughal court changed the thinking of the Mughal emperor, and the outlook of the Muslim nobility also changed due to his reform movement. Furthermore, in response to his restoration and revival of Islam, prostration before the emperor was banned, and permission to slaughter cows had also been given to the Muslims of India. Similarly, intermarriages, which were the main source for the amalgamation of Islam and Hinduism, and the age limit imposed by King Akbar were also abolished. With that, all the Islamic rituals became part and parcel of society, which are being practised by all the Muslims of the world till now. Hence, without any doubt, the untiring efforts of Mujadid Alif Sani not only transformed the Mughal society into an Islamic state but also paved the way for other Muslim scholars to spread Islam in a legitimate way. The Shaikh declared,
“The King being on the right path means that the world is on the right path; his waywardness is the waywardness of the whole world.”
Furthermore, Shiekh Ahmed Sirhindi never took part in politics in his whole life, but his teachings proved to the Muslims that they were a separate nation from Hindus. He himself was a staunch believer that the Muslims and the Hindus both have separate identities. With reference to food, culture, dress, origin, history and the way of life, Muslims and Indians were poles apart. Moreover, to put down the practice of infidelity in the Indian sub-continent, Jizya– a tax inflicted on non-muslims for the security of their lives- was re-imposed on the non-believers, abolished in 1579 which was undoubtedly a fallacious act by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Nevertheless, the influence of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi opened the way for the coming reformers, like Shah Walli Ullah, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Allama Iqbal and others in the political arena, and as a result, Islam came out of its agony after more than a half century’s of struggle, and the Muslims heaved a sigh of relief.
In a powerful diagnosis, promulgating the Islamic rules and establishing the supremacy of Islam in the sub-continent by Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi encountered the fabricated policies of Akbar, solely based on political grounds instead of religious ones. In the words of Professor Nizami, “They had opened the door of darkness through the charm of ijtihad, the interpretation of the Divine laws, and Bidat-i Hasana, the pious innovations.” Moreover, newness in the religion was ruled out of a society which was the reason to produce a number of evils in the name of Islam. However, according to Sirhindi, it is a virtue to exalt Sunnah instead of innovation in religion, and a nation inventing innovation in religion is deprived of the analogy of Sunnah. Thus, it was the result of the strenuous efforts of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi that turn the tide and caused a huge social change in the subcontinent.
In the final analysis, reinstating the supremacy of Islam in the sub-continent by Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi was continued after his death by his sons and other emperors. Shah Jahan – faith defending emperor- and Aurangzeb had played a vital role to ensure Shariat and teachings of the Quran in the Indian sub-continent. Moreover, to purify Islam and bring it in accord with the Shariat and Sunnah, the rules of orthodox Islam in the administration were restored, bringing change in the lives of the people. Furthermore, Muslim society had been protected from un-Islamic values, and fortunately, the numerous evils that had been generated by the people of the Mughal court due to the attachment to worldly gains were also abolished. Hence, it is rightly said that Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi was not only a great scholar but also a social reformer who transformed society on the basis of Islamic principles.
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