Ahmad Sirhindi: Wikis


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Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi
Full name Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi
Born 1561
Died 1624 (Lived 63 years)
Era Mughal era
Region Islamic philosopher/scholar
School Sunni Islam,
Main interests Implementation of Islamic Law, Islamic Statehood
Notable ideas Evolution of Islamic philosophy, Application of Sharia, Priority of Sharia over Sufism

Imām-i Rabbānī Shaykh Ahmad al-Farūqī al-Sirhindī (1564–1624) was an Indian Islamic scholar from Punjab and a prominent member of the Naqshbandī Sufi order. He is described as Mujaddid Alf Thānī, meaning the "reviver of the second millennium", for his work in rejuvenating Islam and opposing the heterodoxies prevalent in the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar.[2 ] He is said to have had considerable and longlasting influence in India and to have given "to Indian Islam the rigid and conservative stamp it bears today." [3]

Most of the Naqshbandī suborders today, such as the Mujaddidī, Khālidī, Saifī, Tāhirī and Haqqānī sub-orders, trace their spiritual lineage through Shaykh Sirhindi, often referring to themselves as "Naqshbandī-Mujaddidī".

Sirhindi's shrine is located in Sirhind.


Early life and education

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was born after midnight, on 14 Shawwal 971 H. in the village of Sirhind near the city of Chandigarh in present-day India. From an ashraf family claiming descent from caliph Umar, he received most of his early education from his father, Shaykh 'Abd al-Ahad and memorised the Qur'an. He was then sent to Sialkot, at present in Pakistan, where he learned logic, philosophy and theology and read some advanced texts of tafsīr and hadīth before he returned home.[4] Sirhindi also made rapid progress in the Suhrawardī, the Qadirī, and the Chistī turūq, and was given permission to initiate and train followers at the age of 17. He eventually joined the Naqshbandī order through the Sufi missionary Shaykh Muhammad al-Baqī, and became a leading master of this order. His deputies traversed the length and breadth of the Mughal Empire in order to popularize the order and eventually won some favour with the Mughal court.[5]

Sirhindi's world view


Movement for Revival of Islam

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi's preaching and revival was a reaction to the secular policies of Mughal emperor Akbar. He denounced Akbar's policy of sull-i kul (mixing all religions into one), and Akbar's reign as one where "the sun of guidance was hidden behind the veil of error." Sirhindi believed that "what is outside the path shown by the prophet (Sharia) is forbidden." He wrote, "Cow-sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices. The kafirs may probably agree to pay jiziya but they shall never concede to cow-sacrifice." [6]

However, Yohanan Friedmann has argued that there is no evidence that Sirhindi or his disciples spread "anti-Hindu sentiments wherever they went." [7]

Obedience to Muslim authority

Sirhindi in one of his letters outlined the importance of a Muslims loyalty to his state and his views on not striving against islamic authorities:

" A Muslim does not revolt against the government of the country where he lives. Nor does he engage in subversion. He keeps away from incendiary, anarchical people. He tries to correct his own belief, worships, habits and behaviors. He does not read books or magazines belonging to la-madhhabis and munafiqs. He tries to learn and teach the knowledge of Ahl as-sunnat. He does not bear malice towards anybody. He does not transgress against anyone's life, property, rights, chastity or honor. He leads a life in conformity with the Shariat and laws. All the above-said facts exist in true religious books written by scholars of Ahl as-sunnat."

Importance of Sharia v. Sufism

According to Simon Digby, "modern hagiographical literature emphasizes [Sirhindi's] reiterated profession of strict Islamic orthodoxy, his exaltation of the sharia and exhortations towards its observance."[8] On the other hand, Yohanan Friedmann questions how committed Sirhindi was to sharia, commenting: "it is noteworthy that while Sirhindi never wearies of describing the minutest details of Sufi experience, his exhortations to comply with the shariah remain general to an extreme." [9] Friedmann also claims "Sirhindi was primarily a Sufi interested first and foremost in questions of mysticism."[10]

Oneness of being (wahdat al-wujūd)

Sirhindi strongly opposed the mystical doctrine known as wahdat al-wujūd ('unity of being') or tawhīd-i wujūdi, a concept which emphasizes that in reality all things exist within God. Nonetheless, he did not hold a particularly unfavorable view of the sufi mystic and theoretician Muhyī 'l-Dīn ibn Arabī, who is often presented as the originator and most complete propounder of this philosophy. Sirhindi writes:

I wonder that Shaykh Muhyī 'l-Dīn appears in vision to be one of those with whom God is pleased, while most his ideas which differ from the doctrines of the People of truth appear to be wrong and mistaken. It seems that since they are due to error in kashf, he has been forgiven... I consider him as one of those with whom God is well-pleased; on the other hand, I believe that all his ideas in which he opposes (the people of truth) are wrong and harmful.[11]

In refuting the monistic position of wahdat al-wujūd, he instead advanced the notion of wahdat ash-shuhūd (oneness of appearance). According to this doctrine, the experience of unity between God and creation is purely subjective and occurs only in the mind of the Sufi who has reached the state of fana' fi Allah (extinction in God).[12]

Rejection of innovation (bid'ah)

Sirhindi opposed innovation, or bid'ah, in religion, and even rejected the concept of bid'ah hasanah or 'good innovation,' as stated in his Maktūbāt. Notably, he prohibited his followers from celebrating the Mawlid, a standard Sufi practice. Syed Abū 'l-Hasan Nadwī writes:

When he was asked whether there was any objection to such gatherings (Milad) if they were not attended by any ritual against the approved religious practices, he answered: "This poorling is of the opinion that unless this practice is completely given up, the interested persons would not cease taking advantage of it. If the practise is declared lawful, it would gradually lead to finding justification for other innovations also. Even a small mistake becomes a prelude to grave errors."[13]


Most famous of his works are a collection of 536 letters, collectively entitled Collected Letters or Maktubat, to the Mughal rulers and other contemporaries. It consists of three volumes. An elaborate printing of the book was accomplished in 1973 in Nazimabad, Karachi, Pakistan. It was reproduced by offset process in Istanbul, Turkey. A copy of the Persian version exists in the library of the Columbia University. Maktubat was rendered into the Arabic language by Muhammad Murad Qazanî, and the Arabic version was printed in two volumes in the printhouse called Miriyya and located in the city of Mekka. A copy of the Arabic version occupies number 53 in the municipality library in Bayezid, Istanbul. It was reproduced by offset process in 1963, in Istanbul. A number of the books written by Ahmad Sirhindi were reprinted in Karachi. Of those books, Ithbât-un-nubuwwa was reproduced by offset process in Istanbul in 1974. The marginal notes on the book, which is in Arabic, provide a biography of Ahmad Sirhindi.

Selections from the Maktubat of Ahmad Sirhindi

- May Haqq subhânahu wa ta’âlâ bless you with realization of your religious and worldly wishes! The medicine for protection against the harms of worldly flavours and transient blessings is to use them in a manner compatible with the Islam. In other words, it is to obey Allâhu ta’âlâ’s commands and prohibitions. Those flavours will be harmful if they are not utilized compatibly with the Islam. They will cause Allâhu ta’âlâ’s wrath and torment. Maximum possible abstinence from enjoying them is the safest course to follow for real and definite salvation. Those who cannot manage that degree of abstinence should use the medicine requisite for protection. Thereby they will be safe from their harms. Shame on those people who can neither manage the necessary abstinence nor protect themselves by using medicine and who, thereby, leave themselves vulnerable to patent disasters and afflictions in addition to a pathetic deprivation from eternal happiness! So pitiable are those people who succumb to the indulgences of their nafs and fail to enjoy the worldly flavours in manners and doses prescribed by the Islam, thereby divesting themselves of the felicitous and everlasting flavours of Paradise. Do they not know that Allâhu ta’âlâ sees all? Have they never heard that enjoyment of worldly blessings within the limits of moderation drawn by Islam is the only way of acquiring immunity from harms? There is the inevitable and imminent Judgment Day, when all the worldly activities of each and every person will be laid before them.

How lucky for those who have attained love of Allâhu ta’âlâ by abstaining from His prohibitions in the world, when the Promised Day comes! How lucky for those who do not succumb to the temptations of the sequinned worldly life, who fear their Rabb (Allâhu ta’âlâ) and curb their sensuous desires, who advise their household and their inferiors that they should perform their daily salâts steadily, how lucky for them! Salâms to those people who follow the way to felicity shown by Allâhu ta’âlâ and who adapt themselves to Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’!

— First Volume, 56th Letter, Maktubat of Ahmad Sirhindi

- Man’s own nafs is the most adamant obstructive curtain between man and Allâhu ta’âlâ. “Abandon thy nafs, and come to Me! Thy very self is the cloud hiding the sun thou art after! Know thyself,” says the divine Word. Pushing the nafs away from between requires a conscientious and delectable process. It cannot be described by words and writings. Nor is it something that can be learned by perusal. It has to be a gift that one was endowed with in the eternal past, and it has to be primed by the attraction of Allâhu ta’âlâ. Since we live in a world of causations, a Wali’s lecture will suffice, with the proviso that you should love the Walî. The more you love him, the more will you receive of the fayz and ma’rifats radiating from his heart, attaining perfection at the end. The hadith-i-sherîf which reads, “A person will be together with his beloved one,” expresses this fact.

— Second Volume, 29th Letter, Maktubat of Ahmad Sirhindi

- My dear son! The world is sweet in appearance, and yet venomous in essence. It is quite worthless. A person who is caught in its trap can never be free again. A person who dies with that poison is a mere carrion. It is madness to lose one’s heart to it. It is like sequinned filth, or sweetened poison. A wise person will not fall for such false and deceitful beauty. He will not set his heart on vicious and harmful pleasures. He will spend his sojourn in this life trying to find favour in his Owner’s eyes. He will earn what will be useful for him in the Hereafter. He will do his duties as a slave of Allâhu ta’âlâ. He will hold fast to the commandments of Allâhu ta’âlâ. He will abstain from His prohibitions, i.e. harams. Shame on those who run after harmful things instead of doing so!

— Second Volume, 45th Letter, Maktubat of Ahmad Sirhindi


  1. ^ dead link
  2. ^ Glasse, Cyril, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Altamira Press, 2001, p.432
  3. ^ Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment, Oxford University Press, 1964, p.189
  4. ^ Sufism and Shari'ah: A study of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi's effort to reform Sufism, Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari, The Islamic Foundation, 1997, p. 11.
  5. ^ Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Routledge, 2006, p. 755.
  6. ^ letter No. 81 of MaktiibCtt-i-Imdm RabbanT
  7. ^ Review by Simon Digby of Yohanan Friedmann Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: an outline of his thought and a study of his image in the eyes of posterity, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1971, p.110
  8. ^ Review by Simon Digby of Yohanan Friedmann Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: an outline of his thought and a study of his image in the eyes of posterity, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1971 Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 38, No. 1 (1975), pp. 177-179
  9. ^ Review by Simon Digby of Yohanan Friedmann Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: an outline of his thought and a study of his image in the eyes of posterity, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1971, p.42 Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 38, No. 1 (1975), pp. 177-179
  10. ^ Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: an outline of his thought and a study of his image in the eyes of posterity], McGill-Queen's University Press, 1971, p.xiv Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 38, No. 1 (1975), pp. 177-179
  11. ^ Sufism and Shari'ah: A study of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi's effort to reform Sufism, Muhammad Abdul Haq Ansari, The Islamic Foundation, 1997, p.247
  12. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/10170/Shaykh-Ahmad-Sirhindi
  13. ^ Saviours of Islamic spirit, vol. III, Syed Abul Hasan Nadwi. Quoted from Maktubat Vol. III No 72 to Khwaja Hosam-ud-Din
  • Classical Islam and the Naqshbandi Sufi Tradition, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, Islamic Supreme Council of America (June 2004), ISBN 1930409230.
  • Shari'at and Ulama in Ahmad Sirhindi's Collected Letters by Arthur F. Buehler
  • NFIE Research

External links


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