Ahmad Sirhindi

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Mujaddid Al-fe Thani, Shaykh

Ahmad Sirhindi
Ahmad's name in Arabic calligraphy
Born26 June [1][2] 1564[3]:90
Died10 December 1624 (aged 60)
EraMughal India
Main interests
Islamic Law, Islamic philosophy
Notable ideas
Evolution of Islamic philosophy, application of Islamic law

Ahmad al-Fārūqī al-Sirhindī (1564–1624) was an Indian Islamic scholar, a Hanafi jurist, and a prominent member of the Naqshbandī Sufi order. He has been described as a Mujaddid, meaning "the reviver",[3]:92 for his work in rejuvenating Islam and opposing the newly made religion of Din-i Ilahi and other dissident opinions of Mughal emperor Akbar.[4] While early South Asian scholarship credited him for contributing to conservative trends in Indian Islam, more recent works, notably by ter Haar, Friedman, and Buehler, have pointed to Sirhindi's significant contributions to Sufi epistemology and practices.[5]

Most of the Naqshbandī suborders today, such as the Mujaddidī, Khālidī, Saifī, Tāhirī, Qasimiya and Haqqānī sub-orders, trace their spiritual lineage through Sirhindi.

Sirhindi's shrine, known as Rauza Sharif, is located in Sirhind, Punjab, India.

Early life and education[edit]

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was born on 26 June 1564 in the village of Sirhind.[3]:90 He received most of his early education from his father, Shaykh 'Abd al-Ahad, his brother, Shaykh Muhammad Sadiq and from Shaykh Muhammad Tahir al-Lahuri.[6] He also memorised the Qur'an. He then studied in Sialkot[3]:90 which had become an intellectual centre under the Kashmir-born scholar Maulana Kamaluddin Kashmiri.[7] There he learned logic, philosophy and theology and read advanced texts of tafsir and hadith under another scholar from Kashmir, Sheikh Yaqub Sarfi Kashmiri (1521-1595), who was a sheikh of the tariqa Hamadaniyya Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani Sufi Order. Qazi Bahlol Badakhshani taught him jurisprudence, prophet Muhammad's biography and history.[8][9]

Sirhindi also made rapid progress in the Suhrawardī, the Qadirī, and the Chistī traditions, 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.[10]


Ahmad Sirhindi's teaching emphasized the inter-dependence of both the Sufi path and sharia, stating that "what is outside the path shown by the prophet is forbidden." Arthur Buehler explains that Sirhindi's concept of shariah is a multivalent and inclusive term encompassing outward acts of worship, faith, and the Sufi path. Sirhindi emphasizes Sufi initiation and practices as a necessary part of shariah, and criticizes jurists who follow only the outward aspects of the sharia. In his criticism of the superficial jurists, he states: "For a worm hidden under a rock, the sky is the bottom of the rock."[11]

Importance of Sufism in Shari’ah[edit]

According to Simon Digby, "modern hagiographical literature emphasizes Sirhindi's reiterated profession of strict Islamic orthodoxy, his exaltation of the shariah and exhortations towards its observance."[12] On the other hand, Yohanan Friedmann questions how committed Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was to shariah by commenting: "it is noteworthy that while Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi never wearies of describing the minutest details of Sufi experience, his exhortations to comply with the shariah remain general to an extreme."[13] Friedmann also claims "Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was primarily a Sufi interested first and foremost in questions of mysticism.".[14] Ahmad Sirhindi wrote a letter to mughal emperor Jehangir emphasizing that he is now correcting the wrong path taken by his father, emperor Akbar.

Oneness of appearance and oneness of being[edit]

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi advanced the notion of wahdat ash-shuhūd (oneness of appearance).[3]:93 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 (to forget about everything except Almighty Allah).[15] Sirhindi considered wahdat ash-shuhūd to be superior to wahdat al-wujūd (oneness of being),[3]:92 which he understood to be a preliminary step on the way to the Absolute Truth.[16]

Despite this, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi still used Ibn al-'Arabi's vocabulary without hesitation.[3]:95

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi writes:

I wonder that Shaykh Muhyī 'l-Dīn appears in vision to be one of those with whom God is pleased, while most of 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.[17]

Reality of the Quran and Ka'ba versus the reality of Muhammad[edit]

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi had originally declared the reality of the Quran (haqiqat-i quran) and the reality of the Ka'ba (haqiqat-i ka'ba-yi rabbani) to be above the reality of Muhammad (haqiqat-i Muhammadi). This caused fury of opposition, particularly among certain Sufis and ulama of Hijaz who objected to the Ka'ba having exalted spiritual "rank" than the Prophet.[18] Sirhindi argued in response that the reality of the Prophet is superior to any creature. The real Ka'ba is worthy of prostration since it is not created and is covered with the veil of nonexistence. It is this Ka'ba in the essence of God that Sirhindi was referring to as the reality of the Ka'ba, not the appearance of the Ka'ba (surat-i ka'ba), which is only a stone.[19] By the latter part of the nineteenth century, the consensus of the Naqshbandi community had placed the prophetic realities closer to God than the divine realities. The rationale for this development may have been to neutralize unnecessary discord with the large Muslim community whose emotional attachment to Muhammad was greater than any understanding of philosophical fine points.[20]

Sufi lineage[edit]

Naqshbandi chain[edit]

Naqshbandi Sufis claim that Ahmad Sirhindi is descended from a long line of "spiritual masters" all the way up to prophet Muhammad.[21]

  1. Muhammad, d. 11 AH, buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia (570/571–632 CE)
  2. Abu Bakr, d. 13 AH, buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia
  3. Salman al-Farsi, d. 35 AH, buried in Madaa'in, Saudi Arabia
  4. Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr, d. 107 AH, buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
  5. Jafar Sadiq, d. 148 AH, buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
  6. Bayazid Bastami, d. 261 AH, buried in Bastaam, Iran (804 - 874 CE).
  7. Abu al-Hassan al-Kharaqani, d. 425 AH, buried Kharqaan, Iran.
  8. Abul Qasim Gurgani, d. 450 AH, buried in Gurgan, Iran.
  9. Abu Ali Farmadi, d. 477 AH, buried in Tous, Khorasan, Iran.
  10. Abu Yaqub Yusuf Hamadani, d. 535 AH, buried in Maru, Khorosan, Iran.
  11. Abdul Khaliq Ghujdawani, d. 575 AH, buried in Ghajdawan, Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
  12. Arif Reogari, d. 616 AH, buried in Reogar, Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
  13. Mahmood Anjir-Faghnawi, d. 715 AH, buried in Waabakni, Mawarannahr, Uzbekistan.
  14. Azizan Ali Ramitani, d. 715 AH, buried in Khwarezm, Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
  15. Muhammad Baba Samasi, d. 755 AH, buried in Samaas, Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
  16. Amir Kulal, d. 772 AH, buried in Saukhaar, Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
  17. Muhammad Baha'uddin Naqshband, d. 791 AH, buried in Qasr-e-Aarifan, Bukhara, Uzbekistan (1318–1389 CE).
  18. Ala'uddin Attar Bukhari, buried in Jafaaniyan, Mawranahar, Uzbekistan.
  19. Yaqub Charkhi, d. 851 AH, buried in Tajikistan
  20. Ubaidullah Ahrar, d. 895 AH, buried in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
  21. Muhammad Zahid Wakhshi, d. 936 AH, buried in Wakhsh, Malk Hasaar, Tajikistan
  22. Durwesh Muhammad, d. 970 AH, buried in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  23. Muhammad Amkanagi, d. 1008 AH, buried in Akang, Bukhara, Uzbekistan
  24. Razi ūd-Dīn Muhammad Baqī Billah, d. 1012 AH, buried in Delhi, India
  25. Ahmad al-Farūqī al-Sirhindī[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biography of Ahmad Sirhindi in Urdu Language Retrieved 8 June 2018
  2. ^ Biography of Ahmad Sirhindi on storyofpakistan.com website Retrieved 5 June 2018
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Annemarie Schimmel. Islam in the Indian Subcontinent. ISBN 9004061177.
  4. ^ Glasse, Cyril, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Altamira Press, 2001, p.432
  5. ^ Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment, Oxford University Press, 1964. Friedmann, Yohannan. Shaikh Aḥmad Sirhindī: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000. Haar, J.G.J. ter. Follower and Heir of the Prophet: Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624) as Mystic. Leiden: Van Het Oosters Instituut, 1992. Buehler, Arthur. Revealed Grace: The Juristic Sufism of Aḥmad Sirhindi (1564-1624). Louisville, Kentucky: Fons Vitae, 2011.
  6. ^ Itzchak Weismann, The Naqshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition, Routledge (2007), p. 62
  7. ^ S.Z.H. Jafri, Recording the Progress of Indian History: Symposia Papers of the Indian History Congress, 1992-2010, Primus Books (2012), p. 156
  8. ^ Khwaja Jamil Ahmad, One Hundred greater Muslims, Ferozsons (1984), p. 292
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Routledge, 2006, p. 755.
  11. ^ Arthur Buehler. Revealed Grace. Fons Vitae, 2014, p. 97
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ "Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  16. ^ Annemarie Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, p. 94. ISBN 9004061177
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ Sirhindi, Ahmad (1984). Mabda'a wa-ma'ad. Karachi: Ahmad Brothers. p. 78.
  19. ^ Ahmad, Nur (1972). Maktubat-i Imam Rabbani 3 vols. Ed. Karachi: Education Press. pp. 147( letter 124).
  20. ^ Buehler, Arthur (1998). Sufi Heirs of the Prophet: the Indian Naqshbandiyya and the rise of the mediating sufi shaykh. Columbia, S.C USA: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 246–247 (Appendix 2). ISBN 1-57003-201-7.
  21. ^ a b "Family Lineage of Ahmad Sirhindi". August 2009. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2018.

Further reading[edit]

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