We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Sirhindī, Aḥmad - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
:
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result

Sirhindī, Aḥmad

By:
Francis Robinson
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Sirhindī, Aḥmad

Aḥmad Sirhindī (1564–1624) was an eminent Indian Ṣūfī whose ideas shaped the second or Mujaddidī phase of the Naqshbandīyah order. Sirhindī was born in the town of Sirhind, East Punjab, the son of a Chishtī-Ṣabīrī shaykh, ʿAbd al-Aḥad. Educated by his father and at Sialkot, he was later invited to the Mughal court where he assisted the chief minister Abū al-Faḍl. In 1599 he was initiated into the Naqshbandī order by Khoja BāqīBillāh (1563–1603). Subsequently he devoted his considerable energies to expounding Naqshbandī doctrine. Some of his claims, for instance that he had surpassed Ibn ʿArabī to reach the last divine manifestation, brought him powerful opposition from colleagues. In 1619 the emperor Jahāngīr imprisoned him so that his “confused mind would calm down a little.” After a year he was released but was kept under surveillance until he died.

Sirhindī's creative life falls into two periods: his pre-Ṣūfī phase, when he wrote work typical of a scholar of his time, refuting Shiism and proving the necessity of prophecy; and his Ṣūfī phase, when he produced a range of works suffused with spiritual insight. The most important of these was his collection of 534 letters to nearly two hundred recipients, the Maktūbāt-i imām-i rabbānī. Nearly seventy of these letters were to Mughal officials whom he was concerned to win to his views—that orthodoxy should be revived, that superstitious Ṣūfī practices should be suppressed, and that infidels should be humiliated. The great majority of the letters were concerned with his exploration of spiritual mysteries. Regarded as a landmark in Indo-Muslim thought, the letters continue to be republished in their original Persian as well as in Arabic, Turkish, and Urdu.

Sirhindī's prime concern was to integrate his Ṣūfī ideas within a Sunnī frame, thus achieving the “perfections of prophecy,” the highest Ṣūfī achievement. In pursuing his spiritual quest he elevated the concept of waḥdat al-shuhūd (unity of witness) over Ibn ʿArabī's waḥdat al-wujūd (unity of being) that had dominated Ṣūfī thought for several centuries. Believers had to realize that “Everything is from Him” and not that “Everything is Him.” This new emphasis focused attention away from otherworldly contemplation toward worldly action: the Muslim must strive to realize revelation on earth. This was the basis of Sirhindī's involvement with political power and his emphasis on orthodoxy, and the source of ʿAbd al-Ḥakīm Siyālkotī's (d. 1656) title for him, Mujaddid-i Alf-i Ṣānī, the Renewer of the Second Millennium of Islam.

In the twentieth century the significance of Sirhindī has been much debated. He has been seen variously in religio-political roles as the defiant rebel against government, as the savior of Indian Islam from Mughal heresies, and as the progenitor of a narrow-minded Muslim communalism, and in a Ṣūfī role as replacing waḥdat al-wujūd with waḥdat al-shuhūd. But his impact on seventeenth-century India was not as great as has been claimed; his religious vision was much contested, and Awrangzīb proscribed his Maktūbāt. Moreover, his waḥdat al-shuhūd did not replace waḥdat al-wujūd in Naqshbandī-Mujaddidī thinking. His emphasis, however, on obedience to sharīʿah and sunnah as a means of achieving spiritual realization was widely accepted by the Naqshbandīyah and was carried by his successors into Central Asia, Turkey, and the Arab lands, where it has been a source of inspiration to the present.

See also IBN AL-ʿARABī, MUHYī AL-DīN; ISLAM, SUBENTRY on ISLAM IN SOUTH ASIA; MUGHAL EMPIRE; and NAQSHBANDīYAH.

Bibliography

  • Alam, Muzaffar. “The Mughals, the Sufi Shaikhs, and the Formation of the Akhbari Dispensation.”Modern Asia Studies. November 30, 2007 (online).
  • Ansari, Muhammad Abdul Haq. Sufism and Sharīʿah: A Study of Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī's Effort to Reform Sufism. Leicester, 1986. Synthesis of Sirhindī's main ideas, with some of his letters in English translation.
  • Faruqi, Burhan Ahmad. The Mujaddid's Concept of Tawhid. 2d ed.Lahore, 1943. Argues that Sirhindī replaced waḥdat al-wujūd with waḥdat al-shuhūd.
  • Friedmann, Yohanan. Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity. Oxford, 2000. The best analysis of Sirhindī's thought, although the author's judgment is perhaps too influenced by a desire to correct the distortions of others.
  • Gaborieau, Marc, et al., eds. Naqshbandis: Historical Developments and Present Situation of a Muslim Mystical Order. Istanbul and Paris, 1990. Articles by Hamid Algar, Johan ter Haar, Yohanan Friedmann, Charles Adams, Fateh Mohammad Malik, Marc Gaborieau, and David Damrel cover aspects of Sirhindī's thought and influence.
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2021. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice