Syed Ahmad Shahid Tehrik-e-Mujahedeen

Madrissah Rahimia of Delhi served the Indian Muslims to the extent that reformist zeal touched their hearts and a sort of awakening could be seen every where. Its movement could be divided into two branches: the intellectual and the militant. The intellectual section decided to launch the reformist movement with the sole aim of reorganizing Indian Muslim society on sound ground. Syed Ahmad Shahid was born on November 29, 1786, at Rai Bareli (UP). He made a poor progress at Maktab and took more interest in sports, games and outdoor activities. At the age of eighteen, he came to Delhi and became the pupil-disciple of Shah Abdul Aziz. After nearly two years of study under Shah Abdul Aziz he left Delhi for his home. During his stay at Delhi he had acquired the essential knowledge of the Quran and the Hadith and picked up Persian. The academy of Shah Abdul Aziz produced a passionate believer in the teachings of the Quran and Hadith. In 1821, Syed Ahmad Shahid Barelvi went to Mecca from Calcutta to perform Haj and stayed there for two years. During his stay in Arabia he came into contact with many scholars and acquired knowledge of the various movements of the world of Islam. He was inspired with new thoughts and ideas. On his return to lndo-Pakistan, on August 6, 1823, he devoted himself to the religious and social reforms and preparation of Jihad. The teachings of Syed Ahmad Shahid may be classified into four heads:

  • Fight against corrupt practices and innovations in Islam.
  • To favor Ijtihad (individual judgment)
  • To Reform Sufism.
  • To establish political ascendancy of Islam.

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The movement of Syed Ahmad Shahid aimed at the renaissance of Islam in Indo-Pakistan in the religious as well as political spheres. According to European historians, the political part of his movement was directed against the British. But others are of the opinion that the movement was exclusively led against the Sikhs who had forbidden the call of azan and who used to interfere with the Muslim religious practices in the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province. When Syed Ahmad Shahid heard of ill-treatment of the Muslims at the hands of the Sikhs, he at the instance of Shah Abdul Aziz decided to wage a holy war (Jihad) against the Sikhs. He made necessary preparations for the Jihad. In order to popularize the movement he, with his party, visited Gwalior, Tonk, Ajmer, etc.

Syed Ahmad Shaheed introduced many social reforms beliefs. He criticized prostration at Shrines burning lights and sanctifying water. He held that the common ceremony be performed without lights and without restrictions of data. He condemned all the rites of transfer of merit. He preached widow remarriage.

Syed stress absolute monotheism. Unlike the generality of ulama and most of the Sufies, he chose as his sphere of operation, not the spiritual of intellectual but the Muslim masses in general he contacted in cities, towns and villages during his and travels. He tried to save and reconstruct the essential element the early nineteen-century. To reforms the indo-Muslim way of life, his exclusive emphasis was on the Quran and the Sunnah, and the rejection of the peripheral, the eclectic, the syncretism the heterodox. It also meant repudiation of all those Indian, Persian and Roman customs which were contrary to Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings. It meant the elimination of three kinds of excesses; c encouraged by heterodox Sufis; secondly those of popular Shi’s origin such ne celebrations of Muharrum as a public festival and thirdly these borrowed m Hindus. Syed Sahib also denounced popular customs, as a source of compromise to the doctrine of Tauhid. He condemned expensive ceremonies, and burials and prohibition of widow re-marriage. He encouraged the widow remarriage and did t practically.

The practical plan of reform in this movement had two main objectives. These here based on the Waliullah adaptation of e classical philosophical distinction between the ‘imperfect, state’ and, the, ideal state — the former being in the Indian context, the Dar-ul-Harb. the territory occupied by the British or other non- Muslims: and the latter an ideal theoretic state which could be established only by a holy war, preferably in a region where bulk of population was Muslim and where individual and social life could follow unhindered the tenets of Islam. Syed Ahmad’s movement devoted itself to reformist work in the farmer as well as the real realization of the latter. The purpose of his life was, not confined to the spread of Islam by preaching only but he believed in taking practical steps for this purpose. The main objective before Syed was the establishment of a state, which was based on Islamic principles, in the time of Syed Ahmad Punjab was ruled by Ranjit Singh a Sikh ruler and NWFP was also taken in the Sikh regime. Their role was oppressive and tyrannical for the Muslims. The holy places of Muslims i.e. mosques, shrines were turned into temples and stables, by the Sikh regime. Azan was forbidden and the religious practices of Muslims were’ interrupted frequently.

In 1826, Syed Ahmad Shahid and the Mujahids made an attack on the Sikh forces which were led by Budh Singh, a cousin of Ranjit Singh. Budh Singh was defeated and a large number of Sikhs were killed. The Mujahids, attained a series of successes in the beginning. Peshawar was captured by the end of 1830. But later Ranjit Singh sent Ventura, the French General against the Mujahids and also tried to create disruption in the camp of thee Mujahids through his agents who described the reforms of the Syed as un-Islamic. The Pathan leaders misunderstood the Syed and left his party. The machinations of the Sikh propagandists were successful for the time being. But yet Syed Ahmad Shahid did not lose heart. He met the Sikhs courageously at Balakot (in the Abbottabad district of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan) in 1831, and a severe battle was fought in which Syed Ahmad Shahid, Shah Ismail Shahid and many other leaders of the movement died a martyr’s death. Their death for the cause of the country inspired the Muslims to fight the battle of independence for many years to come.

The success of the, movement gave great confidence Muyahideen. However, they failed to maintain the pace of success. The false propaganda, lack of funds and disaffection from the local people rendered it total failure. The movement failed due to the absence of cooperation ‘ between the Hindustani followers of the Syed’ and the local populace, lack of proper funds, poor war equipment and want of proper military training, the sectarian propaganda against the reforms introduced by the followers of Syed Ahmad Shah id and the’ dissension created by Ranjit Singh among the Pathans. W.W. Hunter and some other writers tries to link up this movement of Syed Ahmad with the Wahhabi movement in Arabia started by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab of Najd in the later part of 18th and the first part of the 19th century in order to save the Muslims from moral and spiritual degradation. This argument is not tenable in the face of facts. The teachings of Syed Ahmad Shahid differed considerably from those of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab. Syed Ahmad Shahid had already formulated his ideas of reform before his departure for Arabia. Moreover, the Wahhabis had been disloged from Hejaz before his arrival in Mecca. He might have come across the Wahhabis and Wahhabism but the movement as a political force was at the lowest ebb while he was in Arabia. So it is wrong to say that he was influenced by the Wahhabism of Arabia. Over and above, there were many important points of differences between the two schools of thought. Syed’s moderate views on Taqlid and his attitude towards Sufism may he cited as examples. The former followed middle course regarding Taqlid and Sufism while the latter rejected both absolutely. In nutshell, it can safely be assumed that the role of Syed Ahmad in the early’ phase of 19th century led Muslims to look into their religious and political affairs. The educational cum-political movements of Muslims in the later period owed a lot to Syed’s movement of Jehad.

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