Aḥmad Sirhindī

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Aḥmad Sirhindī (b. 1563 (AH 971)) A leading figure in the Naqshbandi Sūfī order, who did much to restore Sunni orthodoxy to Mughal India. He became a Naqshbandi adherent of Khwāja Bāqī Biʾllah in 1600 and succeeded him as shaykh in 1603. His claim to strong spiritual authority led to a period in prison, but his followers recognized him as ‘the Renewer’. In his teachings (mainly collected in his letters), he abandoned the pervasive Sūfī doctrine, derived from ibn ʾArabī, of waḥdat al—wujūd, the oneness of being: this claims that everything which exists can only do so because it is created by God, and might therefore be regarded as an aspect of Divine Reality—‘Wherever you turn, there is the face of God’ (Qurʾān 2. 115). The obvious risk here is that of pantheism, so close to the surrounding Hinduism which Sirhindī contested strongly. Instead, he emphasized waḥdat al-shuhūd, the unity of witnessing consciousness, a single awareness.