Sirhindi, Shaykh Ahmad (1564–1624)

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Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was born in Sirhind, a small town located two hundred kilometers northwest of Delhi. The head of a Sufi lodge as well as a competent religious scholar, he was initiated into three Sufi lineages: the Chishtiyya, the Qadiriyya, and the Suhrawardiyya. The turning point of his life came with a meeting with Muhammad Baqi billah (d. 1603), a Central Asian Naqshbandi shaykh. In three months Sirhindi returned to Sirhind with unconditional permission to transmit the teachings of the Naqshbandi lineage. Three years later Baqi billah died and Sirhindi was recognized by most of Baqi billah's disciples as the principal successor.

From this point Sirhindi elaborated a new set of Sufi doctrines and disciplines grounded in following the prophetic example (sunna) and Islamic law (shari˓a). More than any other Naqshbandi since Baha˒uddin, Sirhindi became the pivotal figure in India who redefined Sufism's role in society and who integrated Sufi practice into strict juristic notions of shari˓a observance. Indeed, after Sirhindi's death, the Naqshbandiyya became renowned as the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya, named after Sirhindi's title of "the renewer of the second millennium" (mujaddid alf-e thani). In the twentieth century selective interpretations of Sirhindi's thoughts have been utilized by Pakistani nationalists to legitimize the creation of Pakistan.

Sirhindi's notions of Islamic orthopraxy/orthodoxy and reflections on Sufi doctrine are discussed extensively in his Maktubat (536 Collected Letters), which have been translated from the original Persian into Arabic, Turkish (Ottoman and modern), and Urdu. Other of his writings include Mabda˒ wa-ma˓ad, Makashafat-e ˓ayniyya, Ma˓arif laduniya, Sharh-e ruba˒iyat-e khwaja Baqi billah, and Ithbat al-nubuwwa.

See alsoFalsafa ; Ibn ˓Arabi ; South Asia, Islam in ; Tasawwuf ; Wahdat al-Wujud .


Friedmann, Yohanan. Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1971.

Haar, J. G. T. Follower and Heir of the Prophet: Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564–1624) as Mystic. Leiden: Het Oosters Institute, 1992.

Arthur F. Buehler