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Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi - The Ideological mentor of Allama Iqbal

By Prof. M.L. Koul

If dispassionately pursued it can be said without any dither that the ideological content of Dr. Iqbal is orthodox and conservative. Many poets have drawn on religious themes and subjects, but their treatment of such subjects has not made them look as religious zealots.

There have been religious thinkers but unlike Dr. Iqbal they have not lost their philosophical acumen in topsy-turvying logical positions only to uphold some given stand-points and statements.

If Islam is his theme and religious assertions his beaconlights, he could have broadened his sensibilities to the limit of inclusivism which allows all shades of humans a place or a niche on the earth of God and this paradise. A poet's voice enlarges human sensibilities and refines and tempers them. He does not hurl humiliations on the defeated people. As a thinker the same poet, with philosophical touches gives a new dimension to the poetic themes thereby giving them a heightening effect. Dr Iqbal has wrapped his religious themes in the apparel of politics of crude domination of non- Muslims or expansion of Islamic territories cleansed of native cultural roots. Dr Iqbal’s philosophical sense invests his audience with a false sense of superiority and makes them intolerant and unaccommodating. He was a supporter of two-nation theory which sharply widened the chasm between Hindus and Muslims and loosened the cemented bonds between them.

Pluralism is what he detested when he played Muslim politics. The unity and integrity of a struggling nation had no meaning for him. He lacked those ingredients of a social thinker who deems a role for every individual irrespective of his religion in the processes of nation-building.

Muslim scholars (ulema) and sufis had a blue-print for converting the huge population of India in the wake of Muslim conquest of the territory and for this purpose had gelled an ideological tradition that confronted and denounced the fringe elements in the Muslim society that did not support their Jihad against the religious enemies. The plans for total conversion of the land after the manner of Egypt, Syria and Persia failed to fructify because of the stiff resistance put up by the subjugated natives.

The highly coercive regimes were blunted by the cultural depth of the country and in fact such regimes had little to offer except tyranny. In the history of medieval India there was a period when state and religion did not work in tandem and attempts were made to gell various faiths and credos into an amorphous cock-tail. For the ulemas and collaborating sufis it was a red rag to the bull. They openly castigated the rulers for making such heretical attempts as it had no sanction and support from Sharia. It was made amply clear that the religion of Islam could not be diluted with the polytheistic religion of the Hindus.

Ishwar and Allah and Ram and Rahim if put on the same wavelength was nothing but heresy. Aurangzeb as a bigoted obscurantist was elevated to the status of an icon and every Muslim ruler was required to emulate him and follow his example.

Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi posed himself as an ideologue and spearheaded a reactionary movement against any expression of liberalism which was founded on tenets of tolerance and catholicity of outlook.

As an exponent of Muslim revival for Muslim domination over non-Muslim faiths Dr Iqbal is an ideological clone of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi who typifies the role Sayyid-Sufis have played in subjugating the natives and their culture. His ideological framework has shaped the over-all ideological mind of Dr. Iqbal for a separate Muslim state on the basis of two-nation theory as prounded by Rahmat Ali, an Oxford scholar. The collection of letters that Sirhindi had written to Muslim amirs in corridors of power worked as a propeller for Dr. Iqbal to unify Muslim ranks on the basis of religion for snatching away a chunk of land for building a theocratic state.

Theoretically Dr. Iqbal had the same position on vital issues of Islam in general and Islam in India in particular as were formulated by Ahmad Sirhindi. Like Sirhindi Dr. Iqbal puts on the tag of a Sufi but is bitterly anti-sufi for the assertions that contradict Islamic positions. Sirhindi was eloquently boastful of sufistic experiences, but Dr. Iqbal was prudent as not to make such assertions which would alienate him from the mainstream, fed on a fare of conservatism.

Following the practice of Naqashbandi sufis Sirhindi maintained a close contact with influential Muslims manning the levers of political power in India.

His letters are, vivid reflectors of his prejudices and hardline approach on issues relating to Muslim India. Political Islam is his pet theme that he harps on. He has extensively dealt with the problem of treatment to be meted out to the non-Muslim natives. That exposes him as a bigot. He was all for Sharia. Anything that does not conform to Sharia is either detestable or heretical. Islamic dualism is what he upholds.

His opposition to the unitarian spiritualists is buttressed by his personal experiences which he claims flout any unitarian, or monis experience. He is bitterly opposed to such sufis as are against the bounds set by Sharia. Spiritual experience for whatever worth it has cannot cross the bounds of Sharia. To Ahmad Sirhindi Sharia is the beall and end-all of religious experience.

Ahmad Sirhindi’s bitter onslaught against Sufism is for the fact that it has drifted away from Arab Islam and therefore is mired in monism which is antagonistic to Arab Islam. He has all reverence for the ulema for their knowledge of Islamic law and precedent. He oscillates between orthodoxy and Sufism.

His orthodox position gets established when he says that Ulema are the cream of Muslim society and monopolise wisdom. He is no Ibn-i-Arabi who thinks his own way and never deposits faith in the textual judgements of Ulema. Sufis as per him can have no claims to be superior to ulema. Sirhindi as a doctrinaire scholar denounces Wahdatulwujud as it is in conflict with tawheed. Superior to the externalist scholars are the ‘real scholars' who just follow the textual dictates without putting them to thought and reason. Dr Iqbal-inherits the same conflict from Ahmad Sirhindi who though an alim has claims to being a sufi par excellence. Dr Iqbal denounces the Persian brand of Sufis. Yet he tries to own some of them only to buttress and establish his preposterous position and verbosity.

Eminent scholars of Islam have not conceived a situation where state and religion can be separate. In reality, rapid expansion of Islam beyond Arabia was brought about by the combination of state power with religion.

Those of the Muslim rulers of India who did not put their states on the pedestal of Sharia were castigated for betrayal of religion.

Ahmad Sirhindi was a bitter critic of Jalal-ud-Din for his non-conformity to Sharia and not helping the expansion of religion.

Not having guts to name Jalal-ud-Din he in a letter to an amir in corridors of power writes about the misery Muslims had to face during his rule. They were killed for expressing their religious views, but Hindus were free to propagate their heretical views in the country of Islam i.e.

India. Sirhindi exclaims in deep sorrow, 'Alas! what calamity, what pity, what grief!" Such a statement of a Muslim alim like Ahmad Sirhindi exposes him as a distortionist.

There are no examples to establish that Akbar killed Muslims or even harassed them for expression of their religious views.

Instead there are examples to establish emperor's connivance when Muslim scholars in his court ordered the execution of Hindus on false charges. Sirhindi is critical of Akbar for not always upholding the orthodox views of orthodox ulema. He even detested his act of giving ear to the views of Hindu scholars who in their exposition were masterly.

As per him, in the land of Islam i.e. India no two religions could co-exist. Perhaps, Jalal-ud-Din, a man of tremendous commonsense, was more concerned with state affairs than any sectarian problem. Akbar's attempt to invent a new religion having the best of all religions and faiths was detested by the Ulema. He hailed the take-over by Jehangir who he believed would support the Muslim cause of converting the Hindus to Islam. He took up the job of regimenting and sermonizing the army in the times of Jehangir. His chief purpose in writing to the Muslim nobles was only to regiment them for the pursuit of Jihad for total Muslimisation of the subjugated country. He advises them: "It is incumbent on the leaders of Islam, that is ministers, umra and scholars that they engage all their energy for the enforcement of Sharia...when rulers are not active in the promotion of Sharia and their associates too keep themselves aloof in this matter, a very bad time would indeed come on poor Muslims".

That Sirhindi was a sectarian becomes clear from the treatment he wanted Hindus to be meted out. He does not mince words in telling that those who do not submit must be suppressed and coerced. In his letters to amirs he consistently goes on reminding them that they should perform their duty of humiliating and insulting ‘infidels’.

Peaceful co-existence to him is an anathema, a hateful idea. The state as the bastion of Sharia has to be aggressive and intolerant.

He writes:- "Since Islam and Kufr are opposite to each other affirmation of one is the cause of abolition of the other. There is no possibility of the co-existence of the two. The glory of one is the destruction of the other".

Anybody who honours Hindus is damaging Muslims. Jazia has to be imposed on them as it humiliates them and makes them feel low.

Dr. Iqbal as an ideological clone of Ahmad Sirhindi could not be a subscriber to the noble idea of peaceful co-existence and pluralism. Partition brought about by Muslims was the result of Sirhindi's ideological myopia and intolerance of men of other faiths.

Sirhindi is loud in pronouncing that Sufis deliberately eliminate the dualism as exposited in Islam and God. They are, essentially monists and hence anti-Islam . As a dualist he opposes and scathes the unity of man as a creature with God as the creator.

Man as created, therefore cannot transcend his limits to get united with God. He lands himself in dilemma when he claims to be a sufi even though in theory he bitterly opposes sufism and designates it as anti-sharia. The theological frame-work that he evolves is not bereft of and makes profuse use of Sufistic terminology.

His interpretation of Sufi tradition is a big anachronism which he transmitted to Dr. Iqbal as well as a precious part of legacy. When monism contradicts Revelation and Reason how come it is still an ingredient in his theological frame-work and thought process. He is equally critical of Shia school.

His claims to his sufistic experiences which disprove the unity of God and creature are untenable. Spiritual experiences are always unitive which fact as a believer in Sharia he cannot uphold. The experience of unitarian sufis like Mansur are dubbed as illusory.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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