Dotting GT Road, away from the hustle and bustle of Chandigarh and somewhere between Ludhiana and Ambala, lies the dusty town of Sirhind that holds within itself important pages of Indian history book. Sirhind is mostly known among Muslims through Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, the famous Sufi of the Naqshbandi order who was conferred the title of Mujaddid Alif-sani.
Mujaddid, in Islamic tradition, refers to a person who, Muslims believe, is sent by God in the first half of every century of the Islamic calendar.
As it says in the hadith: “Allah shall raise for this Umma at the head of every century a man who shall renew (or revive) for it its religion” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
The Mujaddid’s objective is to revive Islam, remove from it any extraneous elements and to restore it to its pristine state. A Mujaddid might be a caliph, a founder of a sufi order, a saint (wali), a prominent teacher, a scholar or some other kind of influential person.Usually all those who are considered to be the Mujaddid may not compulsory that they claim. They can be recognize by their work for Islam and its revival. [Wikipedia]
Mujaddid Alif-sani would mean reviver of Islam in the second millennium. Even though his name was familiar, I never knew the exact location of Sirhind till a friend I was visiting in Chandigarh told me about it. It was the place where Ahmed al-Faruqi was born on the day of Ashura, the 10th of Muharram in the year 971 Hijri or 1564 AD.
He received his knowledge and education through his father and through many shaikhs in his time. He made progress in three tariqats: Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya, and Chistiyya. He was given permission to train followers in all three tariqats at the age of 17 years. He was busy in spreading the teachings of these tariqats and in guiding his followers, yet he felt that something was missing in himself and he was continuously searching for it. He felt an interest in the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, because he could see by means of the secrets of the other three tariqats that it was the best and highest. His spiritual progress eventually brought him to the presence of the Ghawth and Qutb of his time, ash-Shaikh Muhammad al-Baqi, who had been sent from Samarqand to India by the order of his shaikh, Muhammad al-Amkanaki. He took the Naqshbandi Order from the shaikh and stayed with him for two months and some days, until Sayyidina Muhammad al-Baqi opened to his heart the secret of this tariqat and gave him authorization to train his murids in the Order. [Wikipedia]
A high point of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi’s life was his confrontation with Akbar and then with his successor Jahangir. Things came to such a pass that he was incarcerated in the Fort of Gwalior for three years. Eventually, he was freed by the Emperor and went back to preaching in Sirhind where he died in 1624 AD. He is largely credited to have led the revival of Islam in India in the 16th-17th century. However, some scholars have criticized his role saying that he steered the intellectual discourse away from the liberal dogma during the times of Akbar and Jahangir. Others have criticized him for his alleged role in the assassination of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of Sikhism, in 1606 at the hands of Jahangir who suspected Arjan Dev of helping his rebellious son, Khusrau.
The entrance to his shrine is imposing and a mosque is situated adjacent to the shrine. The plaque at the top of the main gate reads:
bismillah ar rahmaan ar rahiim
laa ilaahaa illalaah muhammad rasuul allah
mazaar puranvaar Hazrat Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alifsani Sheikh ahmed Faruqui Naqshbandi Sirhindi rahmat ullah alaihu
It roughly translates into:
In the name of Allah, Most Magnificent, Most Merciful
There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is His Messenger
The illuminated mausoleum of Hazrat Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alifsani Sheikh ahmed Faruqui Naqshbandi Sirhindi (may Allah have mercy upon him)
The plaque also tells us that the construction was done in 1925 AD which is not is fairly recent. As it is the case with Taj Mahal the mausoleum of Sheikh Ahmed Sarhind is also built in two stories. A demo grave at the top and the actual grave at the bottom.
One of the interesting sights at the mausoleum is this intricate marble work made colorful by wish-threads tied by the devotees. For every wish they solicit through Sheikh, the devotees tie a thread. Today Sirhind Sharif receives many of its visitors from other parts of North India who are going to Ajmer Sharif for the annual Urs and stop at Sirhind along the way. The population of Muslims is minuscule in Punjab and a large percentage consists of immigrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Quite close to the dargah of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi stands Fatehgarh Sahib Gurudwara and holds an exalted status in the eyes of Sikhs. It is the place where the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh were bricked alive.
After the heroic death of two elder sons of Guru Gobind Singh, in the battle of Chamkaur, on December22, 1704 his two younger sons, namely, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh were done to death, by being bricked alive in the fort of Sirhind on December 28, 1704 by the order of the tyrant Nawab Wazir Khan. Mata Gujri, grandmother of the two Sahibzadas expired due to the shock of brutal murder of her two grand children. A Hindu Philanthropist Dewan Todar Mal cremated three dead bodies with the help of other devotees of the Guru. He purchased the land by paying gold coins to the muslim Zamindar named Atta. Here stands the Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup. A big hall with a seating capacity for 5,000 persons has been recently constructed. It has been named Dewan Todar Mal Hall. [All About Sikhs]
Sirhind, like many other places of historical importance dotting North Indian landscape has been largely forgotten but will feature prominently whenever we look back into the past.