Thoughts and powers. This revolution was to nullify the efforts of all those conquerors of the past who had won the land for Islam. It also meant the invalidation of the labours of Khwaja Moin Uddin Chisti and his pure hearted disciples who had on the one hand preached the message of love and humanity and social justice to the people and, on the other, provided moral and spiritual guidance to rulers to run the country as conscientious, true-hearted and God-fearing servants of the country. This was not all, for this revolution threatened to destroy the entire educational system and intellectual fabric of the land which had been laboriously built up by these men of God.
What happened next? A star rose not from the political or materialistic horizon but from the celestial skyline of Faith and spirituality which always comes to the aid of falling humanity, in the person of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi Mujaddid Alf Thani (971-1034 AH), who was paid a tribute by Iqbal in these words:
He was the custodian of Millat’s wealth in India,
Whom Allah had awakened at high time.
Before Jahangir who refused to bend his neck,
His breath was a touch to the quick.
This mendicant, sitting in his retreat, resolved to fight the most gruesome conspiracy hatched against Islam by highbrow intellectuals. He decided to raise his voice against the fetters placed on Islamic thought and an Islamic way of life, and the Muslims right to live and prosper in this country.
The outcome of his efforts is known to you all. When the seventh century began, the atmosphere was somewhat changed. The future of Islam was by then protected in this country for the next two or three centuries. The Shaikh had fallacies of neoplatonist spacious reasoning against the apostle ship of Muhammad and the transcendence of the Shariah and Sunnah and, thereby, the restrengthened confidence in them. Thus, the danger sweeping Islam off its feet in India was averted. But, what was his strategy? No propaganda, no beating of drums and no armed resistance to Akbar’s power was planned. The Qur’anic wisdom had told him that he would be crushed in no time if he came forward as an adversary of established power and that he would not get the opportunity of performing the task he had taken upon himself. Instead, the Shaikh decided to entreat before God, to collect the most sincere and capable persons around him, to train and guide them in such a way that they could not be purchased at any price, to teach them to disdain power and self and to touch the heart-strings of those who occupied the highest positions in the court of Jahangir. He tried to make them realise that Islam was passing through a critical time in the country, its life and death was hanging in balance and that they ought to do something in an intellectual and constructive manner to save the situation.
Mujaddid started writing letters to those who were in authority. The list of his addresses is long enough but two of these notable persons who deserve to be mentioned here were Abdur Rahim Khan Khanan and Nawab Murtaza Khan, alias Syed Farid. The result was that within a quarter of a century the whole atmosphere was changed. Indian Muslims came to the intellectual forefront and not only in this country but in the entire world of Islam. India came to occupy the central place in pursuits pertaining to perfection of the spirit as well as in intellectual fields with erudite scholars of Arabic lexicography and the traditions, which were earlier regarded as the preserve of the Arabs. It was because of Mujaddid that India became a temple of learning and produced great scholars and researchers.
This tradition of learning continued until a scholar of Shah Wali Ullah’s (1114-1176 A.H.) stature was born in India who gave a new look to the science of dialectics, explained the essentials of the Caliphate and produce a blue-print of Islamic government as was never attempted before. he also tried to inject new vigour and fresh blood in the decaying Muslim Empire, for he had already foreseen the dangers of political and moral anarchy likely to overtake India after the downfall of that Empire.
She Wali Ullah’s sons, among whom Shah Abdul Aziz was the most outstanding, popularised the education of the traditions and the scripture as well as endeavoured to reform the morals and rituals of the people. The Jihad movement of Syed Ahmad Shaheed (d. 1246 A.H.) and Maulana Muhammad Islami (d. 1246 A.H.) was an extension of this same spirit of reform and regeneration. This great movement was so eminently successful building up popular enthusiasm for virtuous living and perfection of spirit and morality that it caused the deeds performed in the earliest phase of Islamic history to be re-enacted again in this subcontinent. It was, in fact, such a great and comprehensive revivalist movement aiming at the transformation of the entire Muslim society of this part of the global as had never been witnessed before in any land of the Islamic world.
Thereafter came the educational movement which resulted in the establishment of the Darul Uloom Deoband, Madrasa Mazahiril Uloom, Shaharanpur, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow and numerous other institutions propagating the teachings of the Kitab and the Sunnah.15 These religious education institutions went to long way, as their founders had originally envisaged, in reforming the erroneous beliefsand customs of Indian Muslims and imparting a sense of Islamic identity to them. The products of these religious institutions not only had the privilege of contributing to the intellectual endeavours of Indian Muslims but also of participating in the struggle for the freedom of the country. Because of them contrary to the situation in certain other Muslim countries, there was no cleavage between Religion and politics and nor did the modern educated classes disown the leadership of the religious scholars.
The endeavours of India’s religious scholars made this country the centre of culture and learning. There was even a time when students came to India from Yemen and Morocco to learn the science of traditions. Similarly, one desirous of spiritual perfection normally took the road to India. Maulana Khalid Rumi, born in the northern area of Iraq and Syria, now forming part of Turkey received his education in the cities of Shahrzor and Damascus, yet when he wanted to learn about the facts of mute reality for the perfection of his Faith and spirit, he came to the hospice of Shah Ghulam Ali (d. 1240) in Delhi. With the training and guidance in mysticism which he obtained in this country, he was able to infuse a new life of virtue and spirituality in Iraq, Syria and Turkey; the marks of which are still visible in these lands today.