Grave of Hazrat Syed Ahmad Shaheed Qutbi r.a
Nearly two centuries later, on October 6, 2005, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale shook and flattened the town of Balakot. Miraculously, however, it spared the graves of Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ismail Shaheed. Perhaps a reminder that miracles do happen.
Political, social, economic and religious decay of Muslim society in the Indian sub-continent that started in the eighteenth century widely spread through the early ninetieth century. Political supremacy of Muslims had practically come to an end and the military power completely incapacitated itself to protect life and property of the people. In a letter, Syed Ahmad portrays declining conditions of the Muslim community and decay of the Mughal Empire in these words:
“Large part of the India has been captured by foreigners. They have adopted the policy of
brutality and injustice. Government of Indian (Muslim) rulers has been vanished. No one has courage to challenge them. Everyone has started to consider them his master.” The simple monotheistic teachings of Islam had been polluted and ignored. Many innovations and un-Islamic traditions had been introduced and sanctified. Mughal rule in India had almost ceased to exist and political scene was dominated by British Empire, represented by East India Company, which
controlled most of northern India, the Marhattas in southern and central India, Sikhs in north-west and hundreds of powerless rulers of princely states”. Present Punjab, Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan were being ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who was considered a tyrannical autocrat. Sikh militia took the control of Lahore on 7 July 1799 and consequently Ranjit Singh was crowned on 12 April 1801. The Muslims heavily suffered under his oppressive rule. They were denied liberty and freedom to perform and practice their religion. After the capture of Lahore, Badshahi Mosque was severely damaged when Ranjit Sigh used its vast courtyard as stable for his army’s horses and its 80 Hujras as quarters for his soldiers, while the Huzuri Bagh, the enclosed garden next to the Mosque was selected as Maharaja’s official royal court of audience.”
James Abbott observed:
Any Mussalman praying in Public was liable to be slain on the spot by
any armed Sikh…The calls to worship and attendance at the Masjid
(mosque) were forbidden.. while the slaughter of a cow or a bullock was
punished by death.
Syed Ahmad was born on November 29, 1786 AD at Rai Bareli, a small town near famous cities of Lukhnow and Allahbad. His father, Syed Muhammad Irfan belonged to a respected family of Audh, “renowned for its holiness and religious learning. His great-great-grandfather, Syed Ilmullah r.a, who lived in the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, was a celebrated saint of his age. He also had the distinction of initiating others into the spiritual path of mystics.” Ancestral Khankah of his family ‘Takiyah-i-Ilmullah’ was a centre of guidance for the people of area and this is the place where Syed Ahmad was born. His grandfather was patron of this Khanqah. Syed Ahmad possessed outstanding mental and physical capabilities. Formal system of religious education failed to attract him. Due to his nature and temperament famous scholar of that time “Shah Abdul Aziz concluded that Syed
Ahmed would learn little through formal education and that his knowledge would come through spiritual means”. He could not show much interest in formal religious education but “on many occasions in latter life he surprised more learned men by his understanding and exposition of complicated problems.He delivered effective and impressive sermons. It was the strength of his spiritual knowledge, character and commitment to the cause of Islam, on the basis of which he was widely respected by the people and distinguished scholars of that time like Shah Ismail, Mawlana Abdul Haiy and Maulana Mohammad Yousaf of Phulat accepted Syed Ahmad as their spiritual preceptor and entered into hisdiscipleship. Thousands of people including prominent intellectuals of that time expressed their confidence in his leadership through oath of allegiance on his
hand.According to analysis of a scholar of that time 40 thousand Hindus embraced Islam on his hand and three Million Muslims took oath and swore allegiance to him.12 Wilayat Ali Azeemabadi observed that thousands of religious scholars and hundreds of Hafiz and Muftis took oath and swore allegiance on his hand. Due to his natural inclination towards Jihad, at the age of seventeen, he joined the army Nawab Amir Khan, the ruler of Tonk as Sawar. During his service Syed Ahmad learnt military techniques, strategy and discipline. This experience played important role to make him a great military commander in the years to come. Syed Ahmad believed on struggle against foreign domination of non-Muslim forces. So he left the army of Tonk when Nawab Amir Khan reconciled with British and refrained to fight for freedom after Tonk fell to the British.
Preparation for Jihad: Syed Ahmad sincerely desired to see the restoration of supremacy of
Islam. When he analyzed the causes of dominance of no-Muslim forces in India, he came to the conclusion that basis of the situation was the absence of the spirit of Jihad and the spirit of sacrifice for the cause of Islam. “The sub-continent had already been declared Dar-ul-Harb by Shah Abdul Aziz; therefore, it was religious obligation upon every Muslim to wage Jihad against the non-Muslim
He was extremely dismayed to see the decline of the Muslims, but he
realized that neither Mughal emperor of Delhi, nor Muslim rulers of Indian states
were capable and enthusiastic of waging Jihad for establishment of an Islamic
state. They were not prepared to scarify their luxurious lives and material benefits
for it. He was convinced that he would have to take practical steps and play
leading role in this respect. For this purpose he started a movement of mass
contact to create spirit of Jihad among Muslims. He toured long way in the
subcontinent, villages and towns, meeting all sections of people to urge them for
Jihad. A letter of Syed Ahmad written to Sadozai ruler of Afghanistan, Shah
Mehmood reflects Syed’s sentiments. He wrote “To uphold Jihad and to crush
rebellion, at any time and at any place, has been the cardinal commandment of
God, particularly, at such a time when the criminal acts of non-believers have
gone to such an extent that all the religious practices (of Islam) are being
destroyed, political disturbances are created in the Islamic governments, and the
seed of dissention is sown among the Muslims all over India, and adjoining
countries. In this situation the apathy on the part of the Muslims is tantamount to
a great sin. For this purpose the scholars of Islam have come out of their homes
and are inviting Muslims for Jihad”.
In 1821 AD he left for Hajj along with his 753 companions. Muslims of
India had forgotten their responsibility to perform Hajj, which is obligatory for
every Muslim who can afford it. In this perspective Syed Ahmad had decided to
revive the performance of Hajj. After Hajj, he took the oath of Jihad from his
companions at the place of Haqba in Mina, where Holy Prophet (PBUH) had
taken the oath of allegiance from Ansars of Madina. When he returned from
Haj after three years, he devoted himself to two major tasks: reformation of
Muslim society and “preparing his followers for Hijrat (migration) to trans-Indus
tribal areas (North West Frontier) for Jihad.”
Selection of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as Battle Field:
Syed Ahmad had chosen the area of present Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as his
center for waging Jihad because of the warrior nature of the Pashtoons and their
bravery, love and devotion for Islam; qualities unparalleled anywhere in the sub
continent. He was deeply concerned over decline of Muslims in India. In a letter
to Shah Salaiman of Chitral he writes that “I am greatly grieved over this
situation and these feelings have urged me for migration and Jihad”.
Although whole Muslim population was under the domination of non-
Muslims; British in the East and Sikhs in the west, but condition of Muslims
under the rule of Sikhs was worst. “Syed Ahmad used to say that when a Muslim
state has been occupied by Non-Muslims, then Jihad becomes obligatory, both
for the Islamic Ummah (Muslims)”.In a letter to Shahzada Kamran, the son of
Sadozai ruler of Afghanistan Shah Mehmood, Syed wrote:
Jihad has become inevitable as the non-believers have spread all over
India. I said good-bye to my country and came to Khhurasan to invite
and organize all the people for Jihad. I settled in the Yousafzai territory,
and the Afridis, Khattaks, Mohmands and Khalils, also the people of
Kashmir, Swat, Buner and Pakli have joined me. My mission is not to
establish my government or gain power but to work for the rule of Islam.
Moreover, I want to free the Islamic territories from the usurpers and
when the areas are freed from the non-believers and hypocrites, I would
hand them over to their rightful owners, provided they promise that they
would not give up Jihad and would refrain from injustices, and un-Islamic practices.
The letter reflects that he equally disliked the domination of British who
had deprived the Muslims of their sovereignty in the sub-continent. But he
selected frontier to begin his struggle. Syed Ahmad was disciple of Shah Abdul
Aziz who had declared the subcontinent to be Dar-ul-harb because the region was
dominated by British. Mentioning the reason to declare India as Dar-ul-Harb,
Shah Abdul Aziz stated “the writ and decree of Imam-ul-Muslimeen is not
established, on the contrary the injunctions of powerful Christians are followed
without any impediments.”Syed’s Jihad movement was based upon the ideas
of Shah Abdul Aziz. These facts prove that Syed’s ultimate aim was
independence of whole India, not only the area under Sikhs. Syed’s decision to
quit the army of Tonk after the reconciliation between Nawab of Tonk and
British also confirms his mindset regarding the domination of British. Ishtiaq
Hussain Qureshi writes when Nawab “Amir Khan made peace with the British,
Saiyid Ahmad did not attach any importance to the need of earning a livelihood
and returned to Delhi”.
Syed Ahmad was a great statesman and he was guided by reason and
circumstances. He realized that it was not feasible to fight against the British
forces that were better equipped and organized and were in firm control of most
of northern India. On the other hand “though Ranjit Singh had built up an
effective and large army, yet his government was not as securely established as
was British rule in Indian territories.” Initiating Jihad in the region surrounded
by British controlled area was not achievable task. In this perspective Syed
Ahmad decided to start his Jihad against Sikhs. Due its strategic location,
geography and demography, pukhtun area of present Khyber Puhktunkhwa could
serve as most suitable base for military operation against the Sikhs. After beating
Sikhs in Punjab and Kashmir, he could be in position to challenge the British. He
writes in a letter:
After it (Success in jihad against Sikhs) I, along with my companions,
will leave for India– to purify it from infidelity and hypocrisy. Because
my real aim is Jihad in India, not to permanently live in Khurasan
(Pukhtun areas under Sikhs and Afghanistan).
In his book, Hayat-i-Syed, Mohammad Jafar Thanesari argued that “there
was no intention of turning the movement against the British”. But Syed
Ahmad’s above mentioned letter refutes this argument. Activities of Syed
Ahmad’s followers after his martyrdom at Balakot confirm that Jihad movement
was not confined against Sikhs. Syed’s companions did not give up their struggle
for freedom of Muslims and supremacy of Islam and continued to fight against
Sikhs and later against the British when they captured the Sikh territories. Their
resistance against British was so strong that “in 1863, the British had to send two
European and six native regiments” to their “stronghold of Sithana in the northwestern
hills, which was bravely defended and the British force was held at bay.” In the words of an analyst “after the British conquest of the Punjab, the movement should have come to end, if the Sikhs alone were the target” but his companions “remained active against the British”. Thanesari was companion ofSyed Ahmad. So in this context his view according to I.H. Qureshi “was
obviously an afterthought put forward when the movement against the British had
been ruthlessly crushed and motive seem to” save them “from British vindictiveness”.
He selected the area of present Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as his battlefield.
Syed Ahmad was sure that as the Muslim government of Afghanistan was at his
back and the people of whole area were enthusiastic Muslims having reputation
of being good warriors, his call for Jihad would attract a large number of
Muslims. Most people of the area “were Afghans by race and so the Mujahideen
would find sanctuaries against the Sikhs and later the British, in the tribal
territories and Kabul”.
Another cause of his selection of NWFP was large-scale resentment,
frustration and unrest among Pukhtoons against brutalities of Sikh rulers. During
his stay at Rampur, Syed came into contact with certain Afghans coming from
Kabul. They narrated Sikh atrocities towards Muslims of North-Western India.
On this occasion, he decided to wage Jihad against to liberate Muslims from the
clutches of brutal rule of Sikhs. There was extreme mistrust and hatred between
Sikh rulers and Muslim population of the area. Such circumstances of
widespread discontent always provide fertile soil for uprising in any society.
Muslims of this area “had suffered and thus they could be easily organized to
fight against their tormenters.”
Keeping in view whole struggle of Syed Ahmad Shaheed we can summarize that there were three major aims of his movement:
1. Establishment of Islamic state.
2. Reformation and purification of society from un-Islamic traditions
3. Restoration of Jihad and raise awareness of Jihad amongst
Muslims of the region.
4. To free the Muslims of Punjab from the clutches of Sikhs.
He started his journey along with his 500-600 companions on 17th January
1826. It was not possible to reach the Pakhtun areas directly through Sikh
territories. Therefore he had to choose a circuitous route through Gwalior, Tonk,
Ajmer, Rajputana, Marwarr, Sind, Baluchistan, Qandahar, Ghazni and Kabul. In
Sindh he arrived Pir Kot on 24 June 1826, where he was warmly welcomed by
Pir Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi. In Shikarpur 20,000 people of the city and
adjoining area offered prayer under the leadership of Syed Ahmad. Ruler of
Shikarpur, Agha Mohammad Kazim Shah expressed his desire to join Syed
Ahmad for Jihad but Syed advised him to stay and promised that he would be
called whenever required. It reflects extent of respect of Syed Ahmad among
the people of that area. During his stay at Afghanistan, Syed Ahmad Shaheed
tried to unite Amir Dost Mohammad Khan and his brother for the cause of Jihad,
but he could not succeed in his efforts. Consequently he left the Kubul on 15
November 1926. He arrived Peshawar in the end of November 1826.
People of the area realized that Syed Ahmad’s aim was to make this area
centre for their struggle of Dahwa and Jihad for the establishment of Islamic
state, initially against Sikh rulers of Punjab and then against dominant power of
British. So he was received with warmth in Chamkani and Charsadda and large
number of Muslims vowed to support him against Sikhs. After a short stay at
Chamkani and Charsadda, he along with his followers left for Nowshera Kalan.
Before starting armed struggle against Sikhs, Syed Ahmad sent a message
to Ranjit Singh to accept Islam but received no positive response from Ranjit
Singh. Syed Ahmad Shaheed’s increasing strength alarmed the Sikh rulers of
Lahore. Consequently they “dispatched well-armed force of 7000 men under the
command of Budh Singh” Syed Ahmad Shaheed decided to attack Sikh forces
at night. He detailed the squad of 900 Mujahideen under the command of Allah
Bakhsh Khan. Muslim forces won the battle. In this battle 82 Mujahideen
martyred and 30 to 40 were wounded, while 700 Sikh soldiers were killed and
one thousand horses huge amount of war material had ceased to theMujahideen.
Achievements of Mujahideen impressed Muslim population of the area.
Consequently large number of people started to join the squad of Syed Ahmad
Shaheed. Various Sardars and Khans also swore allegiance to Syed Ahmad and
announced their support for him. Fateh Khan Panjtari, Raees of Khadokhel and
Ashraf Khan, Raees of Zaida were significant personalities among them. Khadi
Khan, Raees of Hund was most prominent and influential person who vowed to
support and obey Syed Ahmad. On the invitation of him Syed Ahmad decided to
set up his headquarter at Hund which was considered a prominent centre of
power at that time due to strong fortress and well-equipped force of chief of Hund.
Consecutive achievements of Syed Ahmad Shaheed’s forces made a deep
impression on the minds of tribesmen and reinforced peoples’ confidence in his
leadership. Consequently he was elected as Imam-ul-Mujahideen in a large
gathering on 11 January 1827. On the occasion various Pathan notables,
mystics, and common people pledged themselves to jihad under Sayyid Ahmad’s
leadership. Within next two months, 80,000 people joined his squad. Realizing
popularity and new status of Syed Ahmad Shaheed, Barakzai Sardars of Peshawar Sardar Yar Muhammad Khan and Sultan Muhammad Khan sent him letter of goodwill acknowledging his leadership. “Wary of the Sayyid’s rising stock among Pathan tribesmen, the Durrani brothers calculated that joining the assemblage carried fewer dangers than outright opposition.” To avenge their defeats at Attock and Hazro, Sikhs started to gather their
force with more than 35000 fully equipped soldiers at Shaidu. Syed Ahmad
Shaheed also reorganized his forces to combat Sikhs. In the first week of March
1827, he proceeded from Hund to fight against Sikh forces, stationed at Shaidu
under the leadership of Budh Singh. Barakzai sardars Yaar Mohammad Khan, the
ruler of Peshawar, Sultan Mohammad Khan, ruler of Kohat and their third
brother Pir Mohammad Khan also joined the squad with their 20,000 men thus
enhancing the number of fighters under the leadership of Syed Ahmad to
100,000. Forces of Barakzai sardars were stationed at left bank of river Kabul.
There were 33,000 Sikh soldiers under Budh Sing in the village of Shaidu and
20,000 reserve soldiers under Hari Singh waiting near Attock river.
On the eve of the battle, Yaar Muhammad Khan made Syed Ahmad sick
by poisoning him in the evening meal. Despite severe illness and critical
condition Syed Ahmad lead his squad in the battlefield. Mujahideen’s initial
attack was very successful and they killed large number of Sikh soldiers. At the
time when battle was in the final stage and Mujahideen’s success was certain,
Sardar Yaar Muhammad Khan who was apparently supporting Syed Ahmad,
withdrew his men from the battle. He shouted at once “defeat, defeat” and run
away from the battleground. Yaar Muhammad’s this trick changed the whole
scenario. Soldiers lost their morale and started to retreat. In this situation of
disarray only a few people who were sincere to their cause stayed to fight. One
such person was Godhri Shahzada. The question arises why Yaar Muhammad
Khan betrayed Syed Ahmad? Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi thinks that Sardar
Budh Singh had achieved the clandestine support of Yar Mohammad Khan
before the battle of Shaidu and it had been decided that Yaar Mohammad Khan
would run out of the battlefield along with his men. About 6000 Mujahihideen
embraced shahadat in this battle. Yaar Mohammad Khan’s betrayal was major
reason of this heavy loss of lives. Syed Ahmad was seriously ill due to poisoning and required rest. He left for Swat and Buner. There he stayed at the Chinglai, Koga, Takhta Band, Barikot, Ouch and other places. During his stay in the area, “he visited and preached to the people in the surrounding areas of Buner and Swat, so as to reform them, and to persuade them to join his mission”. During this visit according to Syed’s own estimate, about 400000 people pledged the oath of allegiance on his hand. He also wrote letters to the Muslim rulers to seek their support for Jihad.
Prominent names of such rulers are:
1. Amir Dost Mohammad Khan Barakzai, Ruler of Kabul
2. Yar Mohammad Khan Ruler of Peshawar
3. Sultan Mohammad Khan Ruler of Kohat and Bannu
4. Said Mohammad Khan, Ruler of Hasht Nagar
5. Shah Mahmood Durrani, Ruler of Hirat
6. Nasrullah, Ruler of Bukhara
7. Sulaiman Shah, Ruler of Chitral
8. Painda Khan Taoli, Ruler Amb and Darband (now part of Hazara Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
He also wrote letters to influential Khans and Maliks of different tribes
explaining to them that when Non-Muslims usurp the land of Muslims, it is
obligatory for Muslims; especially leaders and rulers to engage in battle with
infidels till their freedom is restored. If this is not done, then we would have
sinned and thus will not have the blessings of Allah in anything that we do. He
also started to plan for liberation of the Muslims of Hazara from tyrannical rule
After staying at different places in Swat and Buner, Syed Ahmad finally
selected Panjtar at his permanent base and headquarter. Panjtar is a central place
in Khadu Khel territory and is situated in the north-west corner of Mardan
District. It is naturally secure and defensible place, being surrounded by
mountains. Panjtar means a place covered from five sides, as this place is
surrounded by five mountains.56 On 6 February 1829, at a special meeting at
Panjtar, tribal chiefs and ulema agreed on establishment of Islamic government
under the leadership of Syed Ahmad. They took the oath of allegiance on the
hands of Syed Ahmad, willingly accepting the enforcement of sharia. After
another meeting of tribesmen on 20 February 1829, Sayyid Ahmad began
appointing judges in different parts of the frontier. Maulvi Sayyid Muhammad
Haban was selected as the chief judge (qazi-ul-qaza).
Occupation of Peshawar
Syed Ahmed and his forces occupied Peshawar in 1830 but against the
advice of many sincere fellows, he decided to forgive Sultan Mohammad Khan.
In November, 1831, after nearly two months of occupation of Peshawar, Syed
Ahmed withdrew from Peshawar in favour of Sultan Muhammad Khan on the
conditions that he will remain obedient and implement Islamic law in the area.
Consequently Moulvi Syed Mazhar Ali was appointed as Qazi of Peshawar. He,
according to directions of Syed Ahmad, enforced commandments of Shariat in
the city. Due to his measures, shops of wine and hashish and opium got closed.
But ultimately Syed Ahmad’s decision to forgive Sultan Mohammad Khan and
appoint him sardar of Peshawar again was proved wrong as Sultan Mohammad
Khan later took revenge of his brother’s death and not only killed Moulvi Syed
Mazhar Ali but also conspired and encouraged the tribal chiefs to kill 150 aamils of Syed in one night.
Balakot Fight and Martyrdom of Syed Ahmed:
Being greatly disappointed with the treachery and betrayal of the Khans
of Peshawar, Syed Ahmad and his followers decided to leave the area and
“concentrate their efforts against the Sikhs in Hazara and Kashmir”. So after
relinquishing the Panjtar base, Syed Ahmad migrated to Hazara. He stationed at
Balakot, a small town in Kaghan valley of Hazara, considering it safe for Mujahideen.
The Mujahideen were attacked by the Sikh army under the command of
General Sher Singh. “Here too, the local Muslims spied for the Sikhs and led
them through a secret route in close proximity to the Mujahideen’s camp.” A
fierce battle was fought between the Sikhs and the Muslims. The Mujahideen
fought bravely but could not stand the much stronger and superior forces. The
Mujahideen were defeated in the battle in which Syed Ahmed Shaheed, Shah
Ismail Shaheed and many other followers of Syed Sahib embraced martyrdom
while fighting for the cause of Islam.
With the death of Syed Ahmed the Jihad movement could not be carried out with the old enthusiasm. Some of his disciples struggled to continue the movement and were successful to a certain extent. But the movement extremely lacked in organized leadership after Syed’s death and, therefore could not be conducted for a long time.
Although Jihad Movement was a sincere effort for the restoration of
Islamic glory in the Sub-Continent yet it could not achieve its immediate
objectives due to various factors. Lack of funds, equipment and proper training of
Mujahideen was a major factor. On the other hand Sikh Army was well equipped
and large in number. On the other hand Sikh army possessed modern weapons,
was well organized and had been given quality training by the British and the
French officers. Ranjeet Singh acquired the military services of the experienced
French General Jean Baptiste Ventura and General Fracois Allard in 1922. They
imparted training upon the soldiers of Sikh Army. On the other hand Mujahideen
lacked in training and modern weapons. While selecting this area for Jihad, Syed
Ahmad Muslim expected cooperation of government of Afghanistan at his back.
But his expectations remained unfulfilled.
Selfishness and consequent deception of Pathan Chiefs especially betrayal
of Sardar Yaar Mohammad Khan and Sultan Mohammad Khan also jeopardized
the movement. They time and again played a double game with the Mujahideen.
According to Dr. Jehanzeb Khalil “chieftains of the area were neither sincere to
Syed Ahmad nor to Islam”. While analyzing the reasons of failure of the
movement Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi observes that “the main reason was the narrow
selfishness of the tribal chiefs. Many of them did not understand the full
implications of the establishment of the non-Muslim rule in such proximity to
their homeland.” For them Sikh’s domination “seemed to be still some distance
anyway whereas the Saiyid’s domination was an immediate and palpable reality.
So they supported Sikhs against Syed Ahmad. While analyzing the alliance
between Sikhs and selfish Pathan sardars, K.J. Ahmad observes:He (Ranjit Singh) sowed the dissentions among Pathan supporters of the Syed through bribery and intrigue. He made secret approaches to some of theinfluential tribal chiefs supporting the Syed, including Yar Muhammad, the Chief of Peshawar, asking them to withdraw their support on promise of
concessions. He even warned them that the Syed’s victory in the area would
mean the domination of Indian Muslims over the Pathans. Thus a task which
could not be achieved by Sikh arms, was accomplished through treachery of
Jealousy and rivalry among tribal chieftain of the area also played
important role to undermine the movement.65 There was lack of unity among
local Khans and Maliks who never remained united on a single platform against
the enemy. It was extremely difficult to keep such men together for any common
cause. “There were so many feuds among them that if one sided with the Saiyid,
the other decided to oppose him. There was so much jealousy even among those
who supported the movement, that if one was commended in any way for some
service, the other resented it.Khadi Khan, Raees of Hund is prominent example
of this fact. He initially supported Syed Ahmad, but due to jealousy against the
Khan of Panjtar, he “considered the shifting of the Mujahideen base from Hund
to Panjtar as a personal affront” and started to support Sikhs against Mujahideen.
Local controversies on implementation of tax after the establishment of
Islamic government undermined the movement. Pakhtuns were unused to
organized Islamic government. For them Islam was merely a set of rituals. In
this perspective enforcement of Islamic law and consequent observance of
Islamic commandments in economic and social spheres created resentment and
alienation. I. H. Qureshi observes that enforcement of Shariat laws was in
conflict with their customary laws. People were “not used to the observance of
any law beyond what was approved by tribal usage and custom”. Many people
considered it their disrespect to marry their daughter without receiving handsome
amount from the families of the bridegrooms. But this tradition served as an
instrument of injustice for women. Many families of bridegroom were unable to
pay the money after Nikah. So the girl could neither join her husband nor could
marry another. Families of such girls were urged to “waive the demand for
money and attempts were made to get older girls married without any financial
gain to girl’s family”. Those like Khadi Khan initially supported Sayyid Ahmad
became hostile when the repercussion of the Islamic government adversely
affected their exploitation of common people. A major reason of Khadi Khan’s
resentment was Syed Ahmad’s action to help the residents of Manairi to overpower
Khadi Khan’s men, who had usurped their territory. “Defections now came thick
and fast. From the front Khadi Khan took the lead by striking a deal with the
Sikhs.” Most of Mujahideen were untrained to run an Islamic government. They
did not prepare the mind of people. “Mujahideen were very few and it was
difficult for them to establish effective control over an immense tract of
territory”. Traditionally ushr (a tenth of the yield of the land) was collected by
Ulema. It was major source of their subsistence. After the establishment of
Islamic state under the leadership of Syed Ahmad Shaheed, his government
started to collect the ushr. It created resentment among Ulema who had been
deprived of their privilege. They were, therefore, in the forefront to oppose the
Mujahidin and some mullahs began preparing for an uprising.
Although Jihad Movement of Syed Ahmad Shaheed remained
unsuccessful to finish Sikh rule in Punjab but it affected the Muslims’ frame of
mind on a large scale. Mujahideen fought for the cause of Islam even without
proper training and sufficient equipment. Their struggle kindled a flame of
freedom and quest for Islamic state in the minds of Indian Muslims. Greatly
inspired by the valiant struggle of Mujahideen, Pakhtuns continued the struggle
for freedom against the British. Mujahideen Movement paved the way for the
Muslim struggle for freedom. The spirit of freedom led to the war of
independence in 1857. Sacrifices of Syed Ahmad Shaheed and his companions
inspired the Muslims to think about the renaissance of Islam .
1. Jehanzeb Khalil, Mujahideen Movement in Malakand and Mohmand Agencies
1900-1940 (Peshawar: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar), 2000, 29.
2. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.I (Karachi:
Majlas-i-Nashriat-i-Islam, nd.), 404.
3. Abad Shahpoori, Syed Badshah Ka Qafla (Lahore: Al-badar Publications, 1982),
4. K. K. Khullar, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (New Delhi: Hem Publishers, 1980), 7.
5. Quoted by Jehanzeb Khalil, 29.
6. Hafeez Malik, Moslem Nationalism in India and Pakistan (Washington, DC.:
Public Affairs Press, 1963), 154.
7. Aslam Siddiqi, “Syed Ahmad Shahid”, Islamic Culture, XIX (1945), 124.
8. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics (Karachi: Ma’arif, 1974), 141.
10. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, 145.
11. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.I, 149-182.
12. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tehqeeq aur Insaf Ki Adalat Main (Lahore: Syed
Ahmad Shaheed Academy, 1979), 60.
13. Ibid., 60-61.
14. Abad Shahpoori, 17.
1786-1831 (Accessed 26 November 2012)
16. Jehanzeb Khalil, 28.
17. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, Syed Ahmad Shaheed, reprint (Lahore: Sheikh Ghulam
Ali & Sons, n.d.), 212.
18. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.I, 368.
19. Jehanzeb Khalil, 28.
20. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.I, 403.
21. Jehanzeb Khalil, 28.
22. Ibid., 28-29.
23. Fatawa-e-Azizi, Vol.1, p.16, http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/ showthread.
24. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, 142.
25. Ibid, 146.
26. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.I, 423.
27. Mohammad Jafar Thanesari, Hayat-i-Syed (Karachi, 1968), 170-71.
28. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Struggle for Pakistan (Karachi: University of Karach)i,
29. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, 144.
31. Jehanzeb Khalil, 30.
32. K.J. Ahmad, Hundred Great Muslims (Des Plains IL (U.S.A): Library of Islam,
33. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 240.
34. R. D. Hopper, “The Revolutionary Process: A Frame of Reference for the Study
of Revolutionary Movements”, Social Forces, 28:3, 270-280. See also J. J.
Macionis, Sociology 8th Edition (New Jersy: Prenteice Hall, 2001).
35. Jehanzeb Khalil, 29.
36. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 290.
37. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.I, 480.
38. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 324.
39. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tehqeeq aur Insaf Ki Adalat Main, 19.
40. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, Syed Ahmad Shaheed (Lahore: Sheikh Ghulam Ali &
Sons, n.d), 333.
(Accessed on 26 November 2012).
44. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.I, 528.
45. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 353.
46. Ayesha Jalal, Partisans to Allah: Jihad in South Asia (Harvard: Harvard
University Press, 2008), 89.
48. Mu’in-ud-din Ahmad Khan, “Sayyid Ahmad Shahid’s Campaign Against the
Sikhs”, Islamic Studies, Vol.7, No.4 (1968), 330.
49. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, Op. Cit., p.147. See also, Ayesha
(Accessed on 26 November 2012.
51. Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Tareekh-i-Dahwat-o-Azeemat, Vol.II (Karachi: Majlis-i-
Nashriat-e-Islam, n.d.), 11.
52. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 377.
53. Jehanzeb Khalil, 29.
54. Mohammad Jaafer Thanesari, Maktoobat Syed Ahmad Shaheed (Karachi:
Nafees Academy, 1969), 195.
55. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 403-6.
56. Jehanzeb Khalil, 35.
57. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 461-63.
58. Sheikh Mohammad Ikram, Mouj-i-Kousar (Lahore: Idara-i-Saqafat-i-Islamia,
59. K.J. Ahmad, 311.
61. Sheikh Mohammad Rafique, Syed Masood Bukhari and Nisar Ahmad Choudhry,
Tareekh-i-Pakistan (Lahore: Standard Book House), 1983, 152.
62. Jehanzeb Khalil, 37.
63. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, 149.
64. K.J. Ahmad, 310.
65. Ibid., 309.
66. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, 149.
67. Jehanzeb Khalil, 35.
68. Syed Abul Aala Moudodi, Tajdeed-o-Ahya-e-Deen (Lahore: Islamic
Publications, 1989), 123-24.
69. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, A Short History of Pakistan (Karachi: University of
Karachi, 2006), 626.
70. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, 149.
71. Ibid., 150.
72. Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 465-66.
73. Ayesha Jalal, 94.
74. Jehanzeb Khalil, 37.
75. Sheikh Mohammad Ikram, 30.
76. Ayesha Jalal, 99.
Syed Ahmad Shaheed (of Rae Bareli) (1786–1831), also called Syed Ahmed Barelvi, was a Muslim activist from Rae Bareli, India. and founder of the “The Way of the Prophet Muhammad” (Tariqah-i Muhhamdiyah), a revolutionary Islamic movement. His supporters designated him an Amir al-Mu’minin (“Commander of the Believers”) and he proclaimed a jihad against the Sikhs in the Punjab.
Syed Ahmad was influenced by Shah Abdul Aziz, son of Shah Waliullah and touredAfghanistan and the areas occupied by the Sikhs raising the banner of jihad and rallying the Pashtun tribes to his banner. It was only after Maharaj Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839 that the city of Peshawar came under the influence of Syed Ahmads movement, due to unclarity and dispute over the next heir of the Sikh Kingdom.
Syed Ahmad was captured by some locals who opposed his movement, and was killed by the Sikhs along with hundreds of his troops and followers in Balakot, Mansehra District in 1831. His defeat ended the dream of establishing an Islamic state in Peshawar, now Pakistan. His followers upheld the doctrine of tawhid (the oneness of God). He is called as Syed Ahmad Barelvi because he used to live in rae bareli, They rejected bid’ah (innovation) but unlike Saudi Wahhabis accepted Sufism and features of mystical Islam such as the belief in the intercession of the saints and the strict following of a school of jurisprudence. He is thought by some to have anticipated modern Islamists in his waging of jihad and attempt to create an Islamic state with strict enforcement of Islamic law. The Islamic challenge to an expanding Sikh empire gained momentum in late 1826 when Sayyid Ahmad Shah arrived in Peshawar valley. He was accompanied by numerous disciples and supported by a highly developed network of personal friends and partisans spread across northern India organized to recruit and despatch men and financial aid. Sayyid Ahmed was a direct spiritual descendant of the Delhi Sufi scholar Shah Walliullah (1703–1762),through his disciple Shah Abdul Aziz (1746–1824).Sayyid Ahmad successes and failures revealed the various conflicting interests and the contradiction that fragmented the anti-imperialist coalition. His story illustrated how in this era even popular religious idealism could not supersede Peshawar valley elite political networks linked to imperial patronage and able to appeal, across class and power divides, to customary social practices and ethnic ties.
Syed Ahmad believed in religious and social agenda that had come down to him through his spiritual lineage. Seeking a return to an imagined original Islamic purity,he preached adherence to the ‘Sharia'(Islamic law) rather than mystical union with God. He rejected the compromises of faith discernible in established ‘Ulema'(religious leaders).He defended monotheism (tauhid)and denied innovation(bid’at). Personal reasoning(Ijtihad) was necessary to deal with new and unforeseen events. Importantly, Syed Ahmad was exposed to shah Walliullah’s interpretations of the nature of society and relation between religion and state. The Islamic state was to be organized by a ‘Khilafat -e- Khasa and a ‘Khilafat Amma’, the former is conceived as a spiritual super-authority regulating the affairs of the latter,which may be equated with temporal rulers and chiefs. Society was composed of various occupational groups,soldiers,artisans,traders and agriculturalists as well as the ‘Ulema’. ‘Sufia’ and members of aristocracy, whose performance of their duty kept society in equilibrium. This disruption had occurred. Monarchy, as opposed to the early elective tradition of Islam and the cessation of ‘Ijtihad’ had much to do with prevailing state of affairs.(Ahmad 94:25).
Before the journey to the Peshawar region,Sayyid Ahmad had served in imperial army of Amir Khan of Tonk in Northern India. He had performed the hajj(pilgrimage) to Mecca with many supporters and spent two years organizing popular and material support for his Peshawar campaign. Arriving in Peshawar valley in late 1826, Sayyid Ahmad and one thousand followers made their base in Charsadda village in Hashnagar. In December 1826 Sayyid Ahmad and his followers clashed with Sikh troops at Akora but with no decisive result. The inability of Sayyid Ahmad to shape local Pakhtun villagers into a disciplined and effective military force led to an 1827 decision consistent with his sense of proper relationship between religious and secular leadership. “It was accordingly decided by all those present at the time, faithful followers,sayyids,learned doctors of law,nobles and generality of Muslims that the successful establishment of ‘Jihad ‘ and the dispelling of disbelief and disorder could not be achieved without the election of an ‘Imam’”.(Ahmad 94:50).
This moment of religiously inspired unity attracted the allegiance of maliks, shareholders and even the governors of Peshawar. But the illusion was soon shattered when,during the next clash with Sikh troops,at the south of Akora,the Peshawar rulers withdraw and Sayyid Ahmad and his followers had to retreat in the hills of north of Peshawar. In their fine details, the events of these years revealed a fragmented Yusufzai and Mandanr support for Sayyid Ahmad’s movements. Social concerns,and a combination of pressure and support from Sikh generals and Peshawar governors,forced a range of local decisions while presenting new opportunities. In 1829 at the peak of his local influence, Sayyid Ahmad obtained agreement that the khans and general public would administer their principalities according to the laws of the Shariat and would give up the customary practices.(Nichols 2001:98). The decisive moments for Sayyid Ahmad came in 1830.In addition to the stated social agenda,Sayyid Ahmad also attempted to collect the Islamic tithe(usher) of ten per cent of crop yields. In coercing the reluctant Khans to pay,Sayyid Ahmad antagonized the chief of Hoti, Mardan and who then formed a power alliance with Sultan Muhammad,governor of Peshawar. The union was defeated and the Islamic reformers finally occupied Peshawar. Over several months during 1830 Sayyed Ahmad tried to conciliate established power hierarchies. But before the end of 1830 an organized uprising occurred and the agents of Sayyid Ahmad in Peshawar and in plain villages were murdered and the movement retreated to hills and where finally Sayyid Ahmad was killed in Balakot by Sikh Army in 1831.(Ahmad 94:55)