REVIVAL OF ISLAM IN THE SUB-CONTINENT DURING THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURUIES
SHAH WALI ULLAH
The most important of the reformers of 18th century
The political situation in
On his return he launched a reform movement, which was the first of its kind and proved to be most effective of all the preceding movements in
· Sectarian conflicts among various sects of Islam;
· Poor understanding of the Holy Quran;
· Low moral tone of the Islamic society.
The objectives that he set before him were:
· To educate the Muslims in order to help them understand the true spirit of Islam;
· To organize them into a nation by helping them get rid of sectarian conflicts;
· To infuse in them the spirit of Jihad so that they could regain political control over
He started training his pupils and entrusted them with the task of spreading the true message of Islam. At the same time he devoted himself to writing and produced the most valuable of his works by translating the Holy Quran into Persian enabling even an average literate Indian Muslim to seek guidance from the original source at his own. His translation of the Holy Quran was bitterly criticized by the fanatics in the beginning. However, it was accepted later on by his critics as a meritorious service that he had rendered. Along with the translation of the Holy Quran, he produced great pieces of writing in both Persian and Arabic. The most notable of his works were “Hujjat Ullah Al-Baligha” and “Izalat AL-Akhfa”. He attacked the weak institution of kingship, pointed out problems with the nobility and shortcomings in the law of the land.
He believed that everyone deserved justice based on the Islamic principles. To him a proper understanding of Islam was vital if Muslims were to be enabled to regain their lost political status in
He strongly advocated Ijtehad (reasoned reconstruction) as a solution to many of the problems being faced by the Muslims. He said it was a religious duty with the authentic religious scholars to have a consensus of opinion with regard to the changing needs of the hour using the flexibility of Islamic law. He wrote in Hujjat Ullah Al-Baligha:
“The time has come to bring out the religious law of Islam into the open, fully dressed in reason and argument.”
He believed that the nature of the human society in general and Muslim society in particular was dynamic and congregational. He attacked syncretism and pagan practices which had entered Islam as ‘Shirk”. He aimed at the restoration of pure religion. One of his cherished ideals, being a believer of Pan-Islamism, was the creation of an international brotherhood among all Muslim nations.
Shah Wali Ullah’s message was clear and simple. His famous will was “Iman” (faith) and “Amal” (action). His religious services were a blend of political and social teachings. He asked not to perform such rituals, which, in his opinion, had no existence in Islam. He encouraged widow marriage and pure Islamic ceremonies like Waleema and Aqeeqa. He wanted Indian Muslims to avoid extravagance and extra Islamic luxurious life style so that they could reduce the intolerable economic burden on them. He also elaborated the importance of mental workers, labourers and farmers in the society and spoke for their economic rights.
Last but not the least of his services was his invitation to Ahmad Shah Abdali. Shah Wali Ullah, highly disappointed by the loss of spirit of Jihad among Indian Muslims, requested him to rescue them. Ahmad Shah Abdali in coalition with Najib-ud-daulah defeated the Marathas in the 3rd Battle of Panipat in 1761. It surely gave Muslims a timely relief before their future was doomed forever. Shah Wali Ullah died witnessing the downfall of Muslim rule in
SYED AHMAD SHAHEED BARELVI
Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi was born in 1786 in Ri-Bareli, U.P. He had to leave his native town looking for livelihood at an early age when his father died. He reached
He joined a military force in Tonk district of N.W.F.P. after leaving Madrassa-e-Rahimiya. There he learnt a lot about European military techniques and weapons. At the same time he came to know the sufferings and miseries of the Muslims under Sikh rule in the
- Visiting the tombs of the saints;
- Preparation and distribution of sweets on religious occasions;
He is credited for being the founder of Wahabism in the Indian sub-continent on account of such teachings. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not belong to any of the established Sufi orders namely Qadiriyah, Chishtiya, Naqshbandiya or Mujjadidiya. Simultaneously his followers came from all of these orders. His religious teachings soon took the shape of a movement.
His religious movement turned into a religio-political movement when he decided to take up arms against Sikh rule in the
Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi’s reform movement is known as “Jihad Movement” (Tehrik-e-Mujahideen). The aims and objectives that he set before him were:
- Renaissance of Islam in
- Freeing Muslims of the oppression of Sikh rule;
- Establishment of Muslim rule in
He had to travel far and wide to muster support for the cause. He managed gathering a sizeable army of devoted Muslims who were ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of Islam. The first encounter between his forces and those of the Sikhs took place at Akora in 1826. Ranjit Singh had sent a large army under his cousin, Budh Singh. The Sikh commander along with a large number of his troops was killed in the battle. Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi met successes over successes and had captured
Ranjit Singh, stunned at the growth of Barelvi’s power and courage, turned to propagandist activities. His scheme of creating disruption among Muslim ranks succeeded and thousands of Pathan troops from Barelvi’s army deserted him. It was a big jolt to the strengthening Muslims but a great encouragement for the rival forces. Ranjit Singh prepared a huge army led by, one of his ablest French commanders,
The factors that contributed to the defeat of the Muslims included:
- Lack of co-operation;
- Insufficient funds and war equipment;
- Poor military training; and
- Sectarian propaganda.
Tehrik-e-Mujahideen failed to achieve its immediate objectives. It is rather known in history for its long-range long-term effects. It surely infused a spirit in the Indian Muslims that made them rise against the misdoings of the British rule fairly soon after. It was the movement that enabled the Muslims to take up arms against their oppressors. The movement had an important influence also because it was the first of its kind. It is reckoned to be the first Religio-Political Movement in the history of Muslim India. Another notable and important factor contributing to its success was that the leader led the followers from the front. He just did not preach; he rather practically set examples to be followed.
HAJI SHARIAT ULLAH AND THE FARAIZI MOVEMENT/
(REVIVAL OF ISLAM IN
Early eighteenth century was a miserable period for the Bengali Muslims. They were economically, socially and educationally crippled under the British rule. They were also oppressed and tortured by Hindu landlords. Their religious belief had gone weak as Islam was badly influenced by Hinduism. These Muslims had become superstitious and were far from the true ideal of Islam. At the same time there was no hope of political regeneration.
It was in such conditions that Haji Shariat Ullah was born in Faridpur district of Bengal in 1781. He left for
His first message was to give up un-Islamic practices and to stick to duties towards religion. His followers were called Faraizis by virtue of his emphasis on duties towards religion (Faraiz). He was deadly against relationship between Mystics and their disciples (Pirs and Murids). He asked Muslims to replace this with relationship between Teacher and his Students (Ustaad and Shagird). He banned a number of un-Islamic rituals and urged Muslims to prepare themselves for Jihad. He declared his area “Dar-ul-Harb” where it was impossible for Muslims to perform their religious obligations. His call for Jihad against the oppression of Hindu zamindars made him face further cruelties at the hands of non-Muslims. He was forced to leave
Haji Shariat Ullah’s “Faraizi Movement” was taken over by his son Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad on his death in 1840. He was born in 1810 and was popularly known as “Dudu Mian”. It was under him that the “Faraizi Movement” was turned into a religio-political movement. He proved that he had a natural talent for leadership by strengthening and popularizing the movement. He divided
Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad forbade his followers from paying illegitimate taxes to Hindu landlords. They were asked to pay taxes levied only by the government. He persuaded and eventually prepared his followers for an armed struggle to obtain their economic as well as political rights. His ever-increasing popularity and strength was a constant source of anxiety for the British and Hindus alike. They did their utmost to check the progress of Faraizi Movement. Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad was arrested during the War of Independence of 1857 but was released after the war was over. He died his natural death in 1860.
COMPARISON OF THE MOVEMENTS
Shah Wali Ullah’s movement can surely be termed as the most effective of all the reform movements aimed at the revival of Islam in
Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi’s Jihad Movement in comparison with Shah Wali Ullah’s reform movement seems less important as far as revival of Islam in
Barelvi, unlike Shah Wali Ullah, did not leave behind any institution where his teachings were imparted to younger generations. Simultaneously he had no literary works to his credit that could become source of inspiration and guidance after him. His achievements proved to be momentary as the areas captured by him were soon occupied by the non-Muslims. On the other hand, Shah Wali Ullah had rendered ever-living services for the cause of Islam. A special reference can be made to his translation of the Holy Quran into Persian and valuable literary works.
Shah Wali Ullah’s work was more comprehensive than that of Barelvi’s. Shah Wali Ullah’s teachings were not on just religion. He did talk about politics as well as economic activity in a Muslim society. Barelvi appears lagging behind Shah Wali Ullah, as his only area of concern was the re-establishment of Muslim power and that too through Jihad. Unluckily, he could not succeed in achieving his sole aim.
Faraizi Movement in the nineteenth century was another major attempt aimed at the revival of Islam. A great many people were influenced by the teachings of both Haji Shariat Ullah and his son Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad. They very successfully helped Bengali Muslims set their religious belief right. It was surely through this movement that Islam returned to its original form. It made them conscious of their religious identity and created a spirit in them for the fighting of holy war (Jihad).
However, Haji Shariat Ullah’s Faraizi Movement sounds less important in comparison with other reform movements. It was restricted to just one area of the subcontinent whereas other movements influenced many. It ended with the death of its founders and was not carried forward whereas Shah Wali Ullah’s movement remained a source of inspiration for years to come. Even the armed struggle made by the followers of the Faraizi Movement was not as successful as was by Barailvi. It did not leave behind any institutions and literary works as were left by Shah Wali Ullah.
Why did Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi conduct a Jihad against the Sikhs in the early nineteenth century? (7)
How important was the work of Shah Wali Ullah to the revival of Islam in the sub-continent? Explain your answer. (14)
Which of the following was the most important in the spread of Islam during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries:
· Shah Wali Ullah;
· Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi;
· Haji Shariat Ullah?
Explain your answer with reference to all three of the above. (14)
Why did Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barailvi wish to revive Islam in the sub-continent? (7)
Why did Shah Wali Ullah wish to revive Islam in the Sub-continent? (7)
Why did Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barailvi have such a major influence on the revival of Islam in the sub-continent? (7)
How important was Shah Wali Ullah in the spread of Islam in the Sub-Continent before 1850? Explain your answer. (14)
(October/ November 2004)
Why did Shah Wali Ullah have such an important influence on the revival of Islam in the sub-continent? (7)
(October/ November 2005)
Was the work of Shah Wali Ullah the most important factor in the revival of Islam in the sub-continent during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? Give reason for your answer. (14)
(October/ November 2006)