Syed Ahmed Barelvi is also known as Syed Ahmad Shaheed was born on 29th November 1786 in Rai Barelli situated in India. He received his education in his hometown but later on moved to Lucknow in search of a job but failed to find one. After struggling for a job he moved to Delhi and became Shah Abdul Aziz’s disciple. He stayed there till 1811 then joined Amir Khan’s army in the hope of a good ground to settle.
It was a military era in which Warlords and Nawabs were expanding their territories by occupying land through military establishments. He hoped to gain practical military experience. He spent seven years in that services, mostly involved in loot and plunder. Syed Ahmed Barelvi’s service came to an end when Amir Khan after the Third Mayo-Anglo war sided with the East India Company and signed a treaty. He left jobless along with 30,000 soldiers. Amir Khan took great advantage of the treaty and left with a large stipend. For Ahmed Barelvi, it was a spiritual disaster because the British were Christians.
In Delhi, he spent time becoming a powerful figure like Amir Khan. Two members of Shah Walliullah’s family became his disciples that raise his mystic experience. This added to the reputation of Syed Ahmed Barelvi and his following rose by thousands.
Motivation for Reform Movement
19th century India was at the verge of political, economic, and social disaster. British were gaining power in India and Mughals were losing their territories and were disintegrating. The scholars were exhausted and insecure. Ordinary Muslims didn’t care much because they were already in a backward state and didn’t have much left to lose. That’s where Syed Ahmed Barelvi came into action.
Syed Ahmed Barelvi commenced this movement with the idea of the revival of the perception of monotheism among Muslims in its pure and unique form. He fight against the ideas and customs that had corrupted Islam. In order to make his movement known, he visited Doab areas in 1818 and 1819. Syed Ahmad also visited several areas including Ghaziabad, Murad Nagar, Meerut, Sadhan, Deoband, Nanota, Bhoon, Saharanpur, Rohailkhand, Lucknow, and Bareilly.
He was the first person to understand the necessity of the movement from every aspect. Syed communicated with the local people not the leaders for the call of jihad. Syed Ahmad set out to preach to people against the Shi’a beliefs and religious customs. He destroyed several taziyas which resulted in chaos and riots.
In 1821, he went for Hajj and gained a spiritual awakening and met many scholars and Ulema and came back after 2 years with more knowledge and better ideas for the Muslims all around the world.
His return to India in 1823, mainly for reviving the glory of Islam which somehow lost and devoted himself to the religious reformation of Muslims of India. He wanted to introduce Sharia rather than hanging on to Sufism.
Syed Ahmad Barelvi’s Jihad against Sikh:
Syed Ahmed Barelvi couldn’t wage jihad against the British because they were powerful. They had less or no financial support. He decided to move against Sikhs because they were growing in number. Syed wanted to make North-Western Frontier an Islamic Bastion.
He decided to ask Pathans for their help because they were ready to do anything in the name of religion. So he started preaching jihad and asked them to adopt Sharia. Pathans agreed, Islamic tax laws made to establish and finance jihad. He made the war against Sikhs a divine command and gave reasons like Sikhs are a threat to religion, mosques are being used as horse stables, and Azaan (call to prayer) is being banned. Most of them were right and were done by fanatical Sikhs but Ranjit Singh’s government was not that strict, they didn’t interfere in Muslim’s religious matters and their disputes were solved according to the Sharia. So that’s why Muslims of Punjab refused to help Syed Ahmed Barelvi.
First War of Syed Ahmad Barelvi:
He fought the first war in 1826 at Akora and was victorious and that boosted their Morales, resulting in an allegiance sworn on his hand and he was made Amir Ul Momineen and was called Caliph. People soon after assumed that he wanted power but he denied this worldly desire.
Death and Legacy
Syed Ahmed faced a lot of challenges in Peshawar because he didn’t have a solid plan and failed to rule the people and started having wars with Pathans. Unluckily, his rule in Peshawar couldn’t last for more than a few months because of the internal uprisings which shattered his power and he had to take refuge in the hills of Balakot.
On 6 May 1831, He and his followers encountered Sikh Forces in the hills. He was killed in the fountain of Metikot.
Syed Ahmed Barelvi thought that one scholar who instigated the Jihad Movement for the development of a Muslim state with strict Sharia Law. He was the first Islamic scholar to wage jihad for social, economic, and political purposes.