AHMAD, SHAIKH (1564-1624), celebrated Muslim thinker and theologian of the Naqshbandī Sūfī order, was born on 26 May 1564 at Sirhind in present-day Paṭiālā district of the Punjab. He received his early education at the hands of his father, Shaikh 'Abd al-Ahad, and later studied at Siālkoṭ, now in Pakistan. About the year AD 1599, he met Khwājā Muhammad al-Bākī bi-Allah, who initiated him into the Naqshbandī order. Shaikh Ahmad soon became a leading figure in that school and wrote numerous letters and treatises on many fine points of the Sūfī doctrine such as the concepts of prophecy (nubuwwah) and sainthood (walāyah) and the relationship between sharī'ah, i. e. religious law, and tarīqah, the mystic path. He disapproved of Emperor Akbar's liberal approach to religion and wanted the rulers to reimpose jizyah, a special toll tax on Hindus, not only to suppress them but also to humiliate them. Basic to his philosophy was the idea that the State should be controlled by sharī'ah, the Islamic law, which was not to be modified to suit changing circumstances. He was also against the pantheistic and liberal views of other Sūfī sects. He thus antagonized not only the Hindus but also an influential section of the Muslims. Emperor Jahāṅgīr, in order to placate the public sentiment, imprisoned him in 1619 in the Gwālīor Fort. He was, however, released after a year. The next four years Shaikh Ahmad spent at the imperial court. He died on 30 November 1624 at Sirhind where his tomb still stands and attracts pilgrims from all over India and abroad.
Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindī, the most prominent figure of the Naqshbandī order in India, has been given the honorific title of Mujaddid-i-Alf-i-Sānī, the renewer of the second millennium (of Islamic era). The collection of his letters entitled Maktūbāt-i-Imām-i-Rabbānī (lit. epistles of the divine prelate) has been hailed as a landmark in the development of Muslim religious thought in India. His works and interpretations had a deep influence on Emperor Auraṅgzīb and his State policy. One who derived the most satisfaction from the execution of Gurū Arjan under Emperor Jahāṅgīr's orders in 1606 was Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindī. In his letter as quoted at No. 193, in his Maktūbāt, he gave expression to his sense of jubilation over "the execution of the accursed kāfir of Goindvāl. "