Jihad: The Movement Begins
Posted 21 March 2005 - 10:00 AM
In January 1827, Syed Ahmad was proclaimed as the Imam and Amirul Mominin (commander of the faithful) at a meeting attended by the theologians and the tribal chiefs. Now he got the powers to enforce the Shariah laws, declare war against the enemy and provide spiritual guidance to all. The Ulema and the chiefs took Bai'ah at his hand and vowed to abide by the enjoins of the ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah and to follow him. As the commander of the faithful his name was recited in the Friday sermons. Some of the tribal chiefs, who could not attend the meeting, sent letter recognizing him as their Imam and taking oath ' allegiance. Yar Muhammad Khan and his three brothers who jointly ruled Peshawar, were also among them.
Earlier, after defeating the Sikh army at Akora, the Mujahidin launched a night attack on the Sikh army Hazru, and captured large quantity of arms and oth material.
The Sikhs were enraged and planned a massive attack on the Mujahidin. Peshawar rulers Yar Muhammad and his brothers were not happy that a mendicant coming from India, had subjugated them. They were dead against him but the mass support and the respect he had earned, had made them desperate. Yar Muhammad established secret links with Lahore Darbar and sent reports of Syed Ahmad's movements to Ranjit Singh. Daily meal to Syed Ahmad was served from the personal kitchen of Yar Muhammad Khan. He poisoned the food and Syed Ahmad fell seriously ill after consuming it.
The Sikh army had encamped at Shidu to attack the Mujahidin. Shah Ismail commander-in-chief of the Mujahidin also deployed his soldiers. Yar Muhammad also came with his army, to fight the Sikhs, along with the Mujahidin. Syed Ahmad's condition was deteriorating I he insisted to go to the battlefield. Shah Ismail and 1 other companions helped him to ride his horse.
Yar Muhammad had hatched a conspiracy with the Sikhs, so when the battle raged, he withdrew from t battlefield. This treacherous move stunned the Mujahidin. The Sikhs taking advantage of their bewilderment launched a massive attack and inflicted a crushing defeat on them. Some six thousand Mujahidin lost their lives. They were dispersed and had to retreat.
The report of the defeat elated Lahore Darbar. Guns boomed in salute. The city wore a festive look with illumination and firework. Yar Muhammad's perfidious activities had shattered the hopes of the Wahhabis. He began to harass the caravan of the recruits coming from India. He ordered the brokers of Peshawar, not to transact any business with the Mujahidin and not to exchange money for their gold coins.
Some of the companions of Syed Ahmad advised him to take punitive action against Yar Muhammad, but he was reluctant because Yar Muhammad and his brothers had taken their baiyah and he did not want to take drastic action against them as it might push them to the Sikhs openly.
Some other tribal chiefs like Khade Khan of Hund, and Payenda Khan of Amb, were also behaving in a hostile way. But it would not have been politically expedient to take military action against those who had vowed to abide by the ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah and remain loyal to the Imam.
Yar Muhammad's hostile attitude was causing serious difficulties in the smooth flow of money and men from India. The caravans were detained for weeks, money and material looted and the volunteers were humiliated. Maulvi Mahbub Ali, a scholar from Delhi, with a group of recrujts, was also harassed and detained by the soldiers of the Peshawar ruler. He conveyed a message to Syed Ahmad that he should first fight these hypocrites and then embark on his mission of Jihad against the infidels ).
Maulvi Mahbub Ali was so bitter that he clashed with Syed Ahmad. He objected to his assuming the office of Imam, he criticised him for his fine dress and delicious food, while the other Mujahidin wore coarse clothes and took very simple food. He even declared that there were no activities of Jihad at the camp. He seduced his companions to leave the camp and return home.
Maulvi Muhammad Hasan tried to convince him that Jihad (striving) and Qital (fighting) were two separate terms. Qital takes place when there was a confrontation with the enemy, while Jihad was a constant phenomenon. The Mujahidin were engaged in preaching and upholding the Truth. Their presence in the region had aroused the feelings of piety and righteousness. People were turning to their religion and the signs of reform and regeneration in the society were manifest everywhere. Maulvi Mahbuh Ali was however, not convinced. He and Hakim Ashraf Ali. along with their companions returned to Delhi. They propagated against Syed Ahmad and his movement. The atmosphere was vitiated to such an extent that people withheld their contributions. Recruitment campaign was also badly affected. The Mujahidin had to experience serious difficulties. With the discontinuation of the flow of money from India they had to face starvation. They consumed fodder, ate tree leaves and suffered from serious intestinal diseases. Many died of starvation and dysentery. But they were dedicated and pious Mujahidin. They suffered, starved, and died a miserable death but no one deserted the camp. Their devotion and commitment to the noble cause was exemplary. scholars. Maulvi Abdul Haie was a man of deep insight and was the chief advisor to Syed Ahmad. But he was an old and ailing person and had been suffering from piles. The hardships of long journey, "he vagaries of the hilly climate, miserable conditions of living, and lack of medical care resulted in deterioration of his health. But he was a dedicated man. He never uttered a word of complaint and was always loyal to his mission and to his Imam. When he was on his deathbed, Syed Ahmad came as usual, to see him. He was experiencing acute pain. He requested Syed Ahmad to put his foot on his chest, as it would give him relief. Syed Ahmad put his hand on his chest. He died after some time. It was on 24 Feb. 1828.
Syed Ahmad despatched letters to his supporters and sympathisers in India explaining the facts and also the detailed description of the plight of the Mujahidin after the discontinuation of the contributions from India. However Shah Muhammad Jshaque and Maulvi Muhammad Yaqub succeeded in their efforts to dispel the misgivings and money again began to be remitted to the Mujahidin camp.
Demise of Maulvi Abdul Haie:
Maulvi Abdul Haie was an erudite scholar. It was he and Shah Ismail, who had projected Syed Ahmad as the leader of the Wahhabi movement. It was their baiyah that introduced him as the great spiritual leader in Delhi. It was Maulvi Abdul Haie who along with Shah Ismail, compiled the book 'Sirat-e-Mustaqeem' in Persian and then translated it in to Arabic. It furbished his spiritual image among the
Syed Ahmad had taken the Bai'at of jihad from the tribal people. His real mission was to reform and regenerate the Muslim society. Shah Ismail had strived hard to eradicate social evils. Syed Ahmad also wanted to fight against the un-fslamic practices in the tribal society. The society presented a living scenario of the pre-Islamic Arab social life. They had no regard for any moral and human value. They had no compunction in betraying their near and dear ones. The marauders were always ready to strike anywhere if it brought handsome booty to them.
The women were the worst sufferers. They had no right to property, no share in the inheritance of their parents. The widows were not allowed to remarry. They were considered as part of the inheritance and distributed among the male inheritors. The nobles and the tribal chiefs married more than four wives. Heavy amount of money was demanded to marry a daughter. If the money was not paid, the girl was not allowed to leave the house of her parents even after the marriage had been solemnized. To meet the huge demands of their in-laws, the youths had either to borrow money or to leave for far off urban areas to earn and pay the debts. The girls had to wait long years hoping to go to the house of their husbands. Hair turned grey, advancing age wrinkled their faces but there was no one to come to their deliverance.
The mullahs had a firm hold upon the masses but they did not bother to guide them to the right path. In fact they themselves were an astrayed lot and needed someone to guide them. They were sycophants, greedy, and lacking moral courage. They issued fatwas to appease the tribal chiefs and to justify their misdeeds. They had even assumed the divine power of forgiving the sins of the dead. At a ceremony called hqat (Dropping of the sins) a volume of the QurÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢an and a purse containing money was circulated among a group of mullahs, from one's hand to the others. In the last the QurÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢an and the money was handed over to these mullahs and it was believed that the sins of the deceased had now been dropped (forgiven).
Syed Ahmad always exhorted the tribal chiefs to adhere to the ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah and ensure that their people also adhered to the enjoins of the ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah and discarded the un-Islamic social customs. He could not concentrate on the social reforms due to his pre-occupation with military confrontation.
However, he was now determined to take immediate steps in this respect, as the objectives of the Jihad could not have been achieved without spiritual regeneration and social reforms. A degenerate society could not produce ideal soldiers to fight in the cause of Allah. So a grand concourse was held at Panjtar on 6th February 1829 A.C.(lst Shaban 1244 A.H.) in which two thousand prominent theologians from all parts of the Frontier region and an identical number of their students and disciples participated. All the tribal chiefs personally attended the gathering. Thousands of the tribal were also present.
Delivering his sermon in the convention, Syed Ahmad, reminded the audience of their obligations towards their religion. He exhorted them to observe the laws of ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah, eschew social and moral evils and ensure that all were leading a life as enjoined by Allah and His Messenger (PBUH).
Turning to Fateh Khan, chief of Panjtar, he said in unequivocal terms, "Abide by the Code of ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah, otherwise, there will be no bond of friendship between you and us".
The theologians also emphasized the need of social reform and adherence to the pristine teachings of Islam. They all took bai'at at the hand of Syed Ahmad that they will follow the enjoins of ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah. The Ulema also issued a fatwa that after taking the bai'at of ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah, whoever disobeyed the orders of the Imam, will be a sinner and fighting against him will be lawful.
Now, Syed Ahmad's mission got a new impetus. The overwhelming support and an avowed tribal multitude was with him. He had a mighty army of 80,000 soldiers.
Under the new dispensation, he appointed Maulvi Syed Muhammad Hibban as the Chief Qazi and Maulvi Muhammad Qutbuddin, the chief of the accountability department. Qazis were also appointed in the different tribal towns. Collectors to recover Zakat and collect Ushr (Tithe) were also posted. This heralded a new ecclesiastical set up, but it was also the beginning of a tragic turn in the annals of the Wahhabi movement.
The collection of Ushr was the most difficult task. The farmers, the nobles and the tribal chiefs, all resented this collection. The Mullahs, who had been collecting the Ushr earlier, now had been deprived of their privilege. This was their main source of subsistence. They were, therefore, in the forefront to oppose the collection of llshr by the Mujahidin.
The punishment awarded for non-payment of Ushr added fuel to the fire. A tribal chief was punished for default. This humiliation enfuriated him and he joined the camp of the antagonists of Syed Ahmad.
Khade Khan was engaged in open hostilities. A military expedition was sent. Khade Khan was killed in the operation and Hund was taken over by the Mujahidin. Amb was also occupied by the forces of Syed Ahmad. When the Mujahidin stormed to capture Zaida, its chief sought the help of the Sikhs. The Sikh commander sent his cavalry. The Mujahidin suffered heavy losses and their commander, Maulvi Ahmad Ali. nephew of Syed Ahmad. was killed during the encounter.
The killing of Khade Khan of Hund, enraged Yar Muhammad and he advanced with his Durrani soldiers. When Syed Ahmad came to know of the movement of the Durrani army at Dtman Zai, he consulted the tribal Ulemas. They unanimously declared that Yar Muhammad had revolted against the Imam and fighting against him was lawful under the Code of ShariÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah. Syed Ahmad directed Shah Ismail to confront the Durrani army. Yar Muhammad had six cannons and a large army. Shah Ismail with a group of Mujahidin, launched a night attack and captured all the six cannons. This altered the balance of power. Now the Durrani army was not in a dominating position. Yar Muhammad was seriously wounded during the fight. He was rushed to Peshawar, where he died. The Zaida War (Sept. 1829 A.C.) was another watershed in the annals of the Wahahi movement, it also proved the calibre of Shah Ismail as a military commander. Capturing cannons of the Durranis was a stupendous achievement. With a handful of Mujahidin. he defeated (he mighty Durrani army led by Yar Muhammad himself. The Mujahidin collected the war spoils: one elephant, sixty camels, countless horses, and a large quantity of amis and ammunition, dry fruits, cauldrons and tents. The documents recovered from the pavilion of Yar Muhammad were checked. There was a letter from Ranjit Singh wherein Yar Muhammad was directed to launch an attack on the Mujahidin. Syed Ahmad and his soldiers be driven out of the country as early as possible, and the control of Hund (occupied by the Mujahidin) be restored to the descendents of Khade Khan. If these orders were not complied with, he will himself advance with his army.
Ranjit Singh was very much disturbed at the rising power of the Mujahidin. The Frontier territory known as the sphere of influence of the Sikhs, was no more under his control. The loss of his suzerainty was naturally tormenting his mind.
General Ventura in a letter to Syed Ahmad, had written that "prior to your arrival, these territories were under the control of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the tribal chiefs paid tribute to him. After your advent they have become rebels. You please advise them to be loyal to the Maharaja and also explain the purpose of your presence in this region".
In his reply Syed Ahmad wrote ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â"your assertion that the country belongs to Khalsa Ji (Ranjit Singh) is absolutely unfounded. The land from the east to the west belongs to Allah. As you are subordinate to your ruler, similarly we are subservant to our Lord and have to carry out His commands, and call all the people to Islam. Those who embrace Islam are our brethren. You are among the people of the Book and can better understand our call. This is a call for you and for your master as well. If you accept it your country will remain with you, otherwise we will perform Jihad".
This letter was dispatched through Maulvi Khairuddin who had a detailed dialogue with General Ventura. He informed him that the Yusuf 7ai trihals had approached Syed Ahmad and told him of the plundering and high handedness of the Sikhs in their territories. They had earnestly requested him to come here to save them from the repression. They had submitted that there was no Amir under whose leadership they could perform Jihad against the enemy.
Ranjit Singh wanted peace with the Wahhabis. He deputed his minister Hakim Azizuddin, Raja Wazir Singh and prince Sher Singh to contact Syed Ahmad. Ranjit Singh offered him vast territory on the left bank of the Indus river with an annual revenue recovery of Rs. 900, 000 /-, provided he would not expand his control beyond that territory.
But Syed Ahmad rejected the offer saying that he had no territorial ambitions and conquest was not his mission.
Syed Ahmad had many a time explained that he did not want to conquer any country or capture anybody's territory. His only mission was to light agains' repression and persecution.
After the night raid (snipe) on Hazur where Sikhs suffered immense loss of property, general Budh Singh wrote a harsh letter to Syed Ahmad. He castigated him for launching a night attack. He challenged him that if he was hankering for martyrdom he should come openly to fight in the battlefield. To launch a sudden attack in the darkness of night and to plunder the traders was not an act of gallantry. (However, the Mujahidin had not taken part in this attack and it was the plundering by the Frontier people.)
Syed Ahmad, in his reply to Budh Singh wroteÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â "Allah, the Almighty knows well that I have no personal ambitions. I never harboured such temptations nor did I utter a single word to express such desire. I am a soldier in the cause of Allah and will do every thing within my power and competence to serve the religion of Muhammad (PBUH). As long as my head rests on my shoulders this craze will persist.
If my Lord wants me that 1 should dash single handed, all alone to the battlefield, by Allah, I will do so without any hesitation.
I do not boast of my valour nor I believe in an ostentatious display of it, nor I want to establish an empire.
To prove my words. I place it on record that if any Sikh amongst the nobles and feudal lords, embrace the religion of Muhammad (PBUH). I shall fervently acclaim his heroic deed and earnestly wish for the progress and prosperity of his fief."
Such explicit expressions must have made the Sikhs aware of the mission and the objectives of Syed Ahmad. But they wanted to see the Mujahidin either tamed or driven out of the Frontier areas.
The rejection of Ranjit Singh's offer by Syed Ahmad, was an indirect hint of confrontation. Lahore Darbar being snubbed turned to the Durranis and prevailed upon them to launch an attack on the Mujahidin.