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Syed Ahmed Shaheed Founder of Jihad Movement

Who started Jihad Movement in the subcontinent

Jihad Movement (Tehreek Mujahideen) is considered  a milestone in the history of subcontinent. This movement was not only for the revival of Jihad for the destruction of  British rule in India but also for the purification of Muslim Society. 

Founder of Jihad Movement

Syed Ahmed Barailvi the founder of this movement was the inheritor of the mantle of Shah  Abdul Aziz. He was born on October 24, 1786 in a respectable family of Rai Barily.

Syed Ahmed Shaheed Braveli: Founder of jihad Movement

Beginning of Career

From the very beginning he had an inclination of becoming a solider rather than  endeavoring to become renowned scholar or mystic as did his predecessors. Syed Abmed  began his career as a Sawar in the service of Nawab Amir Khan, the ruler of Tonk in 1810.  During his service Syed Ahmed learnt military discipline and strategy which made him a  great military commander in the years to come.  

Beginning of The Discipleship of Shah Abdul Aziz

Syed Ahmed left the service when Amir Khan refused to fight after Tonk fell to the  British. Tonk was declared as Dar-ul-harb by Shah Abdul Aziz and Syed Ahmed could no  longer serve there and returned to Delhi by walking 318 miles from Lucknow to Delhi. By  now Syed Ahmed had decided to come under the discipleship of Shah Abdul Aziz. In 1807  he took the oath of allegiance (baia) at the hands of Shah Abdul Aziz and entered the fold of  Naqshbandia, Qadriya and Chistiya sufi order. 

Syed Ahmed as a Preacher

Syed Ahmed Barailvi was greatly impressed by the preaching and doctrines of Shah  Wali Ullah and was staunch disciple of his son Shah Abdul Aziz. In 1818, Syed Ahmed  wrote Sirat-i-Mustaqim. In this project his two distinguished disciples, Shah Ismail Shaheed  and Maulana Abdul Haye, assisted him in the preparation of the book. The work is an  excellent summary of the philosophies, doctrines and reforms of Shah Wali Ullah which he  had expressed in a number of his famous books. At this moment Syed Ahmed switched over  to the public preaching. He proved a great success, as a preacher, in spite of the lesser  rhetoric in his sermons.  

Beginning of Jihad Movement

Syed Ahmed was extremely dismayed to see the decline of the Muslims in their  religious and ideological commitments. He earnestly desired to see the restoration of the  supremacy of Islam in India. The purpose of his life and struggle was not confined to the  spread of Islam by preaching only, but he believed in taking practical steps for this purpose.  The main objective before Syed Ahmed was the establishment of a state which was based on  Islamic principles. In 1823, he started Jihad Movement. 

Preparation for Jihad against Sikhs

In the time of Syed Ahmed Punjab was ruled by the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh who was  regarded as an autocratic and tyrannical King. The Muslims heavily suffered under his  tyrannical rule and were denied liberty and freedom to perform and practice their religion.  The N.W.F.P. had also fallen to the Sikh domination and was included in the Sikh regime.  The holy places of the Muslims i.e. mosques shrines were turned into temples and stables, by  the Sikh regime. Azan was forbidden and the religious practices of the Muslims were  interrupted frequently.

Syed Ahmed did not confine himself to Delhi but also visited the neighbouring  places. During one of his visits to Rampur, some Afghans complained to him about the wide scale persecution of the Muslims by the Sikh regime Syed Ahmed decided to launch his Jihad  movement against the Sikh regime on his return from Haj. Syed. Ahmed left for Makkah in  1821 along with Maulana Ismail Shaheed, Maulana Abdul Haye and a large number of  followers and admirers to perform Haj. Syed Ahmed performed haj and remained absent for  nearly two years. They returned to Delhi and the preparation for Jihad against the Sikhs  began. 

Objectives of Jihad Movement

Following were the objectives of Jihad Movement: 

1. Establishment of Islamic Rule in the Sub-Continent and end of Sikh Rule. 2. Reformation of Muslim Society. 

3. Restoration of Jihad. 

4. Advice of Simple Ways of Living 

5. End of Innovations in Islam 

6. Struggle against the Conspiracies of Christian Missionaries. 

Declaration of Jihad

Syed Ahmed believed that if Punjab and N.W.F.P were liberated of the Sikh  domination, the Muslims would regain their old position. He, therefore, picked up Punjab to  begin his Jihad movement against the Sikhs and selected N.W.F.P. to begin his operation for  the elimination of the non-Islamic forces. He directed Maulana Ismail and Maulana Abdul  Haye to march with a party of six thousand followers from Rai Baraily. He himself set out via  other parts of Punjab and Delhi to muster support for his movement. Syed Ahmed invited the  people to join him in Jihad against the un-Islamic regime to save the Muslims of the Sikh  domination. 

Establishment of War Headquarter

Syed Sahib reached Nowshera in December, 1826 and established his headquarter. He  sent a message to the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh to embrace Islam or be ready to face the  Muajahideen in the battle-field. Ranjit Singh turned down the offer scornfully and expressed  a high degree of disdain for Islam and the Muslims. 

Akora Fight

Syed Ahmed began his Jihad against the Sikhs by challenging the army at Akora on  21st December 1826. The Sikhs had gathered a strong force at Akora under General Budh  Singh. The fight at Akora was a night assault when nearly 900 Muslims pounced on the  sleeping Sikhs. It was a successful mission and heavy loss was inflicted on the Sikhs. Budh  Singh being extremely demoralized decided to withdraw from Akora.  

Hazro Fight

In 1827 the Mujahideen fought second battle at Hazro which too was a great success.  This success encouraged the Mujahideens and they became poised to fight for Islam.

Establishment of Islamic Khilafat

The astonishing success of the Mujahideen in two encounters gave immense  popularity to the Jihad movement. People gathered in large number around Syed Sahib. Many  pathan chiefs joined Syed Sahib and took an oath of allegiance at the hands of Syed Ahmed  on January 11, 1827 and accepted him as Amir-ul-Momineen. Yar Muhammad the Governor of Peshawar also joined Syed Ahmed in his movement along with other prominent pathan  leaders like Pir Hakrnan Khan.

Gradually the number of the Muslim forces rose to 80,000.  The establishment of Islamic system of Government greatly reduced the influence of the  tribal Chiefs. He also introduced social reforms and asked the local people to abandon their  old customs and life patterns. He urged them to adopt Islamic way of life and be refrained  from taking intoxicants. This Khilafat remained for four years.  

Gorilla Activities

From 1827 to 1831, the Mujahideen started gorilla activities against Sikhs and  inflicted great losses upon them. 

Sikh Conspiracy against Syed Sahib

The Jihad movement went through the early stages of struggle with amazing success.  At this time a conspiracy was hatched against the Jihad movement. Sardar Yar Muhammad  was bribed to betray Syed Sahib and join the Sikhs against Mujahideen. The Sikhs brought  pressure on Yar Muhammad Khan who tried to poison Syed Ahmed which he survived. In  1829 Yar Muhammad was killed in an encounter against the Mujahideen. 

Occupation of Peshawar

Syed Ahmed set out for Kashrnir and Peshawar. The Sikhs under the French General  Ventura saved Peshawar and handed it over to Sultan Muhammad Khan the brother of Yar  Muhammad Khan. Syed Ahmed reached Hazara Hills and attacked the Sikh forces under  Man Singh and General Allard. This assault was repulsed. However, Syed Ahmed made  another assault on Peshawar which was successful. Sultan Muhammad Khan, who was  fighting against the Mujahideen was arrested and pardoned by Syed Ahmed. Syed Ahmed  occupied Peshawar in 1830. In November, 1831, after nearly two months of occupation of  Peshawar, Syed Ahmed withdrew from Peshawar in favour of Sultan Muhammad Khan who  promised to pay a fixed amount to the Mujahideen as tribute. 

Balakot Fight and Martyrdom of Syed Ahmed

After relinquishing Peshawar, Syed Ahmed shifted to Balakot and began his  movement from Rajauri in 1831. Balakot is a small town in the Mansehra division and falls  in the Hazara district. The Mujahideen were attacked by the Sikh army under the command of  General Sher Singh. 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  Muslims were defeated in the battle in which Syed Ahmed Shaheed, Shah Ismail Shaheed  and many other followers of Syed Sahib laid their lives and died as martyrs 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. The Jihad movement did not die after defeat at Balakot. 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. 

Causes of Failure

Although Jihad Movement was a sincere effort for the restoration of Islamic glory in  the Sub-Continent yet it met with failure for the following reasons: 

1. Lack of proper training of Mujahideen 

2. Lack of funds and Equipment 

3. Well equipped and large Sikh Army

4. Deceit of Pathan Chiefs 

5. Local Controversies on Implementation of Tax after the Establishment of Khilafat 6. Sikh Conspiracies and Secret Opposition of The British 

7. Lack of Leadership after the Martyrdom of Syed Ahmed and Shah Ismail


No doubt Jihad Movement remained unsuccessful but it affected the Muslim  Mentality on a large scale. Mujahideen fought for the cause of Islam even without  proper training and sufficient equipment. Their sacrifices not only inspired the  Muslims to think about the renaissance of Islam but also made them aware of the  prevailing political situations in the Sub-Continent. In short we can say Tehreek  Mujahideen paved the way for the Muslim struggle for freedom.  

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