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It was initiated by Syed Muhammad Mahdi of Jaunpur (A.D. 1505), who claimed to be the promised Mahdi, the deliverer to set all things right. Moved by the moral decay and spiritual degeneration of the people. He kindled genuine religious spirit and setup dair’ahs (centres for spiritual practice.) Though started with a view to softening controversies between the different sects, the movement became exclusive in its outlook so much so that its followers recommended the imposition of jizyah even on those Muslims who did not agree with them. The Mahdawis had to face opposition from the ‘ulama’ as well as from the rulers.


The first notable saint of this order to enter India, but it was Syed Makhdum Muhammad Gilaru (A.D. 1517) who organized it on an effective basis. The views and attitudes of its members during its long and chequered history greatly varied. If Shakikh Da ud Shah Abu’I Ma’ali and other swere inclined towards orthodoxy and the exoteric aspect of religion, Miyan Mir, Mulla Shah Badakhshi and others leaned towards its liberal and esoteric aspects. A third group of the Qadiri saints like Shaikh ‘Abdu’I Haqq Muhaddith of Delhi followed the middle path and tried to effect a balance between the formal and spiritual aspects of religion.

During the later years of Akbar’s reign, The Naqshbandi Silsilah was introduced in India by KHWAJAH BAQI BI”LLAH (A.D. 1603), who came from Kabul and settled at Delhi. This was the most cherished spiritual order of the Turks, particularly the descendants of Timur and Babur. It attained a position of great importance in India under the leadership of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, (d. A.D. 1624). 

According to Jahangir, he sent his Khalifahs to every town and city of the country. He was opposed to the PANTHEISTIC PHILOSOPHY (UNITY OF THE PHENOMENTAL WORLD). He condemned the life of sukr as the negation of the true spirit of Islam. Besides, he did not believe in the Chishti attitude of keeping aloof from politics. He compared the king to the soul and the people to the physical frame.

 “If the soul is pure, the body is pure. It the soul is impure, the body is impure”. He was opposed to the religious experiments of Akbar, as he feared that in this process Islam might lose its individuality. “The Muslim should follow their religion and the Hindu theirs” was what he stood for. 

In emphasizing the distinctive features of Islam and Hinduism he sometimes showed much bitterness, but this was largely conditioned by his opposition to Akbar’s policies. Whatever the intrinsic merits of his thoughts, his approach towards Hinduism and pantheism was incompatible with the spirit of Indu-Muslim mysticism. The subsequent history of the Naqshbandi silsilah shows attempts at revision and moderation.

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi’s opposition to the pantheistic doctrine of wahdat-ul-wujud led to a bitter conflict of ideologies, and this was noticed even by Bernier who came to India in the middle of the 17th century.

DARA SHUKOH, who translated the Upanisads into Persian under the title Sirr-i-Akbar and wrote his famous Majma’-ul-Bahrain to illustrate the basic unity of the Muslim and Hindu religious though, was a devout pantheist.
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