Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624), popularly known as Mujaddid Alf-i-Sani (the Renovator of the Second Millenium), was a great Sufi who defied the religious experiments initiated by the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar and emphasized the uniqueness of the Muslim nation. In a famously quoted anecdote he is said to have refused to bow down before Akbar’s successor, the Emperor Nuruddin Jahangir (1569-1621), himself a precursor of Muslim nationalism in his own way.
Sirhindi’s crucial role as a supporter of Muslim nationhood is mentioned by Iqbal in the poem ‘To the Sufi Masters of Punjab’ in Gabriel’s Wing (see Chapter 90 in A Novel of Reality). The poem was apparently based on an actual visit to the tomb of the saint in the late 1920s, in which Iqbal’s son Javid, a little child at that time, also accompanied him.
Yet another dimension of the work of Sirhindi is introduced in the seventh lecture of the Reconstruction, ‘Is Religion Possible?’ Here, he is described as:
…a great religious genius of the seventeenth century… whose fearless analytical criticism of contemporary Sufism resulted in the development of a new technique. All the various systems of Sufi technique in India came from Central Asia and Arabia; his is the only technique which crossed the Indian border and is still a living force in the Punjab, Afghanistan, and Asiatic Russia. I am afraid it is not possible for me to expound the real meaning of this passage in the language of modern psychology; for such language does not yet exist.