Shariah vs. Sufism

In 16th century, Islamic teachings were highly distorted in India. In Sufism, many means of developing magical and super natural powers alien to Islam had been developed. The mystics and sufis of those days openly denied the authenticity of Shariah by declaring it external and superficial. They even proudly manifested their indifference towards the Sunnah. The Ulemah and theologians ceased to refer to Quran and Hadith in their commentaries and considered jurisprudence as the only religious knowledge.

At that time, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhandi (1564-1624) popularly known as Mujadid Alf Thani appeared as a beacon in the darkness. He declared mysticism without Shariah as misleading and denounced those who had questioned the authority of Shariah. He wrote many books, including his famous works, Isbat-ul-Nabat and Risal-i-Nabuwat. His greatest work on Islamic philosophy was the Tauheed-i-Shuhudi.

In Isbat-ul-Nabat, Mujadid Alf Thani gave an excellent explanation of the prophethood. According to him, revelation alone is infallible and therefore provides the sole criterion of spiritual truth and thus mystic experience.

According to Simon Digby, “modern hagiographical literature emphasizes (Sirhindi’s) reiterated profession of strict Islamic orthodoxy, his exaltation of the sharia and exhortations towards its observance.” On the other hand, Yohanan Friedmann questions how committed Sirhindi was to sharia, commenting: “it is noteworthy that while Sirhindi never wearies of describing the minutest details of Sufi experience, his exhortations to comply with the shariah remain general to an extreme.” Friedmann also claims “Sirhindi was primarily a Sufi interested first and foremost in questions of mysticism.”