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Syed Ahmad bin Muhammad as-Shaheed of Rai Bareilly (b.1786 d.1831), was a Sufi from Rae Bareli, Indiamarker

Syed Ahmad was the student of Shah Abdul Aziz and was influenced by him and his father Shah Waliullah and toured Afghanistanmarker and the areas occupied by the Sikhs raising the banner of Jihad and rallying the Pashtun tribes to his banner. His movement posed a threat to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Sikh Kingdom after it inflicted defeats on Sikh troops as well as recapturing Peshawarmarker, Mardanmarker and surrounding towns and villages.

He was betrayed by some locals and was killed by the Sikhs along with hundreds of his troops and followers in Balakotmarker, Mansehra District in 1831. His defeat ended the dream of establishing an Islamic state in Peshawarmarker, now Pakistan.

Early life

Syed Ahmad Shaheed was from a family of Hasani Syeds, distantly related to the family of Shah Waliullah. He was born near Lucknowmarker, in the town of Rae Bareli (Bareli). His father died while he was still young and after attempting to find employment in Delhi, Syed Ahmed decided he needed further education. In 1806, Syed Ahmed enrolled in the famous Madrassa (Islamic religious school) of Shah Walliullah in Delhi. Syed Ahmed was amongst the generation of Muslims who were dismayed at the end of the Islamic Mughal empire.


He was a faithful follower of Shah Abdul Aziz.

In 1821, Syed Ahmed left for hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca but instead of the shorter journey from the west coast, he went via Calcutta, and held large meetings all along the way. After spending one and half years in Arabia, he returned to Delhi in May 1823 in order to guide people into the "Jihad fi Sabilillah".


Syed Ahmed visited towns around the Punjab and the United Provinces to whip up support and was joined by notable Muslim leaders. The initial force of a few hundred men led by Syed Ahmed could not reach the area directly from Delhi for obvious reasons and so had to proceed through the long and difficult route through Rajasthan, Sindh and Balochistan until they reached Kabul. Apart from the obvious need to avoid the Sikh forces at this stage, Syed Ahmed also collected support and troops along the way. In many areas the population was more enthusiastic than their rulers: the Mirs of Sindh were reluctant to fight with the Sikhs as was Bahawalpur, while Afghanistan was torn by internal differences. In spite of this, many men from these areas joined Syed Ahmed's forces.

Military campaigns

In 1826, Syed Ahmed's army launched its armed conflict. Attacks were made on Sikh forces in Akora. By the end of 1830, Peshawar was captured by the forces of the Islamic Jihad. This success encouraged other Pathan tribes to join Syed Ahmed. The Sikhs were now concerned by this threat. They tried to spread dissent amongst the tribes supporting Syed Ahmed.

Syed Ahmed set up his headquarters at Naushera on 21 December 1826 and initial skirmishes with the Sikh forces left Syed Ahmed's army with the advantage. His army swelled to eighty thousand men and taxes were collected from the local population to keep the force equipped. The Sikhs started preparing for war and also began a diplomatic campaign aimed at the tribal chiefs.

Syed Ahmed realized that his strength was being spent fighting against fellow Muslims, and so his headquarters were moved to Balakot. Nearly six hundred men of his force were killed. Syed Ahmed himself and his chief officer, Shah Ismail Shaheed, the grandson of Shah Waliullah, were both killed as well.

See also

Saheb Qibla Fultali



  • Adamec, Ludwig, Historical Dictionary of Islam, Scarecrow Press, 2001

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