Syed Ahmad Shaheed

Syed Ahmad Shaheed of Rai Bareilly (b.1786 d.1831) was a warrior from India who, under the influence of Shah Abdul Aziz, son of Shah Waliullah, raised the banner of liberation in areas occupied by Sikhs. In 1806, Syed Ahmad enrolled in the Madrassa of Shah Walliullah in Delhi.

Syed Ahmed graduated from the Madrassa and joined a Pathan military force as a fighter and to lead the troops in prayer. Here he learnt about European weaponry. In 1821, Syed Ahmed left for Hajj via Calcutta, and held large meetings along the way. After one and half years in Arabia, he returned to Delhi in 1823. He proclaimed jihad against Sikhs in Punjab and was joined by notable Muslim leaders. The initial force of a few hundred men took a difficult route to Kabul, Afghanistan. In 1826 Syed Ahmed’s army attacked Sikh forces in Okara.

In 1830, Peshawar was captured and Syed Ahmed’s forces swelled to 80,000. The Sikhs won over the chief of Peshawar, Yar Muhammad Khan who deserted Syed Ahmed. Syed Ahmed was forced to move his headquarters to Panjtar, near Kashmir. Here he defeated a Sikh army under a French general. Syed Ahmed then sent forces against the traitorous tribal chiefs around Peshawar.

Syed Ahmed realized his strength was being spent fighting against fellow Muslims, and so his headquarters was moved to Balakot. The new targets for liberation were Kashmir and Hazara. The Sikhs were informed by traitors of an undefended approach to Balakot and launched a sudden attack in 1831. Syed Ahmed’s army fought bravely but were outnumbered and unprepared. 600 men were martyred, including Syed Ahmed.

His movement posed a serious threat to Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Kingdom after inflicting defeats on Sikh troops as well as recapturing Peshawar, Mardan and surrounding towns. His followers developed a well-knit organization after his martyrdom and continued his movement until the 1870’s.