The first of the great reformers, Sheikh Ahmad Sarhindi al-Farooqi an-Naqshbandi, was born in Sarhind on June 26, 1564. He belonged to a devout Muslim family that claimed descent from Hazrat Umar Farooq (RA). His father Sheikh Abdul Ahad was a well-known sufi of his times. Sheikh Ahmad received his basic education at home. His initial instructions in the Holy Quran, Hadith and theology were rendered in Sarhind and Sialkot. Later, he devoted most of his time to the study of Hadith, Tafseer and philosophy. He worked for some time in Lahore as well. But the greater part of his life was spent in Sarhind, where he was to become the champion of Islamic values. It was not until he was 36 years old that he went to Delhi and joined the Naqshbandiya Silsilah under the discipleship of Khawaja Baqi Billah.
During this period the Muslims in India had become so deficient in the knowledge of true Islam that they had more belief in Karamat or miracles of the saints than Islamic teachings. The Ulema and theologians of the time had ceased to refer to the Quran and Hadith in their commentaries, and considered jurisprudence the only religious knowledge. Akbar, the Mughal king had started a series of experiments with Islam, propagating his own religion Din-i-Ilahi, an amalgamation of Hindu and Muslim beliefs. In these circumstances, Sheikh Ahmad set upon himself the task of purifying the Muslim society. His aim was to rid Islam of the accretions of Hindu Pantheism. He was highly critical of the philosophy of Wahdat-ul Wujud, against which he gave his philosophy of Wahdat-ush-Shuhud.
He entered into correspondence with Muslim scholars and clerics and laid stress on following the true contours of Islam. To him, mysticism without Shariah was misleading. He stressed the importance of Namaz and fasting. Through preaching, discussions and his maktubat addressed to important nobles and leaders of religious thought, he spread his message amongst the elite in particular. As he and his followers also worked in the imperial camp and army, he was