Guru Arjan's popularity with Emperor Akbar and people of Majha and Doaba, his achievements of Harmandir Sahib, Tarn Taran, Kartarpur and the holy Granth had become a matter of great agony and anguish to those who wanted to harm the Sikh cause.
1. Prithi Chand and his son Meharban
Also known as Prithi Chand Mina (or Prithi Mal) as Minas were known as "unscrupulous scoundrels". They styled themselves as pretender Gurus although the Sikh community rejected them. Both of them were composing sacrilegious hymns and were declaring them as those of Guru Nanak. Meharban wrote a Janam Sakhi of Guru Nanak, in which he glorified his father and discredited Guru Nanak. He composed a Sukhmani in opposition to Guru Arjan's Sukhmani. Both father and son were plotting against Guru Arjan and tried to unsuccessfully kill the infant (Guru) Hargobind.
2. Sulhi Khan of Batala
Sulahi Khan was the mughal officer of Batala district. He was determined to bring about Guru's ruin. Under severe persecution the Guru had to leave Amritsar for Guru Ki Wadali. He was so bitterly hostile to him that the Guru mentioned him in his hymns in the Adi Granth. God rescued the Guru from Sulahi's clutches.
Prithi took Sulhi to admire some new brick kilns he had made. On arriving, Sulhi's new horse startled at the accidental flight of a bird from under his feet, and ran with his rider straight into a kiln in full blast and both were burnt alive. At the time Guru Arjan composed the following;
ਬਿਲਾਵਲੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
Bilāval mėhlā 5.
Bilaaval, Fifth Mehl:
ਸੁਲਹੀ ਤੇ ਨਾਰਾਇਣ ਰਾਖੁ ॥
Sulhī ṯe nārā▫iṇ rākẖ.
God saved me from Sulhi (Khan).
ਸੁਲਹੀ ਕਾ ਹਾਥੁ ਕਹੀ ਨ ਪਹੁਚੈ ਸੁਲਹੀ ਹੋਇ ਮੂਆ ਨਾਪਾਕੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Sulhī kā hāth kahī na pahucẖai sulhī ho▫e mū▫ā nāpāk. ||1|| rahā▫o.
Sulhi did not succeed in his plot, and he died in disgrace. ||1||Pause||
ਕਾਢਿ ਕੁਠਾਰੁ ਖਸਮਿ ਸਿਰੁ ਕਾਟਿਆ ਖਿਨ ਮਹਿ ਹੋਇ ਗਇਆ ਹੈ ਖਾਕੁ ॥
Kādẖ kuṯẖār kẖasam sir kāti▫ā kẖin mėh ho▫e ga▫i▫ā hai kẖāk.
God raised its axe, and chopped off his head; in an instant, he was reduced to dust. ||1||
ਮੰਦਾ ਚਿਤਵਤ ਚਿਤਵਤ ਪਚਿਆ ਜਿਨਿ ਰਚਿਆ ਤਿਨਿ ਦੀਨਾ ਧਾਕੁ ॥੧॥
Manḏā cẖiṯvaṯ cẖiṯvaṯ pacẖi▫ā jin racẖi▫ā ṯin ḏīnā ḏẖāk. ||1||
Plotting and planning evil, he was destroyed. The One who created him, gave him a push.
ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਮੀਤ ਧਨੁ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਰਹਿਓ ਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਗਇਆ ਸਭ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਕੁ ॥
Puṯar mīṯ ḏẖan kicẖẖū na rahi▫o so cẖẖod ga▫i▫ā sabẖ bẖā▫ī sāk.
Of his sons, friends and wealth, nothing remains; he departed, leaving behind all his brothers and relatives.
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਿਸੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਜਨ ਕਾ ਕੀਨੋ ਪੂਰਨ ਵਾਕੁ ॥੨॥੧੮॥੧੦੪॥
Kaho Nānak ṯis parabẖ balihārī jin jan kā kīno pūran vāk. ||2||18||104||
Says Nanak, I am a sacrifice to God, who fulfilled the word of its servant. ||2||18||104||
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Ang 825
3. Chandu Shah
Chandu Shah was the Emperor's Diwan or Financial Minister at Delhi. He was in search of a groom for his daughter. Messengers were sent to find out a suitable boy. One of them recommended (Guru) Hargobind, son of Guru Arjan. Chandu was not pleased on hearing the Guru's praises, he said, "Do you think him equal to me? What if he has many followers? He lives on offerings ... Whatever he appears to possess, he is in reality only a beggar, while I am the emperor's minister by whom millions of money are collected and millions of law-suits decided." But by being persuaded by his wife, Chandu Shah agreed and conveyed the proposal through a messenger.
Chandu remarks about the Guru were soon known to the Sikhs living in Delhi. They requested the Guru to turn down the proposal. The Guru did so. Further persuasion by Chandu Shah proved of no avail. He tried to soothe the Guru with a lakh of rupees; but it was too late; for the Guru declared, "My words are engraved on stone, and cannot be changed. If you give me the whole world as a dowry with your daughter, my son will not marry her."
4. Sheikh Ahmad Faruqi Sarhindi (1564-1624)
Also known as Shaykh Ahmad al-Farūqī al-Sirhindī, he was considered a Mujaddid (revivalist) and a leading Naqshbandi Sheikh from India. He was from an ashraf family claiming descent from caliph Umar, he received most of his early education from his father, Shaykh 'Abd al-Ahad and memorised the Qur'an. He was trained in all Sufi orders by the age of 17 and was given permission to initiate and train followers in the Naqshbandi Order.
At the time Sarhind was the stronghold of Naqshbandi order. The first millennium or a period of one thousand years of the foundation of Islam was over and the second millennium had begun. Sheikh Ahmad (No. 25 in the Naqshbandi-Haqqani golden chain) declared that the first millennium belonged to Prophet Muhammad and the second millennium to him as head of the order. He took the title of qayum or the deputy of God.
The Naqshbandi Sufi order or Naqshbandiyah was founded by Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari and traces its spiritual lineage to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, through Abu Bakr, the first Caliph and Muhammad's companion. Some Naqshbandi masters trace their lineage through Ali, His son-in-law and the fourth Caliph, in keeping with most other Sufis.
In Sufism, as in any serious Islamic discipline such as jurisprudence (fiqh), Quranic recital (tajwid), and hadith, a disciple must have a master or sheikh from whom to take the knowledge, one who has himself taken it from a master, and so on, in a continuous chain of masters back to Muhammad.
The Sheikh said the whole universe including sun, moon and earth was under his control. Nobody's prayer could reach God unless it was first accepted by him. He had a large number of followers. They designated him Majaddid Alif Sani meaning controller of the universe in the second millennium. The Sikh Gurus called themselves 'Al-Insan Al-Kamil' or perfect men. The Sheikh asserted that qayum was higher than Sikh Gurus. Guru Arjan did not accept this view.
The Sheikh was extremely jealous of Guru Arjan's popularity and power. He was a revivalist of Islam. He "made the revival of orthodoxy something of a movement." He made use of the royal power as "Jahangir himself was inclined towards the purificatiun of beliefs and practices." It is said that "Sheikh Ahmad eradicated the godlessness of Akbar's reign; forced the court to reform its etiquette and made large number of muslims in the army and the court."
He was given the titles of 'Reviver of the Second Millennium', and the 'Godly Imam'. The Sheikh greatly incited Jahangir against Guru Arjan when he called at Sarhind in pursuit of Prince Khusrau. The Sheikh also exercised great influence on the courtiers of Jahangir. The Sheikh declared Guru Arjan Kulah-e-Sharik and Imam-e-Kufr. Jahangir was greatly influenced by the Sheikh.
Sheikh Ahmad of Sarhind expressed utmost delight at Guru Arjan's murder. In a letter written to Sheikh Farid Bukhari entitled Murtza Khan, the Governor of Punjab. he said: "The execution at this time of the accursed Kafir of Goindwall .. with whatever motive ... is an act of the highest grace for the folloowers of Islam." He added that the hindus should be treated as dogs. Jizya (non-muslim tax) should be imposed upon them and cowslaughter should be allowed in the open.
Sheikh Ahmad broke away from earlier mystic traditions and propounded his theory of the unity of the phenomenal world. In particular, he spoke out against innovations introduced by Sufis. For instance, he opposed Emperor Akbar's views on hindu and muslim marriages. He stated, "Muslims should follow their religion, and non-muslims their ways, as the Qur'an enjoins 'for you yours and for me my religion'". Also he did not believe in keeping the state and ruler separate and worked hard to change the outlook of the ruling class.
Note: Emperor Aurangzeb was also a member of the Naqshbandi Sufi order.
5. The Emperor Jahangir
Mirza Nur-ud-din Beig Mohammad Khan Salim, known by his imperial name Jahangir (Persian for "conqueror of the world" (31 August 1569 – 28 October 1627)), was the fourth mughal emperor who ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. He was much criticised for his addiction to alcohol, opium, and women.
The orthodox muslim ulama, all political leaders' and the muslim population had deeply resented Akbar's policy of liberality and toleration. The liberal element at the court was in a very small minority. They favoured Akbar's grandson and Prince Salim's son Khusrau in the absence of any law of succession in the mughal empire. The orthodox group which was in very great majority supported Prince Salim (Jahangir), the only living son of Emperor Akbar. They extracted a definite and solemn promise from Prince Salim to reverse Akbar's policy as the price of their support.
The orthodox ulama leaders were Sheikh Ahmad Sarhindi and Sheikh Farid Bukhari. Under their influence Prince Salim had administered poison to Akbar in 1591 from which the Emperor had survived. Impatient for power, he revolted in 1599 while Akbar was engaged in the Deccan. Jahangir was defeated, but in 1601 he openly revolted against his father and assumed the royal title. In 1602 he had Prime Minister Abul Fazl murdered, because he was the greatest supporter of Akbar in his liberalism.
The Sayyids of Barha, well-known for their religious zeal and bravery, were won over by the ulama in favour of Salim. This prince took solemn oaths to restore orthodoxy, punish the liberal group and destroy non-muslim movements. Ultimately, Jahangir succeeded his father as Emperor in 1605. Jahangir was a true muslim fundamentalist who was opposed to Guru Arjan. Jahangir wrote in his autobiography the "Tuzuk-i-Jahagiri" ("Memoirs of Jahangir");
"For a long time it had been in my mind to put a stop to this vain affair (dukin-e-bitil) or to bring him into the fold of Islam. In these days when Prince Khusrau passed along this road, this foolishly insignificant fellow (mardak-emajhil) proposed to wait on him ... I ordered them to produce him and handed over his houses, dwelling-places, and children to Murtaza Khan, and having confiscated his property commanded that he should be put to death."