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The Great Mujahid: Life Story of Maulana Muhammad Ali

Part 2: Life at Qadian,
From May 1899 to April 1914.

3. Events of the Split in the Movement and migration of Maulana Muhammad Ali to Lahore
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Part 2
Life at Qadian
From May 1899 to April 1914

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3. Events of the Split in the Movement and migration of Maulana Muhammad Ali to Lahore

The bright aspects of the time of Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din have just been mentioned. Now we turn to the dark side of that same era, which led to the “Split” in the community after his death. Not only was the Movement ripped apart into two, the majority of it turning to extremism, but also the appeal and the progress of the Ahmadiyya Movement suffered a tremendous damage that was permanent and lasting. Though the foundations of the Split were laid during the life of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, but to understand it one has to go back to 1905 and 1906 when the Promised Messiah wrote the booklet Al-Wasiyyat and established the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, Qadian.

Al-Wasiyyat and the founding of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya and its consequences

As mentioned before, in 1905 the Promised Messiah published his booklet entitled Al-Wasiyyat (‘The Will’) and established the administrative system of his community on the broad Islamic principles of democracy, thus putting before the world a magnificent achievement of the revival of true Islam. Then during his own lifetime he set that system into operation and ran the Movement according to those principles, by creating the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian in 1906 and handing over to it all the management of the Movement. He declared that after his lifetime the decisions of this Anjuman would be final and binding.

Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, son of the Promised Messiah, inwardly resented this, and from that time he began to entertain feelings of jealousy and animosity particularly towards Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. He devoted much time to devising ways of rendering the Anjuman powerless.

Near the end of the Promised Messiah’s life, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad began to display his ill feeling, which he bore towards the men to whom the Promised Messiah had entrusted the funds of the Movement, in the form of open displeasure. Every year, according to the wishes of Hazrat Mirza sahib, Maulana Muhammad Ali used to be reappointed as secretary of the Sadr Anjuman. In the latter part of 1907, Maulana Muhammad Ali tried to allay the feelings of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad by taking leave for three months and making Mirza Mahmud Ahmad secretary in his place. When the time came for the next annual election of officers, the Maulana proposed to the Promised Messiah that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad should be made secretary for the coming year. However, Hazrat Mirza sahib ruled it out saying that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s opinions were flawed or immature. So, once again, Maulana Muhammad Ali was made secretary.{footnote 1} This continued in the time of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, and by his advice Maulana Muhammad Ali was always reappointed secretary. During the period that he was secretary, from 1906 to 1913, the annual budget of the Anjuman increased from 30,000 Rupees to almost 200,000 Rupees, and a magnificent school building and boarding house worth 150,000 Rupees had been constructed.

Death of the Promised Messiah: Maulana Nur-ud-Din takes bai‘at (pledge) from members

About a month before his death, when the Promised Messiah left Qadian to go to Lahore, he appointed Maulana Muhammad Ali to manage all affairs in his absence. After his death, when his body reached Qadian for burial, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din said to Maulana Muhammad Ali in the cemetery garden that it had been proposed that Maulana Nur-ud-Din should succeed the Promised Messiah. He replied that he fully agreed with the proposal. Then the Khwaja sahib added that it was also proposed that all Ahmadis should take the pledge (bai‘at) on Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s hand. Maulana Muhammad Ali replied that there was no need for that because only new entrants to the Movement need take the pledge and that this was the purport of Al-Wasiyyat. The Khwaja sahib said that it was a delicate time and any difference of opinion may cause division in the community, and there was no harm in Ahmadis taking the pledge again. Then Maulana Muhammad Ali agreed and the pledge was taken at Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s hand.

Beginning of the discord and efforts to mislead Maulana Nur-ud-Din

Maulana Nur-ud-Din and Maulana Muhammad Ali were very close to one another. Maulana Nur-ud-Din consulted Maulana Muhammad Ali about all the matters in hand, and whatever announcement he had to issue he would get it drafted by Maulana Muhammad Ali. This close bond further intensified the jealousy that some others felt towards Maulana Muhammad Ali and they decided to undermine this relationship between the two. Now Maulana Muhammad Ali considered the khilafat after the Promised Messiah to be only in the sense of ‘successorship’, and he held that the Divinely-ordained khilafat whose establishment is mentioned in the khilafat verse of the Holy Quran (24:55) was promised to the Holy Prophet Muhammad only, and not to Hazrat Mirza sahib. The persons bearing a grudge against Maulana Muhammad Ali misrepresented this by telling Maulana Nur-ud-Din at every opportunity that Maulana Muhammad Ali did not accept him as khalifa. For some time they succeeded in misleading him.

In the annual report for 1908, prepared by Maulana Muhammad Ali and read out by him on 26 December 1908 at the annual gathering, the first such gathering since the death of the Promised Messiah, the creation of the Anjuman by Hazrat Mirza sahib was mentioned and it was stated that the running of the Movement after him had been placed by him in the hands of the Anjuman. The Maulana also read out the note by Hazrat Mirza sahib stipulating that after him the decisions of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya would be final. After the Maulana’s speech, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din also mentioned in his speech that Hazrat Mirza sahib had appointed the Anjuman as his successor.

This gave an opportunity to the mischief makers, so that Mir Muhammad Ishaq, maternal uncle of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, composed a set of seven questions: (1) Is the Anjuman subservient to the Khalifa (Maulana Nur-ud-Din) or vice versa? (2) Can the Anjuman dismiss the Khalifa or vice versa? (3) How far can the Khalifa interfere in the affairs of the Anjuman? There were four more questions of the same nature.

These they sent to Maulana Nur-ud-Din and told him that Maulana Muhammad Ali, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din and their associates did not really accept him as khalifa. Maulana Nur-ud-Din sent those seven questions to Maulana Muhammad Ali to give a reply to. When he received his reply, he sent it to the questioner. But they did not rest at that, and sent further questions to Maulana Nur-ud-Din. The answers which Maulana Muhammad Ali gave are quoted in full by him in his book Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf. In brief he repeated that Hazrat Mirza sahib had made the Anjuman as his successor but everyone unanimously accepted Maulana Nur-ud-Din as their leader. There was no dispute between him and the Anjuman so all these questions were hypothetical and premature, and an attempt to break up the Anjuman. He added that the Anjuman should answer these questions. On receiving this reply Maulana Nur-ud-Din directed that these questions be sent to forty people for their view, he should be informed of their opinions and they should all assemble in Qadian on 31 January.

When these questions reached Lahore, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din called a meeting of the members of the Anjuman’s executive from Lahore (that is, the Khwaja sahib himself, Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig, Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah and Shaikh Rahmatullah) and sent their unanimous opinion, which was in agreement with what Maulana Muhammad Ali had already said. They agreed that Hazrat Mirza sahib’s real successor was the Anjuman and the Anjuman had unanimously accepted Maulana Nur-ud-Din as leader, this acceptance being an act of the Anjuman, and they were all united upon his person as leader. On the other side in Qadian, Shaikh Yaqub Ali had a meeting at his house, which fuelled the controversy.

At the gathering on 31 January, Maulana Nur-ud-Din expressed his views. Though he did state that a khalifa had other duties and functions than merely to lead the prayers, he did not clarify any further and in the end he repeated what Maulana Muhammad Ali had already said, that these questions were irrelevant at that stage and it was wrong to dwell on them. His final decision was that as both the parties had confidence in him these questions must not be raised in his lifetime. After his speech he made Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and Mir Nasir Nawab to promise that they would obey him, and then he took the pledge from Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din on one side and from Shaikh Yaqub Ali and Mir Muhammad Ishaq on the other. The purpose of this was to affirm that they would obey him during his life, as both sides had already acknowledged that they obeyed him.

This was all that happened, but afterwards this incident was misrepresented with embellishments by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and his followers. In practice too, Maulana Nur-ud-Din never made people acknowledge him as the kind of autocratic khalifa with absolute and dictatorial powers that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad became later on, nor did he ever override any decision of the Anjuman. Above all, the rules and regulations of the Anjuman remained the same during his period of headship as they had been framed by the Promised Messiah, but Mirza Mahmud Ahmad started altering them as soon as he became khalifa.

Efforts to get Maulana Muhammad Ali and his friends expelled from the Ahmadiyya community

This mischief-making should have ceased at this point, but as Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and his supporters did not succeed in achieving their real aim they continued trying to revive the dissension. They tried their level best to impress again and again upon Maulana Nur-ud-Din that these people were inwardly opposed to him. Mirza Mahmud Ahmad was the main instigator of this as is proved by a letter he wrote to Maulana Nur-ud-Din, which was published later on by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf. In this long letter, he related a dream of his and then did his best to provoke Maulana Nur-ud-Din to expel Maulana Muhammad Ali and his associates from the community. In that letter he tried to poison Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s mind against them by going as far as to insinuate that these people had been plotting even during the Promised Messiah’s time and had wanted to hold him to account for the income of the Movement. He made a false allegation against Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din that, just before the Promised Messiah’s death, they used to say that he had been misappropriating the funds of the community. Then Mirza Mahmud Ahmad writes:

“A boil full of pus gets worse the longer it is left. Till now my opinion was that this matter should be suppressed as far as possible … but now, after prayer, my feeling and view has changed completely and I have come to the conclusion that now is the time that this ill condition should be remedied.”

This letter ends as follows:

“So my view is that God may open your heart, sir, to this course of action and this matter must be brought to an end, no matter how. There is bound to be trial and tribulation, but it is best to nip it in the bud before it becomes a firm tree.

Humbly, Mahmud.”

At the same time an incident involving the sale of the house of Hakim Fazl Din occurred in which the decision taken by the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya did not quite tally with the opinion of Maulana Nur-ud-Din. Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and his party used this to raise a storm of propaganda. Letters were sent to Maulana Nur-ud-Din even from Lahore alleging that certain remarks were being made by Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah, and certain remarks by Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig, against the Khalifa. Maulana Nur-ud-Din, being after all human, was somewhat angered and said that he was going to make an announcement on the coming Eid day. It was not clear what the announcement was to be about. Some people thought that he might take away power from the Anjuman, which would foment trouble in the Movement. (Later events showed that he intended to announce that he would have no more to do with the financial decisions of the Anjuman, though such an announcement too would have been harmful for the Movement.)

A day before the Eid day, Shaikh Rahmatullah came from Lahore as usual, and he and Maulana Muhammad Ali went to see Maulana Nur-ud-Din and assured him that the two doctors were obedient to him. Maulana Nur-ud-Din brought out a bag full of letters that he had received against them. Both of them told him that all those allegations were completely false and that they all were obedient to him. Maulana Nur-ud-Din was satisfied by their statements and did not make any announcement on Eid day. So the day of Eid on which the mischief makers had pinned their hopes turned out to be a day not of joy but of disappointment for them.

During the course of his Eid khutba, on 16 October 1909, Maulana Nur-ud-Din reiterated the position and the powers given to the Anjuman by the Promised Messiah. Referring to the booklet Al-Wasiyyat (The Will) he said:

“In the writing of Hazrat sahib [i.e. Al-Wasiyyat by the Promised Messiah] there is a point of deep knowledge which I will explain to you fully. He left it up to God as to who was going to be the khalifa. On the other hand, he said to fourteen men: You are collectively the Khalifat-ul-Masih, your decisions are final and binding, and the government authorities too consider them as absolute. Then all those fourteen men became united in taking the bai‘at at the hand of one man, accepting him as their khalifa, and thus you were united. And then not only fourteen, but the whole community agreed upon my khilafat.

… I have read Al-Wasiyyat very thoroughly. It is indeed true that he has made fourteen men the Khalifat-ul-Masih, and written that their decision arrived at by majority opinion is final and binding. Now observe that these God-fearing men, whom Hazrat sahib chose for his khilafat, have by their righteous opinion, by their unanimous opinion, appointed one man as their Khalifa and Amir. And then not only themselves, but they made thousands upon thousands of people to embark in the same boat in which they had themselves embarked.”

(Badr, Qadian, 21 October 1909, p. 11, col. 1)

In the same issue of Badr, immediately after the above khutba, a statement by the members from Lahore is published as follows:

“When on the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr we went to Qadian as usual, we learnt that some people had written letters to Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih stating that some members of the Majlis-i-Mu‘timiddin (executive committee) of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya are against him. We were very grieved by these letters and think that Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih must have been hurt as well. We do not harbour ill thoughts against our brethren, and we pray that they too think well of us, as is very strongly commanded in the Quran and Hadith. We cannot rip open our hearts and show anyone what thoughts are within them, but with this announcement we assure all friends that the pledge we took of Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih was not due to any pressure or compulsion but willingly from the bottom of our hearts, and we still stand firm on that pledge and obey Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih. It is clear that the unity of this Movement is not a unity on pain of punishment but a voluntary unity. It is on the principle of that voluntary unity that all of us took the pledge of Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih, and as regards the future we pray to Allah to keep us steadfast on this covenant as Noah prayed: ‘I seek refuge in Thee from asking Thee about that of which I have no knowledge’, for the granting of all capability and strength is only in Allah’s hands.

— Humbly: Mirza Yaqub Baig, signed by his own hand; Rahmatullah, signed by his own hand; members of the executive committee, Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian, 17 October 1909.

I agree with each and every word of the above announcement and I am proud of obeying Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih — Humbly, Muhammad Ali from Qadian.”

(Badr, 21 October 1909)

The anxiety of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad to have Maulana Muhammad Ali and some other persons expelled from the community can be glimpsed in his account of one of his dreams which he had published in Badr dated 23 February 1911. He wrote:

“Near to morning time I saw a large palace, one part of which was being demolished, and near the palace there was an open ground where thousands of men were doing stonework. … I asked them what building it was and who were those people and why were they demolishing it. One of them replied that it was the Ahmadiyya community and one part of it was being demolished in order that old bricks be removed (may Allah have mercy) and some hollow bricks be replaced by solid ones.”

More efforts to create suspicion in Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s mind

Many other incidents like these carried on happening, in which Mirza Mahmud Ahmad continued his most strenuous efforts to create in Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s mind as much mistrust as possible against Maulana Muhammad Ali, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah and Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig. The details of these can be found in the book Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf. As the Ansarullah party of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad continued their false propaganda especially against Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote a letter to Maulana Nur-ud-Din in November 1913 protesting about this. Some extracts from the letter are given below which illustrate the atmosphere prevailing at the time:


“Yesterday you, honourable sir, mentioned that people accuse me and the Khwaja sahib, but you did not say in what matter. If it has been brought to your notice, sir, that we two disobey you or that we had anything to do with the anonymous tracts{footnote 2} or that either one of us wants to be a claimant to khilafat, then I state on oath in the name of Allah, on my behalf with full certainty and on behalf of the Khwaja sahib with the absolute confidence which is tantamount to full belief because of several years of close friendship, that these three allegations are absolutely false. If anyone alleges that we have ever said any such thing to him then he must at least be made to take an oath in front of me. More than this, I myself can produce sworn statements from all persons who have relations with me that I have never said anything like it. …

I assure you, sir, that we have obeyed you even to the extent of accepting blame upon ourselves when in certain matters you said something but we refrained from speaking in our defence in case it displeased you. …  This position of secretary I never accepted out of personal desire, nor did I perform the duties for selfish ends. During the time of the Promised Messiah I requested him many times to relieve me of my duties but my request was not granted. Every year, until he placed this burden upon me by writing my name with his own hand, I was never keen to shoulder the responsibility. …

My name and the name of the Khwaja sahib are indeed today mentioned, and that is in order to label us as hypocrites and unfaithful. This disease has spread so much that when certain missionaries travel to any place they believe it to be a meritorious deed to use these terms about us and to convey this to their audiences. In Qadian this has gone beyond all bounds. As regards what is the purpose of this propaganda and who are the people at the root of spreading it, these are matters about which I will not say anything because I do not wish to cause you any anguish. This is a trial which has come upon us. The Khwaja sahib, even having gone out of India, is still the victim of these reproachful attacks, and despite the fact that you on two occasions in your sermons exonerated him that propaganda is still going on. I am here so far, but after five to seven months at most I too will go to England, if I am still alive. …

In the name of Allah, please you yourself, sir, tell us where can we go to, in order to be safe from these accusations and false allegations? God, the One, knows that we never conspired any plot, nor is it our practice to do so, nor is it in our nature. It was to be away from such things that I took abode in a secluded corner to serve the religion. What can we do if some people do not like this? I swear on oath in the name of God that we are not conspirators. We are rather the victims of a conspiracy. … It would not have mattered if we had been called hypocrites and unfaithful only before the ordinary people, but this has gone much further and efforts are now being made to portray us like that in your eyes.

Wassalam. Humbly, Muhammad Ali. 23 November 1913.”

Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s true feelings

Maulana Nur-ud-Din sent this letter to Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and he wrote back saying that he would instruct the Ansar (meaning his party Ansarullah) not to say such things, and he also wrote that he himself had never heard Maulana Muhammad Ali say the things he was accused of saying. Maulana Nur-ud-Din sent this reply to Maulana Muhammad Ali and added the following words in his own hand:

“By Allah, besides Whom there is no god, and Who holds my life in His hand, it never came to my mind even for an instant that you or the Khwaja sahib hold such ideas. It is my belief that neither of you entertain such thoughts. …”

This was written on 23 November 1913 when his last illness had commenced. Prior to this, when Maulana Nur-ud-Din came to Lahore in 1912 he made a speech in Ahmadiyya Buildings during which he said:


“The third thing is that some persons, who are known as my friends and are my friends, hold the view and say that the people from Lahore are an impediment in the affairs of the khilafat. … Allah has given you the teaching to refrain from thinking ill of others, as it will turn you into evil doers. The Holy Prophet has said that he who indulges in thinking ill of others is a great liar, so keep away from this. Even now I have a slip of paper in my hand on which someone writes that the Lahore Jama‘at is an obstacle in the way of the khilafat. I say to such critics to give up thinking ill of others. The people from Lahore are sincere, and you should first of all try to make yourself sincere like they are. They love the Promised Messiah. Human beings make mistakes and they too can make mistakes, but the works which they have performed you should also try to do the same.

I say at the top of my voice that whoever thinks ill of the people from Lahore, saying that they are an obstacle in the way of the khilafat, he should remember that the Holy Prophet has said regarding one who indulges in this that it is ‘the biggest lie’ and Allah says: ‘Abstain from most of suspicion, for much of suspicion is sin’, so it is called a sin here. … You mistrust the sincere ones and hurt me. Fear God. …

Remember what I have said and give up thinking ill of others and causing discord. … Give up the notion that the people from Lahore are an impediment in the affairs of the khilafat. If you do not, then God will make your case like that of Musailima.”

(Badr, 11 July 1912, pages 4, 5)

As is obvious from these statements of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, it had become fully clear to him that this was just mischief created by certain persons, and there were no grounds for the allegations against Maulana Muhammad Ali and his associates. He got so exasperated with the insidious propaganda that he wrote a letter to Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, dated 13 May 1913, who was then in England, expressing his heartfelt feelings, one sentence of which is translated below:

“Nawab,{footnote 3} Mir Nasir and Mahmud are useless people, fanatical for no good reason. This trouble is still afflicting us. O Allah, deliver us from it. Amen!

A facsimile of this letter was published in Paigham Sulh, dated 26 November 1937.

In addition to this, the love that Maulana Nur-ud-Din had for Maulana Muhammad Ali was clearly expressed in those events from his last illness which have been quoted above from the daily diary reports published by Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig.

Maulana Muhammad Ali’s announcement about the disunity and mistrust

With regard to the atmosphere of disunity and mistrust created in Qadian by a certain group, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote a letter in the Ahmadiyya community newspaper Badr a few days before the annual gathering of December 1913, three months before Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s death, in which he addressed all the members of the community. This letter shows the kind of circumstances that had been created in Qadian, and his deep concern about them. This letter was as follows:


“Brothers, assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu!

I consider it to be a great favour of Allah that after the death of the Promised Messiah He united the whole community under one man, and it was also the grace of Allah by which all hearts were inclined to the obedience of this man, and at a time of such sorrow Allah sent tranquillity by His grace. I request all of you to be grateful for this favour of Allah, and you can do that by avoiding mischievous activities that lead to disunity in the community. Have favourable opinions about your brethren and leave the matter of their inner faith to be judged by Allah. Everyone of you should try to avoid bad mouthing another brother, and if you hear about someone that he speaks ill of you, do not try to get even with him because sometimes a news, when reaching somewhere, becomes comp­letely distorted and very different from reality. If you observe any mischief being created, then instead of vying to take part in it, keep your silence. The path of righteousness is in fact the path of caution, and at times of discord no path of caution is better than keeping silent.

In the Quran Allah admonishes those who spread discord. It says that ‘if any news of security or fear comes to them they spread it all over’ (4:83), and it instructs that instead of spreading it they should refer it to the Messenger or those in authority. Keep in mind that to create disunity is not gallantry of any kind, but unity cannot be achieved without Allah’s favour: ‘If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah united them’ (8:63). Once you lose the gift of unity you will not acquire it again even by spending all that you can, and all your works will remain incomplete and unfulfilled. Instead of malice and spite, create love and compassion for your brethren in your hearts, and if you cannot go that far then at least remove the malice and spite from within you. If someone is working for your Movement or serving religion, and you also notice some flaw in him, think of his service and his work in contrast with his flaw. Instead of trying to expel your brothers from within you, try to bring others to join you. If you expend all your energies in rejecting your brothers, then you will not have any strength left to do the opposite work.

I implore you again, it is not too late, do not discard the strength of unity. Take in the favours of God. Keep in view the pledge that you first took at the hand of the Promised Messiah and then at the hand of Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih, to give religion priority over worldly interests. Fight your egotism. If something is not to your liking, bear with it. The Promised Messiah has gone so far as to say in Kishti-i Nuh that even if you are in the right, be like one who considers himself to be in the wrong. For God’s sake, think. Are you trying to be like one considers himself in the right while being in the wrong, or vice versa? If this teaching was not meant for you, for which other community was it meant?

I say it again, that Allah by His grace has raised a man among you who has brought together the entire community, and Allah made all hearts inclined to that man’s obedience. Do not lose that grace by your own hands. Forgetting your disagreements, turn to matters which unite you. Incline not to worldly gain, but give preference to religion. You were brought into existence in this world to propagate and strengthen the religion. If you are set upon weakening the power of the religion, how can Allah the Most High come to your help?

Wassalam, Humbly, Muhammad Ali, Editor, Review of Religions, Qadian, 1 December 1913.”

(Badr, 4 December 1913)

The second tactic

What has been mentioned above was one tactic used by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and his party to get Maulana Muhammad Ali and his co-thinkers expelled from the community or to disillusion Maulana Nur-ud-Din with them. Another tactic used to establish the foundation for Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s succession was to spread propaganda to impress upon the community his scholarship and righteousness, so that after Maulana Nur-ud-Din the community would not consider anybody else for the position. To achieve this goal, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s maternal grandfather Mir Nasir Nawab toured towns and cities, on the pretext of raising funds for Dar-uz-Zu‘afa, and carried out propaganda against Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. Similarly, missionaries sent by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad also carried out the same propaganda.

That was the age when the evil custom of rendering blind obedience to spiritual leaders prevailed among the Muslims of India and they followed rituals and superstitions unquestioningly. It was a great achievement of the Promised Messiah that he eradicated this wrong system of absolute, autocratic rule by spiritual leaders over their followers, and after him Maulana Nur-ud-Din continued the same example. This was a distinction of the Ahmadiyya community which greatly impressed other Muslims. But the succession that was being planned for Mirza Mahmud Ahmad was of a different nature altogether. A proof of it is provided by the testimony of an impartial outsider. Muhammad Aslam of Amritsar, who was not an Ahmadi, came to Qadian and wrote of his impressions of his visit. Regarding Maulana Nur-ud-Din he wrote:

“Having attended his spiritual guidance gatherings and his teaching of the Quran for two days, as far as I reflected upon his work it appeared to me to be of the highest purity and based solely on serving Allah. His behaviour is above pretence, show and hypocrisy. He has a strong passion for the truth of Islam which is reflected from his heart. … If true Islam is what is contained in the Holy Quran, then I have not come across anyone who loves the Quran as truly as the Maulvi sahib does. It is not that he is compelled to do it just out of force of conformity; rather, he is a great thinker and has fallen in love with the Quran as a result of his critical scholarly evaluation. …  What amazed me was to see an eighty years old man working from dawn to dusk. …  All his actions and movements reflect the dignified simplicity and informality of the companions of the Holy Prophet.”

Then he goes on to say that he has not seen the evil of spiritual leader worship prevailing anywhere in the company of Maulana Nur-ud-Din.

Now look at the other side of the picture reported by the same observer:

“I did notice something which could, to some extent, lead to spiritual leader worship being established in Qadian in the future. This was the published poster from the editor of Al-Hakam displayed at many places in Qadian congratulating Mirza Mahmud Ahmad sahib on his safe return from his pilgrimage to Makka. … Its language reveals the tendency towards spiritual leader worship and I regret to see such a poster so widely published that for several days it is sticking upon the walls of the God worshipping Qadian. … Seeing that made me fearful, lest this quiet spark of spiritual leader worship, which probably is awaiting the demise of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, might spread as a fire and completely engulf Qadian.”

(Badr, 13 March 1913, page 9)

Thus even an impartial observer could envisage the pedestal to which Mirza Mahmud Ahmad was to be raised.

The scandal of calling Muslims as kafir and the establishment of the Ansarullah party

In those days Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din used to lecture in different cities of the Punjab as well as India generally and his fame had spread throughout the land. When, during a public meeting in Jhang, he declared that Ahmadis consider all those who profess the Kalima of Islam (‘There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’) as Muslims, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad contradicted this in an article published in his magazine Tashhiz-ul-Azhan for April 1911 and declared that each and every Muslim in the whole world who has not formally taken the bai‘at (pledge) of the Promised Messiah is a kafir and outside the pale of Islam, even if that person has never heard of the Promised Messiah or even if he believes the Promised Messiah to be true. It was this article that struck at the very foundations of the Ahmadiyya Movement and split it into two. However, to acquire the successorship it was not enough just to write an article. Mirza Mahmud Ahmad at the same time founded a party called the Ansarullah, with himself as its leader. Its members actively propagated his viewpoints as well as canvassed for him to succeed Maulana Nur-ud-Din as the next khalifa, while the Maulana was on his death bed. The propagation of the wrong belief that other Muslims are kafir went so far that Maulana Nur-ud-Din, from his sickbed, said in the presence of a large number of people that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad failed to comprehend the doctrine of Kufr and Islam (unbelief and Islam). He asked Maulana Muhammad Ali to clarify this issue. This made Mirza Mahmud Ahmad furious and he wrote an article in Al-Fazl of 25 February 1914 saying that the fatwa (view on religious matter) of a khalifa has no value and that anyone wanting a fatwa need only send him a postcard of one penny and he would provide a fatwa from the Promised Messiah’s books.

This Ansarullah was the party that had been brought into Qadian just before the death of Maulana Nur-ud-Din to help in taking over the succession after him. Thus one of the letters written by Hafiz Roshan Ali to the Ansarullah party in various towns and cities, which was reproduced in Paigham Sulh dated 17 March 1914, stated that Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s life was now only a matter of hours, not of days, so they must immediately assemble in Qadian.

A tract on calling Muslims as kafir and one on khilafat

As has been mentioned above, Maulana Nur-ud-Din openly stated from his sickbed that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad did not understand the doctrine of unbelief and Islam, and he had asked Maulana Muhammad Ali to expound this doctrine properly. Accordingly, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote a tract which was published in Qadian on 13 March 1914, in which he refuted Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s wrong belief. The Maulana writes in it:

“After writing this article I read it to Hazrat Khilafat-ul-Masih. As he was ill in those days, his son Abdul Hayy, thinking that he perhaps could not listen with full attention, asked him: Sir, are you listening? He replied: I am well able to listen to it, if I disagreed with anything I would say so. When the article ended, he directed that a hadith report from ‘Sahih Muslim’ be added at the close. That has been done.”

(Urdu pamphlet entitled: Issue of Unbelief and Islam according to the directions of Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih)

At the same time he also wrote and issued a tract entitled Ayk Nihayat Zaroori I‘lan (A very important announcement) in which he impressed the following five points on the Ahmadiyya community:

  1. It is not the case that an Ahmadi upon whom forty members have agreed becomes khalifa. Rather, what the Promised Messiah has instructed is that such a man can take the bai‘at (pledge) from new entrants to admit them into the Movement.
  2. The Promised Messiah has not given any instruction that existing Ahmadis have to renew their bai‘at upon another person’s hand.

  3. The executive committee of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian is the real and true successor of the Promised Messiah.
  4. Be very careful and fearful of God in the matter of ‘unbelief and Islam’, and follow the belief of the Promised Messiah who never declared as kafir those Muslims who did not accept his claims.
  5. Settle the successorship to Maulana Nur-ud-Din with thought and deliberation by consulting the entire community.

This tract explained clearly and in detail all the points above as well as explaining the true powers and position of the Anjuman. But it arrived in Qadian, after being printed in Lahore, when Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din had already died and the state of affairs in Qadian had worsened.

Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s death and subsequent events

On 13 March 1914, while saying his Friday prayers despite great weakness, Maulana Nur-ud-Din breathed his last (may his soul rest in peace). What happened afterwards is described by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf as follows:


“The same day, after Asr prayer, we five went to Nawab [Muhammad Ali Khan] sahib’s house to discuss the future. Before our arrival there, the Mian sahib [Mirza Mahmud Ahmad] had already gone for a walk on his own in the direction of the village of Khara. I told my friends that it would be better if I spoke to him alone. So I went after him, and said to him that as the community is openly split into two on the question of unbelief and Islam, so we have to think about the future and devise some way of keeping the community united. The Mian sahib’s answer was that we should elect a khalifa at whose hand both parties should take the bai‘at, and obey him; only thus could we remain united. I replied that the very problem was that both parties could not take the pledge of the same man. At least I could not accept a man as  spiritual guide who calls Muslims as kafir, and by the same token how can the other party take bai‘at on the hand of a man who according to them is in error on such an important issue. I suggested two possible solutions to the Mian sahib. One was to choose a leader now and not make the bai‘at obligatory: whoever wished could take the bai‘at but those who did not so wish need not do it. Then after some time had passed over this, each side should put forward its arguments on the question of unbelief and Islam. This would make it possible that, seeing which side had the stronger case, the entire community would adopt that as its creed. To this the Mian sahib answered that anyone who does not take the bai‘at of the khalifa cannot remain in the community, so this cannot work. My other suggestion was that no leader be elected at this time for at least fourteen days, and in this interim a representative gathering of the community be called to find a solution to the problem. But the Mian sahib’s answer was that there could not be such a wait because unless the next khalifa was elected, the previous khalifa could not be buried.{footnote 4} The result was that no solution could be achieved. The next day the five of us again went to the house of the Nawab sahib and tried to discuss the matter, but it was in vain. At last, after the Asr prayer a meeting took place. The Nawab sahib read out the will of Maulana Nur-ud-Din. After him Maulana Muhammad Ahsan of Amroha proposed the name of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad as the next khalifa. I rose up to mention the discussion that had taken place between me and the Mian sahib but some men began to shout that they would not listen, and there arose cries of: Takht-i khilafat mubarak (congratulations on the throne of khilafat)! The Mian sahib listened to all this silently and did not even ask the people to let me speak. So we left from there.”

This gathering which Maulana Muhammad Ali has mentioned was held in the Nur mosque. When Maulana Muhammad Ali tried to speak, Hafiz Roshan Ali, secretary of the Ansarullah party, and Shaikh Yaqub Ali Turab, who were waiting for this point, started shouting that they did not want to hear. This was a prearranged signal at which the whole of the Ansarullah party at once stood up, raising the cry that they would not listen, and they all surged towards Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, jostling to take the bai‘at on his hand. A great uproar and tumult was created, and cries went up:  Takht-i khilafat mubarak and Iwaan-i khilafat mubarak (congratulations on the throne of khilafat! on the palace of khilafat!) Maulana Muhammad Ali and his friends could not prevail upon this coarse element and left.

Afterwards telegrams were sent to the government and to all branches of the Anjuman, wrongly informing them that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad had been elected unanimously. Men were sent in all directions who got written pledges signed and returned by Ahmadis unaware of the situation, living in distant places. How a false propaganda was carried out to mislead the community to bring it under Mirza Mahmud Ahmad is a long story.

When Maulana Muhammad Ali and some other people with him left the Nur mosque and came back to the Maulana’s house, Dr. Basharat Ahmad was among them. He related that, while they could still hear the chanting from the mosque, Mirza Sultan Ahmad, the eldest son of the Promised Messiah from his first wife who was not a regular member of the Ahmadiyya community, who also had happened to be present in the mosque, came to them and immediately addressed Maulana Muhammad Ali saying:

“I have come to seek forgiveness for the rude treatment that my brother [Mirza Mahmud Ahmad] has meted out to the old friends of his father [the Promised Messiah]. When I saw the discourtesy that was allowed to prevail in the mosque just now I sank to the ground in shame.”

(Paigham Sulh, 27 April 1937)

In the Paigham Sulh of 10 March 1914, an article by Maulana Muhammad Ali entitled Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s claim to prophethood was published, refuting the wrong beliefs falsely attributed to Hazrat Mirza sahib by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad. The article about ‘Islam and Unbelief’ that was written “according to the directions of Maulana Nur-ud-Din” was published in the issue of the paper dated 17 March 1914. In the same issue a letter by Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah written from Qadian was published which throws further light on the events. Some extracts from it are given below:


“I and some friends from Lahore arrived in Qadian on the morning of 14 March. Here we found that the dangerous circumstances to which Maulana Muhammad Ali had alerted the community beforehand by his foresight were prevailing exactly as he had warned. Everywhere, students from the school, zealous members of the Ansarullah, Shaikh Yaqub Ali, Mufti Fazl-ur-Rahman etc., were running around trying to incite the ignorant people and rouse them to support Mirza Mahmud Ahmad for khalifa. Mistry Musa was stationed on the canal bridge on the way to Qadian, where he was telling arriving members of the community to sign that they supported the appointment of a khalifa, but the paper on which their signatures were obtained said that the khalifa had the power to keep or disband the Anjuman as he wished and to expel any member.

Midday came while all this was going on, but no one asked the consultative representatives who had come from other areas. In the Nur mosque Mirza Mahmud Ahmad made a speech and after that Maulana Muhammad Ali advised that whatever was to be done should be decided after consultation, as haste would make matters go wrong. At midday we sent Khalifa Rajab-ud-Din and Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig to impress that the matters should be decided by consulting the whole community, there was no need to rush as this was not the administration of a country which would stop working; the funeral and burial should take place first and then the representatives of the community should be called for discussion within ten to fifteen days; when Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih [Maulana Nur-ud-Din] was chosen there was no disagreement among us but today there is a grave and serious difference; one party considers that all those Muslims who do not believe in Hazrat Mirza sahib are kafir, the other party considers that every person professing the Kalima is a Muslim. However, they responded that they could not wait; whatever was to be done must be decided today, and a khalifa had to be appointed before the burial.”


As to what happened after the Asr prayers in the Nur mosque, he writes:


“The Nawab sahib stood up and read the will of Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih, and then said that a successor should be chosen. As had been prearranged, voices were raised from different directions calling out ‘Mian sahib’ [Mirza Mahmud Ahmad]. After that Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan also proposed the Mian sahib, but when Maulana Muhammad Ali stood up to say something, Shaikh Yaqub Ali, Hafiz Roshan Ali and some others shouted ‘sit down, sit down’ and did not let him speak. The Mian sahib himself also instructed that, after Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan, no one should be allowed to speak. Thus the instruction in the will of Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih, that his successor should treat the older members with tolerance, forbearance and kindness, was violated and it was ignored in the euphoria of acquiring the khilafat.

Though the body of Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih lay unburied, yet slogans of congratulations to Mirza Mahmud Ahmad on becoming khalifa were being raised and loud shouting broke out like that of a common mob. … After that, some supporters of the khilafat took up position at the arrival port in the town while others started roaming around the town, forcing people to sign.”


 

The regrettable treatment which Maulana Muhammad Ali received in the Nur mosque was deplored by a newspaper of Qadian itself, the Nur, as follows:


“A painful matter —

Though some friends will be upset by what I have to declare, but tell me, my friends, the man who forsook such close relatives as his own parents for the sake of the cause of truth, what could prevent him from speaking the truth now? After the speech of Hazrat Syed Muhammad Ahsan, Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib expressed his wish to say a few words, but regrettably some irresponsible people forcibly prevented him. It is our belief that it would not have altered the result, so why was Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib not given the chance to speak? It could have happened that Allah might have caused him to say something at that time which was to our advantage. We should be generous towards our friends. But alas, these days a child who does not even know the manners for speaking is not reluctant to abuse others. We do not deny that Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib has a strong zeal, passion and fervour in his heart for the propagation of Islam and service of the religion. For serving the religion he has not cared even for his life and health. People living in Qadian are aware that the cause of myself, the editor of Nur, having to depart from the school was brought about solely by Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib. But it would be the height of meanness on my part if, due to a personal grudge, I deny an honourable brother’s abilities. The love and affection with which the Promised Messiah and then Hazrat Khalifat-ul-Masih treated Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib is no secret.”

(From the newspaper Nur dated 17 March 1914)


In addition to this, many members of the community who were present in the mosque on this occasion wrote letters at that time expressing regret and dismay about what had happened. Many of these letters were published in Paigham Sulh. What they deeply regretted above all was that, in the very presence of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, people who had no stature or standing as compared to Maulana Muhammad Ali told the Maulana insolently to sit down and keep quiet, but Mirza Mahmud Ahmad watched all this in silence even though the will of Maulana Nur-ud-Din had just been read out exhorting that his successor must treat all the old and new friends of the Promised Messiah with kindness. All these letters were written in the month of March when Maulana Muhammad Ali was still in Qadian.

Further stay in Qadian and migration from there

After these events Maulana Muhammad Ali continued to stay in Qadian for a while. On 17 March he made an announcement in Paigham Sulh to the following effect. In matters of faith and religion decisions must not be made in haste. However, our Movement cannot unite on regarding other Muslims as unbelievers. Hazrat Mirza sahib had never declared that those who did not accept him were kafir because of denying his claims. Maulana Nur-ud-Din held the same belief and in his last days he had plainly told Mirza Mahmud Ahmad that he did not correctly understand this issue and had appointed him (Maulana Muhammad Ali) to publish a clarification of this matter. So we cannot take the bai‘at at the hands of a man who calls Muslims as kafir, although we do wish to stay together for the sake of the work of the Movement.

In the issue for 19 March he again repeated some of the events and stressed the same points, and also wrote:


“The actions that have been taken were regrettable to say the least. … If our community’s basic principle is merely that we stick together in a partisan way, then I am definitely in the wrong. But if truth and right have some value, and to support one another in any wrong doing is a sin according to the Quran, no matter how closely you may be related to one another, then I have always done my duty of speaking out the truth and I will continue to do so whatever ruling may be issued against me.{footnote 5} If I am seeking and desiring any personal gain, creating discord under the guise of upholding the truth, then I am the most accursed person. But I have an urge in my heart that compels me to speak out even if I have to accept all manner of tribulation. Calling the followers of the Qibla as being kafir is the crime which Hazrat Mirza sahib bitterly accused his opponent Maulvis of committing. But alas! Today we ourselves are doing what we accused others of. I shudder at the thought of calling those who recite the Kalima, ‘There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’, as being kafirs and excluded from the fold of Islam.

If it is true that all those who profess the Kalima are kafirs until they accept the Promised Messiah then our efforts to propagate Islam are futile, and to get a Hindu or Christian to proclaim the Kalima is purposeless. …

In these circumstances the question of electing a leader or a khalifa becomes very difficult. To solve this problem the community needed, and still needs, much deliberation, consultation and prayers. Such important affairs cannot be decided in minutes. …

I am prepared to face whatever consequences I may have to bear, and I pray to Allah to give me the strength to be steadfast upon the truth and grant me patience in adversity. In the end I beg to say that even in these conditions we must remain united in carrying on our mission as before and not let anything detract from performing the tasks the Promised Messiah left to us. Among these tasks I include the work that my honourable friend Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din is doing. … Anyone who tries to weaken it will be sowing the seed of discord.”{footnote 6}


After Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s death while Maulana Muhammad Ali was still in Qadian, his life was being made intolerable by people shouting abusive slogans and hurling insults at him. When conditions deteriorated from bad to worse he left Qadian for Lahore on 20 April 1914. What followed after this date will be related in the next chapter.

The world of Islam and the event of 1914

Apart from the Ahmadiyya community, the rest of the Islamic world in India also took note of this dissension and the fact that the strength of faith of a few men had saved a section of the Ahmadiyya community from the curse of extremism and of labelling other Muslims as kafir. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad commented on this in his newspaper Al-Hilal, dated 25 March 1914, as follows:

“For some time, there had been two parties in this Movement over the question of takfir. One party believed that non-Ahmadis are Muslims even though they may not believe in Mirza sahib’s claims. The other party, however, declared openly and clearly that those people who do not believe in Mirza sahib are kafir absolutely — inna li-llahi wa inna ilai-hi raji‘un.{footnote 7} The head of the latter party is Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, and this faction has now made him khalifa but the first group does not accept this. The writing published in this connection by Maulana Muhammad Ali, and the wonderful and admirable courage he has shown in expressing these views while staying in Qadian, where the heads of the other party live, is truly an event which shall always be regarded as a memorable event of this year.”

End of second phase of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s life

With this event the second phase of the life of Maulana Muhammad Ali, consisting of fifteen years in Qadian, comes to a close in April 1914. This phase had begun with his great sacrifice, at the age of 25 years, when he gave up his worldly future to sit at the feet of Hazrat Mirza sahib, and he spent the best of his youth in Qadian till the age of 40. In the first eight out of these fifteen years he had such close company of, and nearness to, the Promised Messiah as was attained by very few. Hazrat Mirza sahib not only provided him with accommodation in his own house, giving him physical nearness to him, but the Maulana also acquired spiritual affinity to Hazrat Mirza sahib and absorbed from him the zeal and passion for the propagation of Islam, love for the Holy Quran and the urge to spread it in the world. Hazrat Mirza sahib himself entrusted to him all those tasks which he had declared as being his mission from Allah. The Maulana also acquired knowledge and scholarship of the Holy Quran from Hazrat Mirza sahib and Maulana Nur-ud-Din.

In the latter six years of this phase of his life, according to the wishes of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, Maulana Muhammad Ali began work on the English and Urdu translations of the Quran, which the Promised Messiah had declared was his own task or it would be done by a man “who is an offshoot of mine and thus is included in me.” For thirteen out of these fifteen years he was the Editor of the Review of Religions, a work he did so magnificently that in those days the fame of this magazine spread in India and then in the outside world. Friend and foe all had to admit that no one had presented such a captivating picture of Islam as the Promised Messiah had done through this periodical.

After Hazrat Mirza sahib established the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, Qadian, as his successor, Maulana Muhammad Ali remained its secretary and its moving force for eight years. Branches of the community were set up and organised in many places. The Anjuman’s budget reached to the value of two hundred thousand Rupees of those days. Its property increased substantially and included a building and a boarding house for the Talim-ul-Islam school worth 150,000 Rupees, which were constructed under the Maulana’s personal supervision.

However, in 1914, for the sake of a matter of principle he left behind all these achievements and the fully-functioning organisation which he had played a major role in building up; and he departed from the beloved place where he had been blessed with the company of the Imam of the Age, where he had received that spiritual benefit from him and from other elders of the Movement which had transformed his life. He left for Lahore empty handed, but he had with him one thing and that was the English translation of the Holy Quran which he brought with him from Qadian to Lahore.


Footnotes

(To return to the referring text for any footnote, click on the footnote number.)

[1]. All these events have been narrated by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf published in 1922. This book was translated into English and published as True Facts about the Split in 1966.

[2]. Two anonymous tracts had appeared from Lahore containing some criticisms against Maulana Nur-ud-Din and some against Mirza Mahmud Ahmad.

[3]. Nawab Muhammad Ali of Malerkotla is meant.

[4]. This standpoint does not accord with what happened when Hazrat Umar died. After being injured, he appointed a board of six leading Companions and instructed them to elect a khalifa from among themselves. Then Hazrat Umar died and his funeral prayers were led by Hazrat Suhaib. The next khalifa, Hazrat Usman, was chosen afterwards.

[5]. At that time the Maulana was being called a fasiq (wrong-doer) on account of not entering into the bai‘at of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad.

[6]. At that time the first action of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and his supporters was to stop Maulvi Sher Ali being sent to Woking to assist Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din and to cut off connection with the Woking Mission.

[7]. Meaning “Surely we are Allah’s and to Him do we return”. This is the Islamic expression uttered upon receiving the news of a loss such as a death.

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