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The Great Mujahid: Life Story of Maulana Muhammad Ali

Part 3: Life at Lahore,
From April 1914 to October 1951.

3. From 1918 to 1923: Completion and publication of Bayan-ul-Quran, Urdu translation of the Holy Quran
3. Publications & Resources

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Part 3
Life at Lahore
April 1914 to October 1951

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3. From 1918 to 1923:
Completion and publication of Bayan-ul-Quran, Urdu translation of the Holy Quran

Urdu translation and commentary

Immediately after the publication of the English translation and commentary of the Holy Quran, Maulana Muhammad Ali started the Urdu translation and commentary on a regular basis. The years from 1918 to 1923 is the period during which he produced his magnificent Urdu commentary of the Holy Quran which was published in three volumes under the title Bayan-ul-Quran. In Qadian at the time when he was reading his English translation of the Quran and footnotes to Maulana Nur-ud-Din, Mir Nasir Nawab{footnote 1} tried to get work started on an Urdu translation of the Holy Quran but Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din stopped him and said that the Urdu translation would also be done by Muhammad Ali. He instructed Maulana Muhammad Ali to make a start on the Urdu translation alongside doing the English version. Accordingly Maulana Muhammad Ali translated six or seven parts which he read out to him for approval.

After the death of Maulana Nur-ud-Din a great transformation, namely the Split, occurred in the Ahmadiyya Movement. Maulana Muhammad Ali, having moved to Lahore, was busy in the formation of a new community, starting from scratch in a state of the utmost destitution. On top of that, due to increasing and urgent demand for the English translation of the Holy Quran he had to stop work on the Urdu translation and commentary. During this time the notes of his daily Quran classes were published in newspapers, and the translation and commentary up to chapter 4, Al-Nisa, was published in four volumes under the title Nukat-ul-Quran. From May 1921 the publication of Bayan-ul-Quran began one part (para) at a time, the first six or seven parts being published in this series. Afterwards the entire work was published in the form of volumes, with the third and final volume appearing in November 1923.

In April 1923, on the completion of Bayan-ul-Quran, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote about it in Paigham Sulh, dated 7 April, as follows:

Completion of the Quran

‘The favour of thy Lord, do proclaim’

“Monday, 2 April 1923 was a very auspicious day for me as on this day Allah the Most High enabled me to reach the completion of the Urdu translation of the Holy Quran, and it was merely by the grace of the Almighty that, after the English translation, the Urdu translation and commentary was finished. All praise is due to Allah Who has enabled a helpless man of limited knowledge like me to do work of this enormous magnitude. Praising Allah for this achievement fills my heart with a delight that cannot be described in words.

“It was in 1913, when much of the work on the English translation still remained to be done, that Mir Nasir Nawab proposed the plan to publish an Urdu translation of the Holy Quran and even got as far as collecting funds from many members. Then he sought permission from Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din to embark on this project but Hazrat Maulvi sahib replied that in our Movement there would be only one translation and that would be done by Muhammad Ali after the completion of his English translation. At the same time he instructed me to start the Urdu translation and show it to him little by little. So I translated six or seven parts and showed them to him — such a great lover of the Holy Quran like Hazrat Maulvi sahib having so much confidence in a weak man like me. Then in the last days of his life he told a large gathering that the English translation had been accepted by Allah.

“The English translation took some three more years to complete and due to some other important commitments the Urdu translation remained in abeyance. On the other side, in 1914 the Qadiani Jama‘at vigorously launched a plan on a grand scale for a body of ten or twelve men jointly to produce an Urdu and an English translation of the Quran. I started work on the Urdu translation in 1918 but after completing Sura Al-Baqarah it was realized that the manuscript for this one sura alone was five hundred pages. So the work was started again with brevity. Finally, ten years after it was first proposed, and after four to five years of hard labour on the Urdu translation, this work is complete merely by the grace of Allah. The foresight of Hazrat Maulvi sahib proved to fulfil the hadith that a true believer sees the future with the light of Allah.

“I am sure it is not only numerous friends of mine who feel the same spiritual pleasure today as I do, but the departed souls of Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din and also of that holy man who, by writing that the English translation and commentary would be done by him or by one ‘who is an offshoot of mine and thus is included in me’, plainly declared me as his son — their souls today will surely be happy at this work. May Allah shower His greatest blessings on these two who set me on this path and made me capable of doing this work.

“It was the benevolence of Allah the Most High that He enabled me to perform this great service. I was not capable of doing it but it was by His grace that such a high goal was accomplished, for He granted me to live for fourteen years after starting this work during which the holy word of God was the source of nourishment for my soul day and night. Therefore today, after the completion of this task, if on the one hand I am happy because of Allah’s blessings bestowed upon me in the form of the service to the Quran, at the same time I am afraid in case any errors I may have made, due to human fallibility or because of lacking knowledge, may cause others to stumble. Every single word of the Quran is a guiding light and a conclusive argument for every Muslim. In my translation and commentary I have tried, according to the best of my understanding, to subject my views to the word of God, the hadith of the Holy Prophet, and rules of the Arabic language. But still it is my interpretation and not binding upon anyone else unless it conforms with the word of God and the authentic hadith reports of the Messenger of Allah. My attempt is only to make people study the knowledge contained in the Quran and to turn their minds to its service.”

In the preface of Bayan-ul-Quran Maulana Muhammad Ali has referred to the Promised Messiah and Maulana Nur-ud-Din in the following words:
“Finally, it is important to mention that, although in this humble service of the Holy Quran I have had much benefit from the work of the classical scholars, but the man who in my life inspired me with the love of the Holy Quran and the desire to serve it was the Mujaddid of this century, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib of Qadian. Then the man who enabled me to understand the Quran was my revered teacher Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din sahib. If anyone benefits from my work and prays for me, he must also include these two righteous men in his prayer. I am but dust; any fragrance anyone perceives in this work is the spirit breathed by these others.”

As compared to the footnotes in the English translation, there is much more detail and elucidation in the Urdu commentary. In addition to a more detailed analysis of the meaning of Arabic words based on lexicons, there are many more notes in exposition of the meaning of the text. There are many special features of the translation. It is usually restricted to following the original text closely, but still adhering to Urdu idiom. Wherever additional words could not be avoided they are inserted within parentheses. Within the commentary, one part consists of explaining the dictionary meanings of Arabic words, giving numerous references to comprehensive and authentic works such as the Mufradat of Imam Raghib, Taj-ul-‘Urus and Lisan-ul-‘Arab, and wherever required other reliable lexicons are also referred to. Because words of the Arabic language have a vast range of meanings, he lists all the meanings of a word as given by the past commentators and lexicographers and then explains why he has adopted a particular meaning. This enables the reader to see all the different viewpoints, and makes available a summary of these voluminous books for the benefit of future investigators. The chief principle followed in the commentary is that the meaning of any place in the Holy Quran should be sought by reference to other places in the Holy Quran itself; this being the principle laid down in this scripture itself. At whichever point the meaning is not clear, explanation is sought from another place in the Quran. The other principle kept in mind is that authentic Hadith reports should be given preference over other sources, and for this reason Imam Bukhari’s chapter on the commentary of the Quran, and the commentaries of Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir are kept in view. However, reports which relate stories and tales are only accepted with caution, and anything conflicting with a clear statement in the Holy Quran or with the principles of Islam is rejected. Another point much stressed is the arrangement and sequence of the Holy Quran, and attention is drawn to three types of arrangement: firstly, the connection between successive verses, which he has clarified in the footnotes whenever necessary; secondly, the connection between the sections (ruku‘) of each chapter (sura); and thirdly the connection between successive chapters. The summary of each section is given in the footnotes below it, and the introductory note to each chapter shows the link between its sections as well as explaining in detail the inter-connection between successive chapters. In addition, many classical commentaries are kept in view and referred to extensively, for example Bahr-ul-Muhit, Tafsir Kabir of Imam Razi, Badawi, Ghara’ib-ul-Quran, Fath-ul-Bayan and Kashshaf of Zamakhshari, etc.

To sum up, it contains on the one hand the gist of the monumental commentaries and lexicons of the classical scholars, and on the other it is written with reference to the needs of the modern times and in accordance with the knowledge he gained in the company of the Promised Messiah and Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din. It keeps in view the objections against Islam raised by other religions, especially by the Christian critics of Islam, and by Western nations generally. He has thus rendered a unique service in the field of exegesis of the Quran that will serve as a guiding light for the world for years to come.

An idea of the tremendous labour that he devoted to writing the Bayan-ul-Quran can be obtained by seeing his handwritten manuscripts which are still preserved. For the whole book, there are three voluminous manuscripts consisting of thousands of pages hand written by him. After completing the first draft the explanatory notes were amended so thoroughly that all the space on the pages and their margins is full of writing. Then from this he wrote out a neat second draft, copying each and every word of these thousands of pages. To this again he made several changes to give it better shape, and wrote it out afresh a third time for giving to the printer. Today the outcome of this arduous labour exists in the form of the monumental commentary Bayan-ul-Quran in three volumes of two and a half thousand pages.{footnote 2}

The popularity, appeal and utility of this commentary can be judged by the fact that many prominent non-Ahmadi scholars of Islam, including opponents of the Ahmadiyya Movement, have been using it in their Quran teaching.{footnote 3} Many friends have even seen this commentary being used in teaching the Quran in Makka and Madina, and some parts of it have been translated into Arabic. It has also been observed that some maulvis who, for some reason of their own, feel it necessary to call Ahmadis as kafir keep this commentary in front of them while teaching the Quran, having removed the cover and the title page as it bears the name of Maulana Muhammad Ali and the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam.

Other publications from 1918 to 1923

During these years when Maulana Muhammad Ali was busy producing this magnificient translation and commentary, he also wrote many other books according to need. These are listed below chronologically.

In January 1918 his Urdu book Masih Mau‘ud (the Promised Messiah) was published, in which the so-called second coming of Jesus is explained in the light of the Quran and Hadith, and the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad are set forth. Besides this, four booklets in English were published in a series entitled The Ahmadiyya Movement between June 1917 and January 1918:

The Ahmadiyya Movement — I. The Founder
The Ahmadiyya Movement — II. The Doctrine
The Ahmadiyya Movement — III. Prophecy
The Ahmadiyya Movement — IV. The Split

In January 1919 his book Mir’at-ul-Haqiqat was published in reply to Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s book Haqiqat-ul-Amr.

In March 1919 Shanakhat-i Mamurin (Identifying those appointed by God) was published, which discusses in detail the criteria for determining the truth of those who claim to be sent by God.

During his stay in Simla in 1919 two other important books were written: Sirat Khair-ul-Bashar, biography of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in which the criticism of the opponents of Islam is also answered, and Jam‘a Hadith, published in 1920, which throws detailed light on the subject of the collection of Hadith.

In summer of 1920, during his stay in Simla, he wrote two pamphlets: Zarurat-i Mujaddidiyya (Need of the institution of Reformership) and ‘Isawiyyat ka Akhari Sahara (The last refuge of Christianity). Another writing was Khilafat-i Islamia bi-ru’i Quran wa Hadith (Islamic Khilafat according to the Quran and Hadith).

In October 1921 an important English book Muhammad and Christ was published, in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad and Jesus have been compared according to the Quran as well as the life of Jesus from the Bible. This book became very popular in various countries and was subsequently translated in fifteen languages of the West and Asia. A Christian missionary, Mr. Bevan Jones, has commented on this book in the well-known Christian journal Muslim World as follows:

“We must now refrain from using the Quran to prove the truth of Christianity. For the last quarter of a century Christian missionaries have been putting forward verses of the Quran to confirm and support the truth of Christ. In 1918 or earlier an Urdu tract Haqa’iq-i Quran was published from Ludhiana, whose first edition consisted of two thousand copies. In 1919 four editions were published in a quantity of nineteen thousand. In 1920 the sixth edition of one hundred thousand copies was published by the Bible Society. In this pamphlet verses of the Quran were cited to prove the superiority of Jesus over the Arabian Prophet. In the Islamic camp this pamphlet fell like a bombshell. Besides Christian missionaries, the Arya Samaj preachers also used it to their advantage.

Muslim Ulama did not write anything in reply to this pamphlet, and probably they had no answer to it. At last Maulana Muhammad Ali, who is the head of the Lahore Ahmadis, replied to it in 1921 by a book entitled Muhammad and Christ. This book consists of 159 pages and in it all the objections have been removed one by one and the superficiality of the pamphlet mentioned above has been fully exposed.” (Muslim World, July 1940)

This shows how bold and audacious Christian missionaries had become, that ignoring their own scriptures they were trying to prove the superiority of Jesus on the basis of the Quran, and how low had sunk the morale of the Muslim Ulama that they had not the strength to repudiate their criticism. At this critical juncture this writing of Maulana Muhammad Ali was so effective that the Christian missionaries were forced to change their style of preaching and argumentation.

Also in 1921 the second edition of the English translation of the Quran was published in England in a quantity of 10,750.

In June 1922 his book Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf was published, in reply to Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s book A’inah-i Sadaqat. These books were in connection with the split in the Ahmadiyya Movement. Mirza Mahmud Ahmad in his book had presented the events in a highly distorted form and alleged that Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din and Maulana Muhammad Ali were both hypocrites from the very beginning and had been giving trouble even to Hazrat Mirza sahib himself. In Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf Maulana Muhammad Ali has not only refuted these false allegations but also explained the real causes of the split and the events of that time (which have been mentioned earlier in this biography).{footnote 4}

In the summer of 1922 the third edition of his booklet Radd-i Takfir Ahl-i Qiblah was published, which refutes the dangerous Qadiani doctrine that those Muslims who do not believe in Hazrat Mirza sahib are kafir and excluded from the fold of Islam. To this day the Qadian community has not been able to answer this booklet in which it has been proved from the Holy Quran, Hadith and the writings of the Promised Messiah as well as his practice that all those who profess the Kalima are Muslims. The issue of the holding of funeral prayers for deceased non-Ahmadis by Ahmadis has also been clarified, this being the topic that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad always avoided to discuss as it most plainly showed the falsity of his belief that all other Muslims are kafir.

In 1923 two English tracts, Back to Islam and Back to the Quran, and an Urdu tract Mazhab Ki Gharaz (Aim of Religion) were published.

Quran teaching classes (Dars-i Quran)

During all these years Maulana Muhammad Ali continued with his daily classes in teaching the meanings of the Holy Quran. In December 1917 one phase of this teaching ended, and following that he started another phase in January 1918. This time he taught a quarter of one part (para) everyday in order to cover the entire Quran in four months. In this phase many members from outside Lahore came and stayed in Lahore to benefit from the teaching. This phase ended in April 1918.

In the summer of 1918 these classes were held in Simla during his stay there, continuing again at Ahmadiyya Buildings after his return to Lahore. Along with these he also started classes in Hadith. This became his practice every year. In the winter of 1921–22, in addition to his regular Quran teaching after the maghrib prayer, he also started a new series of classes in the Holy Quran and Hadith specifically for school teachers and missionaries who were to be sent abroad.

In Lahore in 1922 and 1923 he adopted a new style of delivering the Quran teaching. In addition to the translation he would give only the essential commentary and explanation, without going too deeply into the finer points, so that people from every background would be able to understand. He also set a written examination for those who attended regularly.

He thus made it a part of his life to conduct these classes, using a variety of methods and approaches. In his Friday sermons and through other means, while he would stress upon the need for spreading the Holy Quran and propagating Islam, he also made clear that it is absolutely essential for the members of a Movement which seeks to spread the Quran that they themselves study the Quran and act upon its teachings.

Touring branches and other trips

The importance Maulana Muhammad Ali gave to the organization of the Jama‘at is clear from the fact that, despite all his literary commitments of producing such monumental books and his other multifarious duties, he would always find time to visit the various branches of the Movement and stay with them for a day or two, and frequently attend their annual meetings. Thus every year he would visit in person some ten or twelve branches, and in addition to other matters he would stress in particular the importance of paying the monthly subscriptions, holding Holy Quran study classes and gathering for the Friday congregational service.

Accordingly, in these five or six years he continued this practice. His tours were usually to places in the Punjab and the North West Frontier, that is to say, ranging from Peshawar to Delhi. In 1920 he embarked upon his first long journey and went to Bombay and Madras in the company of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. In the middle of February they went first to Bombay and after a few days’ stay there, during which they delivered speeches, they reached Madras where the Muslim public gave them a grand welcome. They stayed at the house of Seth Malang Ahmad Badshah. No sooner had they arrived in Madras that Maulana Muhammad Ali was taken ill and could not make any public speeches. However, the Khwaja sahib delivered many speeches. During this tour of Bombay and Madras they addressed the Muslim public and emphasised upon them the importance and need of the propagation of Islam and appealed for donations for the Anjuman. During this tour not only were reasonable funds raised for the Anjuman and the Woking Mission but many supporters were also gained who appreciated the work done by this Movement.

At that time, due to the publication of the English translation of the Holy Quran and other literature and the work of the propagation of Islam in Europe, the educated Muslims of India, leaving aside the bigoted Maulvis, were beginning to value the services of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at and of Maulana Muhammad Ali. He always used to be invited to meetings of the Anjuman Islamia of Punjab which were held in different cities, and he attended many meetings of such outside bodies. In addition to that, in April 1920 he made a speech at the annual meeting of the Anjuman Himayat-i Islam Lahore entitled ‘Our problems and their solution’ and put before all the Muslims the work of the propagation of Islam and invited them to help his Jama‘at.

Stay in Simla, 1918–1921

As has been mentioned before, till 1917 Maulana Muhammad Ali used to go to Abbottabad in summer. At that time Simla was the summer capital of the British Government of India and quite a few members of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at used to be there. In 1918 they invited him to spend summer in Simla. So on 31 May that year he and his family went to Simla for four months and stayed in a residence named Eva Lodge. As during his stay in the hilly regions he used to be joined by many other senior figures of the Jama‘at, especially to attend the Quran classes in the month of Ramadan, so he allocated half of his residence for the guests and also had to rent a small cottage nearby. Master Faqirullah, a melodious reciter of the Holy Quran, was there with him and everyday he would recite one part of the Holy Quran before the gathering and the Maulana would explain its meanings. They would all come together to offer tahajjud prayers in Ramadan. The fame of his daily Quran classes had spread in Simla and a large number of Muslims who were not Ahmadis also used to attend them.

The same year, in September 1918, at the close of the First World War, the virulent epidemic of influenza raging in the outside world broke out in India as well. Thousands of people were dying daily, big cities like Lahore being particularly affected.{footnote 5} Some friends tried to stop the Maulana from returning to Lahore but he left his family in Khanpur with Dr. Basharat Ahmad, who was on medical duty there, and came to Lahore by himself.

At the end of May 1919 he again went to Simla and occupied the residence known as Hari Villa in ‘smaller’ Simla. This year Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, who had returned from England in May 1919, also came to Simla with him and stayed in a cottage known as Hari cottage which was next to Hari Villa. Shaikh Maula Bakhsh of Lyallpur also stayed in Hari Villa that summer. Another house was acquired that year in Simla where Maulana Muhammad Ali started a missionary class for certain educated men of the Jama‘at. He gave lectures to the class for two hours everyday. This class continued to be held in Simla for two years during the summer. In addition to that, Quran teaching (dars) was conducted daily as usual.

He thus spent the summer during four years in Simla in this way. This was the time when he was busy working on Bayan-ul Quran. He also wrote the books Sirat Khair-ul-Bashar (Biography of the Holy Prophet Muhammad), Jam‘a Hadith (Collection of the Hadith reports of the Holy Prophet), and Muhammad and Christ, and several pamphlets and tracts which have been mentioned earlier.

Other events, 1918–1923

In 1918 Maulana Yaqub Khan relinquished his prestigious post to dedicate his life to the service of Islam and settled in Lahore.

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din returned from England in May 1919. In his place Maulana Sadr-ud-Din was sent again to Woking in July 1919 and he stayed there till April 1920. The Khwaja sahib left in October 1921 for his third visit to Woking. Earlier, in September 1921, Maulana Yaqub Khan was sent to Woking because the work had increased.

The Jama‘at did not have any journal in English so far and the need for it was very keenly felt. So in January 1922 The Light was launched. This magazine gradually made good progress, especially when Maulana Yaqub Khan returned from Woking and became its editor. During his editorship The Light not only came to be appreciated by the English-reading public within India but it also acquired international fame and began to be sent abroad in large numbers.

Stay in Dalhousie, 1922–23

In April 1922, sometime before Ramadan, Maulana Muhammad Ali went to Dalhousie, a town in the mountains, to seek solitude for the spiritual devotion of worship and prayer. This hill station was not as busy and full of activity as Abbottabad, Murree or Simla, but was a very peaceful and quiet place. He liked its serenity and tranquillity so much that he decided to spend the next summer there. In this connection he wrote the following statement for members of the Jama‘at in the organ Paigham Sulh:

My absence and our work
Brothers of the Jama‘at,
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.

Two years even before coming to Lahore I used to go to the hills for my literary activities. After the establishment of the Anjuman in Lahore it has become even more important because in Lahore there are so many other responsibilities of my office that keep interfering in my writing work. Literary composition, especially that which demands much mental exertion such as the commentary of the Holy Quran, needs undisturbed attention which cannot be found in Lahore. This year in seven months in Lahore I could not translate more than three quarters of one part (para) of the Holy Quran, even though by the grace of Allah I still have the habit of working as hard as I did when I was a student preparing for examinations — and in reality the most important test is still to be taken. Because of my stay in Simla a Jama‘at has been well established there. But this time I have turned away even from there and taken up residence in Dalhousie in order to devote my whole time to the translation work.

(Paigham Sulh, 10 May 1922)

In the first year he occupied the residence ‘Mall House’ in lower Dalhousie. However, he was soon followed by his admirers, longing to be with the one who was their light, and so Shaikh Rahmatullah, Mian Ghulam Rasul, Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig and some other friends also joined him in Dalhousie. Though Mall House was spacious and half of it was used to accommodate the guests but another residence next to it, Mall Cottage, was also acquired for this purpose. So the quiet, lush green, beautiful mountains of Dalhousie echoed with the call to prayer, recitation of the Holy Quran and the sounds of tahajjud prayers. From then on, the Maulana spent every summer there and other friends also went to join him there most times.

German Mission

During these years another foundation was laid for the propagation of Islam in Europe. The Anjuman founded a mission in Germany. The first person to call for the opening of a mission in Germany was one Abdul Jabbar Khairi, who wrote to the Woking Mission in 1921 urging that a similar Islamic mission be established there. This proposal was referred to the Anjuman in Lahore which decided the same year to open a mission in Berlin. In June 1922, Maulvi Abdul Majid (who later on became editor of The Islamic Review, Woking) was sent there and a mission was formally opened in July 1922. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din also reached Berlin from Woking in July, and after studying the situation there, advised the Anjuman of the necessity of building a mosque there in order to do propagation work. After this beginning, arrangements were gradually made to buy land in Berlin and construct the mosque, as will be discussed later, and during this time Maulana Muhammad Ali started to make special appeals for funds for the Berlin mosque. The Anjuman decided to send Maulana Sadr-ud-Din there, who left Lahore at the end of December 1922 for Germany.

Royalty and how it began

Since April 1914, when he came to Lahore, Maulana Muhammad Ali had faced much personal financial hardship. For a period of more than five years he had no means of income. During this time many of his books were published, including the first edition of the English Translation of the Holy Quran which then spread in the world. However, the Maulana did not accept any income from the Anjuman nor was he given any royalty for his books. During that time he bore many difficulties upon his shoulders for subsistence. At one stage he had to sell part of his furniture and copper utensils to meet the household expenses. During the first year neither the Anjuman nor any of its members gave a thought to the matter. After a year some members made a proposal to him on their own that he should accept a monthly stipend from the Anjuman but he refused. Then in 1917 and again in 1918 this matter was put before the Anjuman. Those proposals were as follows:

Resolution No. 59/61, dated 29 April 1917, proposed by Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah: The Head of the Community, Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali, did the English translation of the Holy Quran after a constant labour of eight years, then he served the Movement with great devotion during the tribulation of the Split, all this adversely affecting his health. Even now, despite his weak health, he is serving the Movement. He has to write articles, give daily classes in the Holy Quran, go out of Lahore to deliver lectures, carry on correspondence, meet people daily, take part in debates, and on top of that since breaking away from Qadian he has to worry about how to make his living. He has not taken any remuneration from the Anjuman. If this situation continues the danger is that his health will be badly damaged. As he is devoting all his time for the work of the Anjuman, so to lighten his burden I put forward the following proposal before the Anjuman for consideration:

First: He should be relieved of the burden of earning a livelihood. Second: He should be provided with assistants to help him.

Report of Secretary: I agree entirely with the proposal of the Shah sahib. In my opinion the Anjuman should offer him at least Rs. 200 per month for his maintenance.

Decision: The following members should consider the matter and report back: Shaikh Rahmatullah, Dr. Muhammad Husain Shah, Maulvi Sadr-ud-Din, Mian Ghulam Rasul — Secretary (Yaqub Baig).

Another proposal was as follows:

Resolution No. 277 of the Executive Committee, dated 13 January 1918, proposed by Hazrat Maulvi Sadr-ud-Din: The Head of the Community has for the past four years somehow managed to survive, but this sort of existence cuts life short. Such valued and precious men, as he is, don’t appear in the world very often. So the Anjuman should give some thought to it and request the Head of the Community to accept Anjuman’s offer. The Holy Prophet Muhammad and the righteous Khalifas accepted a stipend for religious duties. He should not discard this Sunna. It is not possible for him to write books on Islam, lead the Movement and at the same time worry about earning a living. … We wish we possessed the means to offer him much more, but for the time being he should accept 200 Rupees per month.

This proposal was again put forward by Resolution No. 19, dated 3 February 1918, and the following decision was taken:

Members of the Anjuman unanimously request the Head of the Community to accept the offer, although it is meagre. However, as he does not want to accept any monetary help, so for the time being this proposal should be postponed.

Regarding his reasons for declining this financial support, Maulana Muhammad Ali gave the following explanation in a writing which he penned a few days before his death:

“I also want to make it clear that the reason why from the beginning I did not like to accept any remuneration from the Anjuman, even though I had no source of income, was that I did not wish to burden the Anjuman as it had been newly founded just then and I was afraid that this extra strain on it may cause it to falter. The second reason was to belie a senior Qadiani who had declared, on my departure from Qadian, that without getting any salary for six months I would go back and bow my head before the khalifa of Qadian.”
Besides this, in a letter dated 2 December 1930 addressed to Maulana Ghulam Hasan Khan he wrote:
“The Anjuman came into being on 3 May 1914 and I was elected its Amir (Head) but for one whole year neither the Anjuman nor any of its members even discussed the matter of the Amir’s subsistence nor was I asked by anyone about how I made a living. After one year some members of the Anjuman, on their own behalf, put to me a proposal according to which the Anjuman would pay me some stipend. I did not accept the proposal, for which there were many reasons. One was that the financial position of the Anjuman was so precarious that this extra burden would have caused it severe difficulties. Another was that I could see that just as on one side [in the Qadiani Jama‘at] blind obedience to the head was in vogue, on our side there was excessive freedom. So in my view by accepting the stipend the prestige of the Amir would be further lowered. There were some other reasons as well. But these two were the main considerations in my mind. During this time all my writings were published by the Anjuman and it made a profit on them. In 1918 I started working on Bayan-ul-Quran and in 1919 I proposed to some members that I would get it printed myself. After discussing the matter among themselves, they proposed to me that the Anjuman should continue to print all my books and pay me a part of the sale price as royalty. Among these friends were certainly the Khwaja [Kamal-ud-Din] sahib, [Syed Muhammad Husain] Shah sahib and Mirza [Yaqub Baig] sahib. Any one of them could be asked even today to vouch under oath that I never indicated to anyone, even indirectly, that the Anjuman should pay pay me any royalty. However, when this proposal was put to me I approved it as the Anjuman was to pay me a part of what it was earning itself. After settling this with me, the matter was put formally before the Anjuman.”

This proposal, which was the beginning of royalty being paid to Maulana Muhammad Ali, was put before the Anjuman on 30 July 1919 by Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig, who was General Secretary of the Anjuman at that time, as follows:

No. 191, 30 July 1919, Report of Secretary: Hazrat Amir Maulana Muhammad Ali is busy in the work of the Anjuman day and night but he does not wish to accept any remuneration for it from the Anjuman. It had been tried several times that either the Anjuman or some members should do something for him financially but he has always refused to accept any help. As the cost of living has risen in present times, so some members being mindful of these difficulties, which he himself being a godly and selfless person does not care about, requested him to accept for his needs a part of the profits from the writings which he does for the Anjuman. After much insistence he has agreed that in future the sale price of his books will be set as follows. If, for example, the cost of publishing a book is 4 Rupees, then 1 Rupee shall be added as administrative expenses, 4 Rupees as profit and 3 Rupees as the author’s royalty. Royalty will be paid to Hazrat Amir on every copy sold, an account being prepared monthly. Accordingly, this proposal is put before the meeting for approval.

Decision: To pay royalty for the books written by Hazrat Amir Maulana Muhammad Ali the following system shall be adopted. New books written in future shall be priced at three times their cost and one fourth of the sale price per copy shall be paid to Hazrat Amir Maulvi Muhammad Ali. As to the books that are already in existence, including the translation of the Holy Quran, one sixth of the sale price per copy shall be paid to Hazrat Amir from today. An account shall be prepared monthly and the calculated amount paid to Hazrat Amir as royalty.

Accordingly, this began to be acted upon from August 1919 and continued in the same way subsequently: the Anjuman printed, published and sold his books and a share of the profits, according to the set rate, was paid to him from time to time in the form of royalty, as is the generally recognised and standard practice of compensating authors. This was a most appropriate and proper means by which he made his living. He never burdened the Anjuman with having to pay him a salary, nor did he, like the common practice of religious leaders, take offerings and donations from followers. He only took his rightful due for his labour and even that was from the income earned by the Anjuman by publishing his books.

Relations with the Qadian community

Ever since the Split in 1914 Maulana Muhammad Ali continued to address the Qadiani community on the issues under dispute by writing extensively in Paigham Sulh. Again and again he wrote in refutation of the wrong beliefs of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, i.e., ascribing a claim of prophethood to the Promised Messiah, considering him as the one who fulfilled the prophecy about the coming Ahmad given in the Holy Quran, and declaring all non-Ahmadi Muslims to be outside the fold of Islam. The Maulana always tried to get a written, decisive debate held between himself and Mirza Mahmud Ahmad which would then be printed and circulated among both the communities to enable every one to decide for himself. But for some reason or other Mirza Mahmud Ahmad never agreed to it. It has been mentioned before that seventy Ahmadis from the Lahore Jama‘at, who had taken the bai‘at before November 1901 at the Promised Messiah’s hand, had issued sworn testimony that the Promised Messiah did not make any change whatsoever in his claim in 1901. But Mirza Mahmud Ahmad could not produce a single witness to testify to the opposite effect.

During this period Maulana Muhammad Ali produced the following tracts{footnote 6} addressing the Qadian Jama‘at:

  1. Invitation to Mirza Mahmud Ahmad for exchange of views at the Annual Gathering (Jalsa).
  2. Prophet or Mujaddid.
  3. Claim to Prophethood.
  4. Denial of Prophethood and the year 1901.
  5. The Last Prophet.
  6. The Promised Messiah’s sworn statement.

Go to Addendum to Chapter 3: Reviews of Bayan-ul-Quran by modern Pakistani scholars


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

[1]. Father-in-law of the Promised Messiah.

[2]. A recalligraphed edition of Bayan-ul-Quran with a modern page format was produced around the year 1970. It was first published all in one volume and was later on split into a two volume edition.

[3]. For some modern reviews of Bayan-ul-Quran by Pakistani scholars, see the Addendum to this chapter.

[4]. Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s book A’inah-i Sadaqat was published in English translation by the Qadianis under the title The Truth about the Split. The Maulana’s reply, Haqiqat-i Ikhtilaf, was also later published in English as True Facts about the Split.

[5]. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was in Woking, England, at the time when his eldest son Bashir Ahmad died tragically in Lahore. Maulana Muhammad Ali sent the Khwaja sahib a telegraphic message in the following English words: “Beloved Bashir called back. Sorrowfully we submit.” It is difficult to find more appropriate, brief words in which to express sympathy, shock and resignation to the will of God as well as the aim of human life. The Khwaja sahib himself said that this message, while conveying news of this unexpected, terrible tragedy, also urged patience and acceptance of the Divine will.

[6]. These tracts were all in Urdu. Their titles have been translated into English here. For Urdu titles, see Appendix 1, List II.

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