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The Great Mujahid: Life Story of Maulana Muhammad Ali

Part 4: Recollections of Maulana Muhammad Ali

2. Personal Reflections
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Part 4
Recollections of
Maulana Muhammad Ali

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2. Personal Reflections

(Note: Most of the tributes in this chapter in Mujahid-i Kabir are taken from articles published in Paigham Sulh, special issue, 26 December 1951. For this translation we have consulted that issue and added from it some further tributes as well as expanding some of the existing ones.)

Impressions and memories of Maulana Muhammad Ali by some of the scholars, missionaries, workers and other leading figures of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at, who knew him closely and worked with him have been collected below.

1. Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi:

It was from the late Hazrat Maulana that I acquired my interest in the propagation of Islam and the Holy Quran. Although I had very little opportunity to study from him directly, but mere encouragement from a teacher suffices for life. And he was a teacher who had inherited in full measure from the Promised Messiah the qualities of humility, and respect and appreciation of friends, as well as the passion to serve Islam. Twice I had occasion to spend summer with him at a hill resort: once in Simla and once in Dalhousie. People go to hill resorts to enjoy life but what made the deepest impression upon me was his zeal to serve Islam and the sound of his fast moving pen with the ticking of the clock. He would start work punctually and carry on writing and writing. In those days in Simla he wrote Sirat Khair-ul-Bashar and had it calligraphed for printing. My duty, in addition to other tasks, was proof-reading with the Maulana. It usually happened that, when after working all day long we young ones were tired and felt like going for a pleasant walk in the mountains, we would hear him call out: Come and let us read the proofs. So untiring was he that, while we young people would give up, he knew not the meaning of fatigue.

The other thing that made an impression on me was that at that time, while I myself was learning, I also used to teach the Quran to someone. Hazrat Amir [Maulana Muhammad Ali] must have been able to hear me in his room. One day he said to me: ‘Your explanation of the Quran is very good and reasonable’. His comments were, I believe, meant to encourage me. A person who is an expert in some field tries to create the same talent in others. On a later occasion too in Muslim Town, he said to me most insistently that I should write my explanations of the Holy Quran, and he further commented that they would be more popular than my book Muhammad in World Scriptures. He also offered to get them published.

The second time I went to the hills with him was when I was not in good health. He took me with him to Dalhousie and there he gave me special instructions about my diet. On many occasions he would bring foodstuff to my room and stress that I eat it as it was good for health. My mail came via his address, but never did he call me to come and collect it. He would bring it to me downstairs to my room, saying ‘this letter is for you’. This is how he treated his assistants. Even now recalling those days brings tears to my eyes.

Let me also mention something else. In the meetings of the Anjuman, of which I too was a member, every member had freedom of speech. It was not like the subservient court of the Khalifa of Qadian. Objections used to be raised and some members would argue with Hazrat Amir and occasionally say something inappropriate. After the meetings, he used to return home to Muslim Town, where I and some other friends met him for prayers in the Muslim Town mosque. He would never mention what happened in the meeting, while it is quite natural for a person who is hurt to talk to others about it. If we ever broached the subject, saying that so and so did not do good, he would only smile and evade the subject, putting an end to the matter.

I remember there was a time when, in reply to the late Maulana Shibli, a magazine entitled Al-Nazir used to be published from Lucknow containing articles against religion and in support of agnosticism. Its objections against the existence of God appeared to be very strong. I presented them to many great Ulama but none could give satisfactory replies. There must have been many people who were misguided by those articles. If memory serves me right, they were written by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi who, in those days, used to mock and ridicule God and religion. As he admits, he was agnostic. I would say that he was made agnostic by the translations and commentaries of the Quran which were then commonly studied, and he in turn made other people agnostic. Now the same Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi is a translator and preacher of the Quran and lover of Islam. What was this due to? He has himself testified that this change in him was due to the English translation of the Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali.

The Masnawi of Rumi is known as ‘the Quran in the Pahlavi language’. Maulana Abdul Majid Salik, former editor of Inqilab, himself relates that once Maulana Muhammad Ali asked him for a review of his English translation of the Quran and he replied: If the Holy Quran had been revealed in English, it would have been the translation of Muhammad Ali.

2. Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan

Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan{footnote 1} was in Stockholm, Sweden, when Maulana Muhammad Ali died. He wrote as follows in an article:

Such people are rarely born who, when they die, leave a vacuum that cannot be filled, and the shock of their death is felt far and wide. A minor incident made me realise it. In Stockholm there is a very learned Swedish colonel who had read Hazrat Amir’s books. When I told him about his death, he was holding something in his hand which he was about to eat. It dropped from his hand and he seemed stunned. His face revealed his inner feelings. Then he rose up and quickly brought an issue of The Islamic Review which contained the Maulana’s photograph, and talked about him for a long time. There are thousands of such people in the world who share our sorrow.

I was a student in school in Qadian at the age of 13 or 14. I remember that a man, who was a model of humility, used to come to the Nur mosque quietly at times of prayer, say his prayers with full concentration and humility, and leave quietly. Then when the annual gathering came, I heard this quiet man make a speech, appealing to the community for contributions. His words had such power and grandeur, and the gathering listened to him with love and humility, and responded to his appeal. In later years I witnessed such scenes many times but that first time has left a special mark upon me.

On the death of Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din I had occasion to see with my own eyes in Qadian the strength of faith of this man. The step that he took at that time, along with a handful of his companions who were also men of faith, marks an important juncture in the history of Islam.

From 1915 to 1917 when he came to Abbottabad during the summers, I had much opportunity to see him close at hand. As a result, my devotion to him increased gradually into a love that continued ever to become stronger, never diminishing. Later, when I was a student in Lahore, I often used to go and see him. However, I soon realised that his time was extremely valuable, and wasting it was harmful to the whole Movement. So I exercised restraint, and I noticed that he appreciated it.

During my days as student, I became ill and was on long leave, staying on a hill in my part of the country. Hazrat Amir used to write to me regularly and his letters and prayers gave me much comfort. Once he wrote to me, saying that a certain type of injection, administered to a friend by the civil surgeon of Dalhousie, had greatly helped that patient and he recommended that I should also take those injections. After a few days Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig sent me a box of those injections by post from Lahore. I wrote him a letter of thanks but he replied saying that I should thank Hazrat Amir because it was he who had asked him to send the injections and had paid for them as well. Such incidents leave a permanent mark on one’s heart.

It so happened during 1922–23 that in the hostel of the Medical College, Lahore, there arose a dispute with Hindu students regarding the calling out of the azan which a Muslim student used to do. The English principal ordered the azan to be stopped. The Muslim students who used to call out the azan were inclined to accept this order. I advised them to seek the opinion of Maulana Muhammad Ali on the religious aspect of this question. So some of us students met him in the mosque after maghrib prayers and asked for his advice. He told us very firmly that the azan could not be stopped and no Muslim could accept an order to stop calling out the azan. If you people, he said, show weakness in such a minor matter, what can Islam expect from you? He inspired confidence in us and promised to help us in every way. This made a deep impression on the Muslim students. When we showed firmness we won, and regular azan and prayers were instituted in the hostel. It is, in fact, such incidents that make a man’s character.

I also had occasion to stay at the house of Maulana Muhammad Ali as his guest. The first time it was at his insistence, but when I saw that this gave me a rare opportunity to benefit from his company, I could not help wanting to stay with him. So on a later occasion I myself requested him that, while in Lahore, I could not bear to be away from him. A guest has an ideal chance to study the life and ways of the host. By my study of him, I found him to be a unique person. His life at home was informal but highly organised. It seemed as if every moment of his life was devoted to a particular purpose. For every task there was an appointed time, and every moment was meant for a particular task.

Once in the Muslim Town mosque at the fajr prayer he got hold of me with both hands and took me forcibly to the imam’s position to lead the prayer.{footnote 2} I was very much embarrassed but could not excuse myself from his order. After the prayer, on our way back home, accompanied by some other friends, the talk turned to recital of the Quran. He related that Maulvi Abdul Karim used to recite the Quran beautifully. In Qadian [during the time of the Promised Messiah] when he used to lead the morning prayer, an old woman who lived near the mosque used to go to the roof of her house to listen to his recitation. When Maulvi Abdul Karim died and Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din began to lead the prayers, that woman complained about the recitation of the new imam, saying: “He just does it wrong”. After narrating this incident the Maulana laughed heartily and said about himself: “I also ‘just do it wrong’ ”. Whenever he heard humorous talk from friends he would burst out laughing, but I never heard him speaking ill of anyone, backbiting, carping, being hypocritical or conspiring. If ever there was mention of his opponents, he took their names with respect and honour, as befits a God fearing believer of the highest order.

Once, when I was ill, I requested him to pray for me. He wrote back saying: “Praying for your health is something I do regularly everyday”. Once he told me that while praying for me during prostration he spontaneously uttered the words: “O Allah, grant health to my son Saeed”. I said to him: “I had always thought of myself to be your son, so now I am happy that Allah has confirmed it by revelation”. I consider his tremendous love for me to be a most precious treasure of my life.

Last year [1950] I was going abroad from Pakistan in the middle of September. After I arrived at Karachi airport, a short while later Maulana Muhammad Ali came along with Mr. Naseer Ahmad Faruqui. They stayed with me for two hours. He talked about the Holy Quran and Islam, and asked me to bring for him from Makka a copy of the Quran that had been recently printed there, the first time that the Quran had been printed there.

This year [1951] I had to leave Pakistan to go to Europe at the same time of the year. When I met him in Karachi he was recovering from his second attack of illness. I could not think, nor could I accept, that this would be our last meeting. I went to say farewell to him on 13 September before noon. He was seated in a chair, reading some letters. After some talk, he asked me to take with me one set of books and present it to a library. He also asked me to send him addresses of other suitable libraries, and he would arrange to send sets of books to them as well. His conversation reflected his heart-felt urge and the sole purpose of his life, namely, that translations of the Holy Quran and the message of Islam must reach the ends of the earth as soon as possible. I felt that even in that poor state of health the only concern and anxiety dominating his mind was that this work may be left unfinished. When I took my leave, I tried to persuade him not to stand up, but he rose to his feet and said: “This may be our last meeting. How can I say goodbye sitting down?” He then embraced me. It did in fact prove to be our last meeting, as exactly one month later he left us all.

3. Maulana Murtaza Khan Hasan:

He was very mindful of the duty of visiting sick people. He would sit with them for a long time enquiring about their well-being and give them advice about treatment. During my illness and that of my children he visited us many times. There was no formality about these visits. He would leave his residence informally attired in shirt and trousers and come and knock on our door. On one such occasion, when he knocked on the door, I called out from inside the house: “Who is it?” He simply replied: “It’s me, Muhammad Ali”. This reminds me of an incident of the Promised Messiah. Once at night he went to the room of Maulana Syed Muhammad Ahsan and knocked at the door. When the Maulana asked who it was, the Promised Messiah simply replied: “It’s me, Ghulam Ahmad”. So the disciple and his mentor had the same nature.

Once there was a burglary at my house and someone informed him. He immediately wrote a letter of sympathy, but I could not answer it promptly. So he wrote again, asking me for details of the loss. He showed such sympathy as if it were his own loss. This sympathy was not confined to words only, and he also provided practical help.

Great men face much opposition. On various occasions some people opposed him but it was his virtue that he would never say anything about his opponents behind their backs. I worked with him for many years, and accompanied him on his travels, but I never found him trying to question people in order to extract information about others.

He always appreciated every little thing I did. When he gave advice, it was in a wonderfully affectionate way. Once in the Anjuman’s office I was given proofs of one of his books to give to him when I returned home to Muslim Town. I put them in my pocket and forgot all about them. Three days thus passed. When he enquired from the office why they had not sent him the proofs, they replied that the proofs were given to Murtaza Khan two or three days ago to take to him. When I met him he smiled and said: ‘I have heard a story that you have the proofs. Is it true?’ I was so regretful and told him that it was perfectly true. The proofs were in my pocket so I handed them to him instantly. He said: ‘What’s the need for such a hurry?’ and then laughed heartily.

Once he expressed his pleasure at one of my poems and said: You are both an excellent writer of articles and a good poet as well. I used to write articles for children in the paper [Paigham Sulh], which he always admired greatly and used to say that the Jama‘at should be urged to make sure that children read these articles.

4. Dr. S.M. Abdullah:{footnote 3}

For the first time I came in contact with the late Maulana Muhammad Ali in or about the year 1914 at Lyallpur when I was a boy of about 16 years and he came to deliver a lecture there. I remember very well the title of the subject on which he addressed the audience in Lyallpur, that is ‘The Beauties of Islam’. This talk of his impressed me very much and infused in me the zeal for further religious knowledge. Later on I came in constant touch with him during my stay in Lahore as a student at the Punjab University. During my six years stay in Lahore, that is, from the year 1915 to the year 1921, I often used to go to the Ahmadiyya Buildings for Friday prayers and heard the learned and soul inspiring sermons of the late Maulana — may his soul rest in peace.

It was during this period that I was attracted to the Ahmadiyya Movement more and more and started reading the original writings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the reformer of the 14th century Hijra. In the year 1919 I finally decided to join the Ahmadiyya Movement at the hands of Maulana Muhammad Ali and since then have been more or less in close contact with him. In the year 1921 I visited him in Simla and stayed with him for a week or so, during which I had an opportunity of studying him from closer quarters. His zeal and devotion for the cause of Islam impressed me very much. In the year 1922 I resigned from a Government post and came to Lahore in order to learn more from this great leader and teacher. During the summer recess of the year 1923, when I was a professor at the Islamia College, Lahore, I had the good fortune of spending some two months in his company at Dalhousie and learnt a lot from this great savant and man of learning. I remember very well my attending his learned discourses in the Quran during the month of Ramadan in the year 1924, which added a great deal to my knowledge of the Quran and Hadith.

He was extremely devotional, and especially particular about his late night prayers. I remember that once he travelled from Lahore to Jammu and reached the place very late, and as there were many persons very anxiously and eagerly waiting to see him, some talk continued right up to midnight. In spite of the fatigue of the journey he got up at about 3 o’Clock as it had been his habit for this late night prayer, which showed his devotion and love of prayer. During all these meetings I was infused with a true Islamic spirit which gradually made me drift towards dedicating my life to the service of Islam.

The late Maulana Muhammad Ali led a life of hardship and austerity. He was industrious to the point of endangering his health. He was very regular and methodical in all his habits and works. His unique work and the wonderful literature produced by him will keep his name ever green and infuse a true spirit in the minds of many, who I am sure will devote time and energy for the service of Islam. He wielded his pen for full 50 years and wrote thousands of pages full of Islamic pearls and thereby disseminated the true knowledge of Islam to all the four corners of the world. He was honoured by his admirers by the epithet ‘King of the Pen’, which title he fully justified by his numerous writings and valuable books on Islam.

Intelligence and hard work very seldom go together but the late Maulana Muhammad Ali was blessed with both. Work to him was his food and as one cannot live without food so he could not live without work. Even during his fatal disease when the doctors insisted upon his abstinence from work he continued the same. He derived all his energy and inspiration from his prayers. The secret of his work, nay, his success, has been due to his sincere regular devotion to prayers, especially the late night prayer which he never missed. May his soul rest in peace.

5. Maulvi Ismatullah

Maulvi Ismatullah related that once he was travelling by train to U.P. (India) with Maulana Muhammad Ali. The second class compartment was too crowded, so when, in the later part of the night, the train stopped at a main station for a long period, Maulana Muhammad Ali disembarked, performed wudu at a water tap on the platform, spread his prayer mat on one side and became engrossed in saying his tahajjud prayer. He was so absorbed in his prayer that when it was time for the train to depart he was still in prostration. The train whistled and started to crawl. Maulvi Ismatullah was now in a panic, wondering whether to pull the emergency chain to stop the train or not. Suddenly the train halted after a short distance, with loud noises of steam escaping from the engine. Later it was discovered that this was due to bursting of the water gauge. So the train had to wait at the station for quite a long time. In the meantime the Hazrat Maulana finished his prayer and returned to his compartment. Maulvi Ismatullah used to say that people may consider it a stroke of luck that this accident happened by coincidence just at the right moment, but he maintained that God the Most High did not want His beloved servant, who was attending His court, to miss the train and be inconvenienced. This is a matter of one’s own perception.

6. Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf Garanthi

In an article about his visit to Mangrol with Maulana Muhammad Ali, he writes:

It was in 1929 that the Nawab of Mangrol, the late Shaikh Jehangir Mian sahib, wrote to the late Hazrat Amir [Maulana Muhammad Ali] expressing his deep desire to meet him. He was going to Delhi and hoped that the Maulana could come there to meet him. However, the Hazrat Maulana could not go to Delhi while the Nawab was there, and after returning to Mangrol the Nawab again wrote to him, saying that he was greatly desirous  of meeting him and the only way was if the Maulana visited Mangrol. Upon this the Hazrat Amir undertook a visit to Mangrol, accompanied by Maulana Sadr-ud-Din, Maulana Ismatullah and myself. … When we reached the residence of the Nawab he was holding four garlands, and after greeting us, every one of us was made to wear one garland. Then we were taken into the court of the Nawab where every courtier was holding four garlands which they put one on every one of us …

At night we all went to sleep, each in his own bedroom. As the next day we were to keep fast, there came noise from the servants after midnight as they prepared the meal to be taken before dawn. This noise woke me and I went to Hazrat Amir’s room. He was not in his bed. I waited and when he did not come back, I looked for him. He was not in the toilet, not in the bathroom, and the servants did not know where he was. I was standing worried in the hall when I noticed a light coming from the small room at the end of the hall. I peeped through the door and saw him standing praying. There was a high table in front of him, upon which a copy of the Holy Quran was lying open, and he was reading from it. His back was towards me. After a short while he turned the page over and continued reading for a long time and then he stepped back and went in ruku and then prostrated for a long time. He got up again, went near the table and started to read the Quran. I said to myself that at least one issue is resolved.{footnote 4}

The next day the Nawab and his heir the late Abdul Khaliq came to meet us and presented some funds, saying: This is a donation for the Anjuman. … On the last day [after five days stay] when we were leaving, the Nawab along with his heir and courtiers came to bid us farewell. The Nawab presented to Hazrat Maulana, on a round glass plate covered with a handkerchief, some cash and said: This is for you. This was meant as a personal gift.

On our return Maulvi Ismatullah and I broke journey to visit Ajmer for a day and decided to meet up with the Hazrat Maulana in Sanbhar. When we were leaving the train at Ajmer I borrowed ten Rupees from the Maulana to keep during my journey. When we returned to Lahore I received a note from the Anjuman to return the ten Rupees that I had borrowed into the Anjuman’s funds so that a receipt for all the money could be sent to the Nawab. When I went to the Anjuman’s office to return the ten Rupees I discovered that the Hazrat Maulana had given the entire sum of the one thousand Rupees, presented to him as a personal gift by the Nawab, to the Anjuman. He had paid the fare of his journey himself, and the personal gift that he received he gave to the Anjuman.

The second time that Hazrat Amir went to Mangrol, I was the only one who accompanied him, apart from a personal servant of his. On this occasion the Nawab gave me some money as a personal gift. Following Hazrat Amir’s example, on my return to Lahore I deposited it in the Anjuman’s account. When the Maulana came to know of it he had that money repaid to me. This shows that whereas he was Anjuman’s well-wisher, he was sympathetic towards its employees as well.

7. Shaikh Muhammad Inam-ul-Haq

He arranged Maulana Muhammad Ali’s two visits to Hyderabad Deccan and describes some of his observations during these trips:

Because of his multifarious responsibilities in the management of the Movement, and being busy with the work of writing and authorship, the late Hazrat Amir did not often have the opportunity to go on trips. He was never able to go outside the Indian subcontinent, and even within the subcontinent he was rarely able to undertake long journeys. This gives particular importance to his two long trips to Hyderabad Deccan. These trips proved useful and fruitful in terms of their results. His personality left a deep impression on the people of Deccan. The first trip was in 1942 and the second in 1946.

On the day of his arrival in 1942, there was a large crowd to welcome him at the railway station. Apart from members and sympathisers of the Jama‘at, there were also present a large number of religious leaders, dignitaries, professors and other learned persons. He was received most cordially and conveyed to his place of stay with full honours.

His first trip lasted nearly one week. Numerous people were truly delighted at his visit, and the religious and learned circles expressed great happiness. Throughout the day people visited him to exchange views and seek clarification on various issues. He made several speeches. The masses as well as the prominent people of Hyderabad found his knowledge and scholarship to be greater than they expected, and saw him as the greatest servant of Islam of the present age. Some people, breaching the Islamic code on treatment of guests and ignoring the traditions of Hyderabad, started a campaign of opposition, but they met with failure.

Members of the Jama‘at and other Muslims held numerous functions for him, so much so that many invitations could not be accepted due to lack of time. The greatest achievement was that this visit led to the creation of a regular Jama‘at in Hyderabad, which remained a large, successful and active organisation until the political change in Hyderabad in 1948. Many people took the bai‘at to join the Movement formally.

Hardly had a year passed after this first visit that I began to receive demands from all sides to invite Hazrat Amir once again. He promised to come but due to various problems he could not fulfil his promise till 1946. Due to local political troubles at that time, the situation was not calm and peaceful, and arrangements for public meetings and speeches could not be so well made. Despite this, the people of Deccan benefited greatly. There were many speeches, gatherings and functions, and visitors came day and night. He was even requested, in emphatic terms, to visit Hyderabad once or twice every year. He expressed some agreement with this, but due to other engagements, illness, infirmity and the pre-partition disturbances, the late Hazrat Amir could not come again.

Travel is also a test of a man’s moral character. In a journey a man cannot maintain artificial morals, and his true self is revealed and exposed. I had the opportunity to spend much of my life in the service of the late Hazrat Amir, and saw and studied him from various angles. During these visits too I made many observations. His virtues, command of knowledge, simplicity, beautiful morals, understanding of matters and depth of thinking, love for Islam and the Quran and devoutness had won the hearts of the people of Hyderabad, so much so that even the opponents and detractors were impressed. Misconceptions about the Ahmadiyya Movement were dispelled on a large scale. Even an old servant and disciple such as myself had many new experiences about the late Hazrat Amir’s rare personality.

I have had the chance to meet many prominent men of India and see them closely. I usually find that when they are with people from the upper classes they behave differently from how they meet or address lower and middle class people. I never witnessed such change in Maulana Muhammad Ali’s attitude. He spoke and acted in the same manner to the most ordinary of people as he did to those of the upper classes who applauded and praised him.

During these visits I frequently witnessed his spiritual prescience. Apart from his knowledge, experience, intelligence, and understanding of human nature, it was with his spiritual insight also that he was able to judge the opponents’ intentions and plans very accurately.

He was always mindful of dignifying his assistants and workers, encouraging them, and introducing them to people high or low. He always introduced them to prominent, honourable visitors in commendable words and would mention their services to religion. He always showed full confidence in his assistants and workers in the presence of others. During his first visit there was a function at which, besides the ministers and chiefs of Deccan, the government minister of religious affairs at that time, Maulvi Abdul Aziz, was also in attendance. I had not been introduced to him before and I requested Maulana Muhammad Ali to introduce me to him as I may need his help in a certain matter. When the minister left the Maulana and was getting into his car, the Maulana took me to him and not only did he introduce me in glowing terms but also told him: “This is one of my men and is close to me, you can have full confidence in him”.

During these travels I also noticed that he gave great importance to the opinions of the local workers and allowed them sufficient freedom to organise matters according to their own judgment. During his stay in Deccan he always gave importance to my opinion. He accepted almost all my suggestions regarding local matters, even following my submissions in minor details. One day some chiefs and high officials were to come to see him. Due to his simplicity, he went to the reception room in his shirt. In those days, according to the practice in Hyderabad, it was not considered appropriate to receive visitors without wearing a sherwani (long coat). I told him this, and I myself was surprised to see how carefully he bore my advice in mind.

When travelling it is difficult to stick to a time schedule, but the late Hazrat Amir kept it in mind and adhered to it as far as possible. He never wasted any moment. During the second visit he had the manuscript of one of his books with him and whenever he had a few minutes free he revised and corrected it.

He answered the objections of the critics in a pleasant, serious and dignified manner. His replies were given extremely well, in an effective and well-reasoned way. He immediately understood the nature and level of thinking of the critic.

While his death has deprived us distantly-located people of many other wishes, our desire to see this holy personage once again visit Hyderabad and get the privilege of welcoming him will remain forever unfulfilled. But his memory will never fade from the hearts of his admirers in Deccan.

8. Maulana Ahmad Yar, General Secretary, Ahmadiyya Anjuman, Lahore:

Hazrat Amir Maulana Muhammad Ali, despite being a man of such greatness, was an epitome of humility and modesty. There was not the least trace of haughtiness, arrogance, conceit or vanity in him. He treated all people equally, whether great or small, rich or poor. He loved every person who was a devotee of Islam and a servant of the faith. As secretary of the Anjuman, I had the opportunity to see him close at hand. He was not at all in the habit of backbiting or complaining. Many times people would mention to him that such and such a man says this against you. He would just tell them to pray for that man, that Allah may turn him away from the wrong path and set him upon the right one. He was so mild and gentle that whatever anyone said to him he took it to be true. He was not given to indulging in useless talk, and was always conscious that every moment must be devoted to the service of religion and nothing else. He was so punctual that he can rightly be compared to a clock.

Even during illness he worked for many hours as usual. He went through all the proofs of the English translation of the Quran, while being ill almost all during this time. His eye was so sharp that when, at the end of May 1951, he was about to leave for Karachi, he called for the proofs of the Holy Quran in my presence which had been read once. Even then he located many errors in them. This is why he usually did not have confidence in the work of others, and he was not satisfied unless he checked things himself. Especially in indicating references to sources and in proof reading he was very careful. His pen never stopped. Even in his last days when he was very weak, whenever he was shown any papers he went through them carefully and wrote instructions on them in his own hand.

He treated the Anjuman office staff like his relatives. If anyone was ill, he would go to visit him. If anyone was in financial difficulty, he would make every effort to bring him relief. Sometimes when the Anjuman could not provide financial help to someone, he would help that needy member of staff himself. He felt sympathetic towards every member of the Jama‘at. If someone was facing problems he would pray for him and then keep on enquiring about his welfare.

He was not formal in the least, nor did he ever talk with an artificial air. When anyone went to see him, the Maulana would immediately ask after his welfare and then be silent. He believed in being to the point.

9. Malik Fazal Ilahi, Manager of the Anjuman’s Guest House, Ahmadiyya Buildings, Lahore:

In 1937 when we came to Lahore for the annual gathering, the delegation from the Jhelum Jama‘at went to see the Hazrat Maulana. He had been very ill. Besides discussing the affairs of the Jama‘at, I also said: ‘Thanks and praise be to Allah that you have recovered, we were very much worried’. He replied: ‘You people should better worry about your faith. Muhammad Ali doesn’t matter. If not today he will go tomorrow. Hundreds of Muhammad Ali’s came and went’. We all remained silent out of respect, but his words made a deep impression on our hearts.

Once I had to go to Dalhousie because I needed to get a letter of recommendation from someone through the Hazrat Maulana. There was another person with me, called Muhammad Ismail, who was under a boycott from the Qadiani Jama‘at. When we arrived in Dalhousie, it was raining and very cold. We were wearing light clothes for warm weather. At long last, enquiring about the way, we reached the Maulana’s residence and went directly to the kitchen to sit by the fire and warm ourselves. When the Maulana learnt of this he sent for us and expressed surprise that in such cold weather we were wearing light clothes. Then he gave us a room to stay. After five minutes he arrived carrying tea in a tray in his own hands and told us to warm ourselves by drinking tea as dinner was to be served later. We were both drinking tea when the Maulana appeared again carrying two blankets and some dry clothes, with a servant following him carrying a hot stove.

Later we all had dinner together. My Qadiani friend was amazed and said afterwards: ‘Good God! This is the Head of the Jama‘at who is entertaining an ordinary person like an important guest. If Mirza Mahmud Ahmad had been in his place, we would have found it well-nigh impossible to be allowed to meet him, let alone that he would bring us tea in person and give us a meal himself.’ Afterwards, during conversation, Muhammad Ismail expressed his personal grievances against Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and tried to criticize his character, but Maulana Muhammad Ali stopped him and said that our difference with him is on matters of principles and there is no need for us to indulge in personal matters. The next day he did the work that we had come to see him about.

Once, at an annual gathering, a notice by Maulvi Sanaullah of Amritsar addressed to Maulana Muhammad Ali was distributed, on which it was written:

As all your umma (followers) of Mirza are gathered here today, let us have a decisive debate between you and me. Choose a venue in Lahore. I am also prepared to come to your mosque.

It was signed: Sanaullah of Amritsar, Lion of Punjab, Victor of Qadian, etc. When the Hazrat Maulana started to deliver his speech entitled ‘The oneness of God’, people were impatiently waiting for his reply to Maulvi Sanaullah’s notice. Many Muslims from outside the Movement had come specially for this reason, and they were all waiting to hear what answer he would give to this challenge. While the Maulana was making his speech, a note was handed to him which he put on the table and continued his speech. After ten minutes another note was passed on to him, which he also put on the table. A few minutes later a third note arrived. He then said:

I was going to give my reply at the end of my speech but people are getting impatient and they wish me to answer now. So listen, brothers, write down my answer and take it to Maulvi Sanaullah. The first point worth noticing is that the Maulvi Sahib says: ‘As all your umma of Mirza are gathered here today’. In answer, I do not wish to say anything that may detract from his dignity as a great scholar. I leave it to you. Regarding the debate proposed by him, I appoint the Maulvi sahib himself as the arbiter: let him select for himself any area which is a stronghold of non-Muslims, and let him allocate any such area to us. The two of us can either work in our respective areas or send missionaries to do work. Then after one year we should put forward to the public, at the present venue, reports of our achievements there. This will benefit both sides, even if just one person embraces Islam due to your efforts. The advantage will be that even the loser would not have lost anything, while the other one would be the winner. However, no one is going to gain anything by tit for tat replies in a debate. Supporters of each side would claim that its leader prevailed in the debate. Let Maulvi Sanaullah come and give his decision as the arbiter. He must formulate some principle that he works according to. Either he should make people into unbelievers or he should convert people to Islam. Without some principle it is difficult to achieve success.

Hearing this reply, the supporters of Maulvi Sanaullah drifted away, while the answer made a good impression on other people.

10. Mumtaz Ahmad Faruqui:

I studied at the Talim-ul-Islam High School in Qadian from 1909 to 1914. … During that time I met or at least saw Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali every day. For each one of the daily prayers he went to the Nur mosque and said his prayers slowly, with full concentration and in an attractive manner. Even though he was busy with work on the English translation of the Holy Quran, he still sometimes used to attend the afternoon Quran study class in the Aqsa mosque. I noticed that he spoke little and was serious minded. It was after coming to Lahore that, because of having to give Friday khutbas and speeches, he became a great orator and public speaker. In his house three of his nephews lived who were at school. Being children they made mischief and caused damage sometimes, but I never saw the Maulana rebuke or punish any child.

After coming to Lahore I had occasion to stay with him many times. I was at college in those days. Because of the habit of going to bed late I missed the morning prayer in congregation many times. The Maulana was cross with me about this and used to say: “Prayer in congregation has many blessings. What a matter of shame that while that prayer is going on, you are sleeping. You should fear God.” Glory be to God, that it so happened once that I fell ill, and the illness used to cause me to wake up in the later part of the night and stay awake till morning. Then I learnt what the Maulana had warned me about. But he also prayed for my health.

I saw the late Maulana becoming angry with people on some matters, but only for a short while. I never heard him backbite his companions and friends. I have not seen anyone so strictly adhere to the order of God: ‘and those who restrain their anger and pardon men’ [the Quran, 3:134], as did the Maulana.

When Hazrat Amir was taken ill in Quetta, he was suffering badly. Dr. Colonel Ilahi Bakhsh came from Lahore for treating him. The doctor examined him thoroughly and his diagnosis was that the malady was not dangerous and the Maulana would soon be able to return to Lahore. The moment the doctor left the room, I heard the Hazrat Maulana reciting this verse of the Quran: ‘Praise be to Allah, Who has removed grief from us. Surely our Lord is Forgiving, Multiplier of rewards, Who out of His grace has made us alight in a house abiding forever; therein toil touches us not, nor does fatigue afflict us therein’ [35:34–35].

11. Shaikh Ghulam Qadir, Ahmadiyya Buildings:

For fifty years Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali made flow rivers of wisdom and knowledge from his pen in the service of Islam but he also had the great virtue that he highly appreciated the smallest contribution of others and encouraged them. I had a long series of articles published in Paigham Sulh about the lives of the Companions of the Holy Prophet and the Tabi‘in [those belonging to the following generation]. The Hazrat Maulana used to praise it highly and once he said to me that when he receives the newspaper he first reads my article and then anything else. All this was due to his appreciation and encouragement, otherwise ‘what is mere dust in comparison with a Godly scholar’.

12. Muhammad Karimullah, Editor Azad Naujawan (Urdu) and Thriller (English):

At a time when I was flowing like a twig in the stream of the darkness of Christian ideas, this prince of knowledge and wisdom filled my heart with the light of faith. … Western Christians as well as agnostics are very proud of intellectual reasoning, and this attitude had got into my head as well. I did not accept anything unless I could bring it within my narrow intellect. It had become my habit to distort religious principles and attack them by my line of thinking. However, all this changed and I began to feel that human reason, of which I was so proud, was really a darkness. The light of Divine blessings came and I, a lost traveller, found my destination. I came across The Teachings of Islam, the blessed writing of the Promised Messiah translated into English by Hazrat Amir. As a result of reading it, I was saved from sinking in the storm of materialistic reasoning and began to sail in the sea of spirituality. I became desirous of studying other books of this Movement and read Muhammad and Christ. This book worked such wonders on me that I could not restrain myself, and bright rays of the sun of truth began shining in my eyes. The enchanting influence of the Cross was broken, and the radiant face of Islam began to create the light of faith.

I came across a copy of Muhammad The Prophet. This precious book made me aware of the real glory of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and both my head and heart bore witness that without doubt he is the model of a perfect human being, like whom no other model for mankind can possibly be found. The Maulana’s English translation of the Quran is an ocean of pearls that creates in the heart of its readers the urge for a new life. No fair-minded person, after studying it, can fail to acknowledge that the author of this commentary has written it after receiving special light and guidance from God, and it is a labour that few human beings can perform.

I then considered it essential to read all his other writings. Every person, after reading them, must become utterly convinced of his ability in the literary and religious fields. I do not say this because of being an admirer of his, but all readers acknowledge that his writings show the right path to lost souls. We were dead and this man of God, who found God, breathed the spirit of faith in our dead bodies, bringing us to life. I now have such strong faith that nothing in the world can shake it.

The reason my father wanted to start a magazine was that he was a reader of the Review of Religions whose editor was Maulana Muhammad Ali. My father used to say that all the Maulana’s articles were of the highest standard. The paper Azad Naujawan (‘Independent Youngman’) was started under the influence of the Review of Religions. Hazrat Amir prayed for the success of this paper, and because of his prayer it is still alive till today.

In 1946 I went to Lahore to meet Hazrat Maulana. His captivating speech made me even more enthusiastic, and I was listening to it in complete absorption and wonder. At last, Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi introduced me to him. He met me smilingly and spoke to me pleasantly. After embracing him I felt a new fire of faith in my heart that has not cooled down since. All the misguidance in my soul, darkness in my thoughts and weakness of faith vanished completely. After meeting him in Lahore there was a transformation in me. My concern all the time became the propagation of Islam, and I thought only of Islam during all my daily activities. Before going to Lahore there were many doubts in my mind, but after meeting the Maulana they all disappeared.

After my return, correspondence started between us. Whenever he went out of Lahore, to Dalhousie or Karachi, he let me know of his whereabouts. Till the last he remembered me and wrote to me despite his many engagements. He replied to every letter of mine.

When he heard the news of my father’s death he became very concerned and advised me, in a paternal way, to show patience. He was always delighted to hear news of any success of mine, and prayed for more blessings. This kindness and love was not only limited to me but he loved all my family and asked after their welfare. He used to write to my sisters and ask if their college libraries had Islamic literature; and if a girls’ college did not, he would have it sent by the Anjuman.

While Hazrat Amir arranged for translations of the Quran into many languages, one of his last wishes and longings was that the Tamil translation of the Holy Quran be published in his lifetime. The translation was completed but, regrettably, it could not be published in his lifetime.

He asked me again and again about progress on the Tamil translation of the Quran, and kept on instructing me that it should conform to the English translation. I have the manuscript of the Tamil translation — may God enable it to be published soon.

13. Master Muhammad Abdullah, San Francisco, California

It was 1931, probably August, when I and my wife left Lahore to go to the Fiji Islands. Before departure I was an English teacher in the Muslim High School Baddomalhi, District Sialkot. The man responsible for my migration to Fiji to serve the educational and religious needs of the Muslims of those Islands was the late Babu Manzur Ilahi, Joint-Secretary of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore in those days, who used to be in correspondence with Islamic organisations all over the world as well as with individual Muslims. He received a request through the Anjuman Himayat-i Islam for a teacher and missionary for Fiji.

Whenever any missionaries had previously been sent abroad by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman, a farewell meeting had been held for them, but in my case it so happened that no such meeting was announced. … We reached the platform at Lahore railway station fifteen minutes before the departure of our train to Bombay, and my wife and our baggage having boarded, I was standing on the platform talking to friends. Suddenly I saw Maulana Muhammad Ali running towards me at great speed. I quickly leapt to greet him, with only five minutes left before the departure of the train. He gripped my hands most firmly and started saying prayers. I could not hear the prayers but I could certainly feel their effects. It seemed as if my hands were connected to an electrical battery and its current was penetrating the fibres of my being. The train whistled and I quickly boarded it. While thanking God for the privilege of feeling the spiritual power of the late Hazrat Amir, I realised that there was Divine purpose in the farewell meeting not being held for me. Had it been held, there would have been speeches and comments of praise to encourage me, tea and refreshments served for the audience, and a reply address by me. A man attends many such functions in his honour during his life and their effect is only temporary. But the sight of a great man like the late Hazrat Amir running to say farewell to me, reaching the platform just in time, grasping my hands and saying prayers for me, and the effect of those prayers being felt by me there and then — that memory is unforgettable.

I felt that the success I attained [in Fiji] was the result of the prayers of that Godly saint whom the world of Islam knows by the name Maulana Muhammad Ali. … To him, religion was not limited to the formalities of worship and prayer, but his style of living and his actions were in accordance with the teachings of the Quran and the Sunna.{footnote 5}

14. Haji Allah Rakha Mumin, resident, Ahmadiyya Buildings

He related that in Qadian he heard from Sufi Abdur Rahman that one day in 1901 the Promised Messiah told him to clear and clean the place adjacent to the Mubarik mosque, in the lower storey, where the earthen water pots were kept and wudu was performed, and to spread a mat there and put a chair and small table. He obeyed the instruction. The next day he saw Maulana Muhammad Ali working in that room. He was surprised at the simplicity of the young man who possessed an M.A. degree and was English educated, and how much he was devoted to the Promised Messiah.

(Note: This tiny room was Maulana Muhammad Ali’s office from where he wrote those magnificent articles for the Review of Religions about which it was alleged by Christian opponents that the Promised Messiah had employed an Englishman to write them.)

15. Chaudhry Muhammad Abdullah Khan, Muslim Town, Lahore:

It was 1924 or 1925 that I and some friends, because of the fact that some vociferous young men used to speak out even during the Friday khutbas of the Hazrat Maulana, decided to ask him to disallow such a great degree of freedom of expression and to adopt a milder form of the discipline imposed by the Qadiani khalifa. But as we lacked the courage to say this to him we agreed to ask Mian Ghulam Rasul Tamim to support our views, as he was a close friend of the Hazrat Maulana and open with him. … In the company of the Mian sahib we put our point before the Hazrat Maulana. After listening to us, he replied categorically that, as we had left Qadian to save ourselves from just this error, it would be an even more terrible mistake to introduce the same error into the Jama‘at here. He said moreover: ‘Freedom of expression undoubtedly appears to be harmful temporarily, but if it is used with sincerity it brings about progress. If you think that I should become a spiritual despot like the khalifa of Qadian, then this is impossible as I don’t have duality in my nature.’ In the end, we were unable to reply to him and assumed silence.

16. Shahzada Begum, daughter of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din:

I am proud that the credit for this sacred work [of the propagation of Islam to the West] goes to these two august men, one of whom, Hazrat Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, was my father, and the other, Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali, was as affectionate towards us as a father. In fact, after the death of Hazrat Khwaja sahib, the protective kindness of the Hazrat Maulana towards us was a source of much advantage to us. Whenever I went to his house, he would usually leave all his work and treat me with affection, and ask after my welfare and the well-being of my children. Today we are deprived of his protection, and only we know of the depth of our grief and sadness. But the good news is that both these eminent men departed from this world after having spent a successful and blameless life, and walked in the ways of the pleasure of God.

17. Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad:

Maulana Muhammad Ali was a very great man. I served under him for ten years, and not even once did I have any cause to complain about him. {footnote 6}


Footnotes

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

[1]. Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan was later on the third Head of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Lahore, after Maulana Sadr-ud-Din, from 1981 to 1996.

[2]. Dr. Saeed Ahmad used to recite the Holy Quran in a beautifully appealing and captivating voice.

[3]. Dr. Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah was the Anjuman’s Imam and missionary, first at the Berlin Mosque, Germany, from 1928 to 1939, and later at the Woking Mosque, England, till his death in 1956. This article by him in English was published in The Light, 1 January 1952.

[4]. The “issue resolved” might be whether it is permissible to read from a copy of the Holy Quran during private, individual prayers.

[5]. Article entitled ‘Last glimpse of Hazrat Amir Maulana Muhammad Ali’, Paigham Sulh, 1 October 1989, p. 24.

[6]. Statement related by Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad to Zahid Aziz.

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