The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore was founded in May 1914 and its first annual gathering was held in December of that year. By 1938 the Anjuman had been working for almost twenty-five years. In February 1938 Maulana Muhammad Ali referred to this in a Friday khutba and advised that to mark this occasion something special should be done to glorify the Holy Quran. Our Jama‘at had gained a distinction because of its service to the Holy Quran. While there are plenty of Muslims making verbal claims, but practical service of the Quran, out of love for this Book, is nowhere to be found except in our Jama‘at. The Maulana added that he could not yet say what proposal he would put forward as to how to mark the Silver Jubilee but we must remember that if that work would not reveal the greatness of the Holy Quran then we would have drifted away from the right path. In April he called a meeting of the General Council of the Anjuman. Before that, by means of his articles and Friday khutbas, he made a heart-felt appeal to all members to pray to God the Most High for forty days, asking Him to make us continue on the path shown by the Mujaddid of the Age, the goal of which is to proclaim the name of Allah in the world and spread His Book, and to grant us to conceive the best possible plan for this occasion.
While the passionate zeal and fervour in the heart of Maulana Muhammad Ali to raise the banner of God and spread the Holy Quran in the world is always apparent in his writings and speeches, but on this occasion he specially expressed his feelings in numerous articles and almost every khutba. Thus in his Friday khutba on 1st April 1938 he said:
“Up to now we have been working in bit fashion: we finish one project and then need to be prompted to take a step for the next one. On this occasion I specially want to draw attention that we must establish permanent, long-term foundations to act like a perpetual endowment so that our activities should keep on running in continuity by themselves.… We must set the basis for a long-lasting endowment to enable our work of the publication of the Holy Quran and the propagation of Islam to continue under its own momentum and be expanded by its helpers.”
Earlier, in his Friday khutba on 18 February 1938, explaining the Quranic command “So flee to Allah” (51:50), he said that the real aim of the life of a human being is to run towards Allah as if madly in love with Him, to give this love an exclusive place in his heart, and not let anything else stand in its way. He said:
“The great aim of our Jama‘at is to spread the Divine teachings and the religion of Islam in the world. So we must pay the fullest attention towards it. Our greatest need above all is to study the Holy Quran, to try to understand it, to organise classes for imparting its knowledge, to teach it to others, to make it a practice to ponder upon its verses, to learn the various branches of human knowledge and sciences and use them in the study and service of the Holy Quran.
The greatness of the Holy Quran is of the highest order, just as the glory of Allah is so high as to be even beyond our comprehension and conception. If we reflect upon the Holy Quran we can find out some of its profound knowledge, while its wonders and deep truths, being infinite, will not be exhausted till the Day of Judgment. … The real purpose of the coming of the Promised Messiah was to spread the Holy Quran in the world, to propagate it and to publish its translations. …
At present the Holy Quran is in a state of the utmost helplessness. Even though it is most highly revered by six hundred million people yet it is helpless because the aim of its revelation is not being fulfilled. The six hundred million Muslims who most certainly adore it are entirely negligent about taking it to the world. If our Jama‘at has taken upon itself this responsibility then we must not forget it under any circumstances and always keep on trying to fulfil it. What is meant by spreading the Holy Quran is that its meanings should be made available to people and they should be provided with the translation of the Holy Quran in their own languages. … At every opportunity and at every campaign that is put before you, you must keep your objective in view all the time as to how you can spread the glory of the Holy Quran. All other work that you do is in support of this objective. The task of strengthening and consolidating the Jama‘at, without which we cannot fulfil this objective, is itself a part of this great goal. In this work there is no such thing as over-indulgence or excess, as there is in other works, because to propagate the word of God is an indication of your love for God and love for God can never be excessive. The stronger this passion becomes the better.
We require the greatest strength in order to spread the Holy Quran, and we cannot find that strength without having love for God and a close connection with Him. When you are overwhelmed by love for something you are attracted towards it unstintingly, sacrificing everything in its way. If you develop love for God then you will go on making sacrifices in His way without hesitation. … A Jama‘at which is custodian of the Holy Quran must realise this well, as this is the secret of its success. Numbers do not matter. The size of the Jama‘at is in fact a means to achieve the end, but to consider the means as the real objective or to rely on it excessively constitutes nothing but shirk (worship of others than God). It is only in trust in God that shirk does not exist. To rely too much on anything else is shirk. So you must create so much love for God and closeness to Him as if you are running towards Him. Only this is the means to your success and triumph.”
This, then, was the glorious objective for which Maulana Muhammad Ali wanted to lay a permanent foundation on the occasion of this Silver Jubilee. However, the decision made by the meetings of the consultative council and the General Council held on 15 April 1938 was that a sum of one hundred thousand Rupees should be raised at the Jubilee for the reserve fund. To raise this money, the movement for making wills should be completed and special collections be made, and all this should be spent on the consolidation of the Jama‘at.
After 1931–1932 Maulana Muhammad Ali was not keeping good health. He was then over fifty-seven years of age. He had reduced his previously extensive visits to branches of the Jama‘at outside Lahore. Once or twice he was taken ill while travelling. His ailment used to increase as the summer began and he used to get high temperature. Because of this it had become even more necessary for him to go to a mountain resort. His doctors advised him to rest but it made no difference to his habit, since his youth, of working from morning to night and rising shortly after midnight to supplicate and plead before God the Most High for hours. Although he found quietude when he went to Dalhousie, he used this opportunity to do even more writing work. At the beginning of July 1937 and again in September the same year, he was confined to bed while in Dalhousie. He published the following report about his health in Paigham Sulh dated 10 October 1937:
I do not want to keep my friends unaware that for the last about ten months I have been suffering from an illness for which I might need an operation but it is not confirmed yet. It is almost certainly tubercular trouble, and during the last four or five months I have lost 8 pounds in weight. … In these circumstances it is imperative for me to refrain from overwork and rest more. So I request my friends to bear in mind my disability. Also I entreat those friends who, despite being aware of my faults nonetheless have sympathy for me, to pray for me, but on condition that they first pray for Islam, for its strength, stability and triumph, and pray for this Jama‘at which is engaged in the propagation of Islam and dissemination of the Quran. This prayer must arise from the depth of their hearts, their souls must fall at the threshold of Allah with the utmost humility, and their hearts must melt and flow like water at seeing the state of helplessness of Islam and the Quran. Then if at that moment they find some feeling for me in their hearts, then that is the kind of prayer I want. Whenever I have prayed for my friends I have generally prayed in a way like this, and if my friends pray for me then I want them to pray in the same manner so that the real object is achieved.
O Allah! help those who help the religion of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and make us from among them.
Humbly, Muhammad Ali.
From the middle of April 1938 he became unwell. For the first few days he had fever and a cold. Then he started getting a high temperature every evening. At the end of May the illness was exacerbated, with an increase in temperature as well as weakness. The doctors advised that he should be taken to Dalhousie at once because the heat of the summer was making the fever worse. Accordingly, he was moved to Dalhousie in this state of illness where he improved temporarily but on 15 June his temperature suddenly escalated and weakness increased so much that it became difficult for him even to speak. He was under the treatment of the Civil Surgeon of Dalhousie. Dr. Ghulam Muhammad also went from Lahore for a day, and Dr. Basharat Ahmad was already residing there in his own house. Nonetheless, the illness could not be diagnosed. A stage came when even the doctors gave up hope and he remained in this serious condition for about ten days. At the end of June, however, he began to improve gradually and at the beginning of July the fever subsided. Throughout July he could not leave his bed due to weakness and temperature. At the end of July he was strong enough to be able to write a few words from his sick bed by his own hand. So he sent the following letter to Paigham Sulh which was published in its issue for 27 July:
Thanks to Friends:
It is difficult for me to thank every friend individually who has prayed for my health from the bottom of his heart. May Allah reward all of them well. It does suggest to my mind that these prayers proved so effective in attracting the mercy of Allah that a weak and helpless man, who was not only himself feeling that he was on his way to the next world but his doctors were also of the same opinion, was granted a new lease of life. I still need these heart-felt prayers in order that I can become able to serve religion. But an even greater need is that even more heart-felt prayers be said for this small Jama‘at that Allah fill the hearts of its members with such fervent feelings for the faith that they become utterly devoted to the propagation of the Divine Word, and holding the needs of the faith higher than their personal needs they rescue their Jama‘at from its financial problems. To spend your wealth in the path of spreading the Divine religion is a practical proof of your love for Allah, otherwise all our verbal claims are worthless. I am sure that God Who listened to the prayers of my Jama‘at for me will also listen to their prayers to infuse new life in the Jama‘at. The need is to kneel at His door.
Darus-Salam, Dalhousie, 23 July 1938.
After this for about one month he had various problems due to weakness but his health kept on improving and in September he was on his feet as usual.
At the end of July 1938, when Maulana Muhammad Ali had launched the plan for the Jubilee while on his sick bed, the circumstances were highly unfavourable. The Anjuman faced serious financial problems, his own health was very poor, the doctors advising him complete rest, and there remained only a little time. Prominent members of the Jama‘at themselves held out no hope for it, believing that the plans would fail and the Jama‘at would be disgraced. But Maulana Muhammad Ali did not lose heart and started the work while on his sick bed. Some years later he described these events in the following words:
“In April 1938 the Anjuman approved the Jubilee plan but after that I became so ill that even my doctors lost hope and during my illness the Jubilee campaign also died. When Allah granted me health I tried to revive the Jubilee plan but all the friends were against it. The Anjuman was in debt by about a hundred thousand Rupees, and as the Jama‘at could not meet the regular expenses the debt was continuing to increase. At that time Syed Tasaddaq Husain Qadari of Baghdad strengthened my resolve. When I recovered, I received his letter from Baghdad informing me that he had raised a reasonable sum for the Jubilee. Upon this, I recited the prayer ‘In the name of Allah be its sailing and its anchoring’ [Holy Quran, 11:41] and restarted the Jubilee campaign despite the opposition of friends and Allah blessed it. I consider Syed Tasaddaq Husain Qadari to be the real initiator.”
(Paigham Sulh, 18 August 1943)
So at the end of July he began directing his efforts towards this plan, and from 1 August till the end of November 1938 he published six forceful, fervent appeals in Paigham Sulh. In the first appeal, under the title Man ansari ilallah (‘Who are my helpers in the cause of Allah’— Holy Quran, 61:14), he asked for names of volunteers from the Jama‘at who would help him at every step in this campaign. In the second appeal, on 17 August, he asked the Jama‘at to undertake spiritual exertions in tahajjud or other prayers, individually and in congregation, and repeat this prayer again and again:
“O God, infuse in our hearts such love for our religion that while spending in Your way we feel no reluctance within us but joy and happiness. When any opportunity arises to serve Your religion, let our hearts open generously and let them not be constricted. O God, damp down our love for worldly goods and ignite in its place such a fire of love for You and Your Messenger in our hearts that it may burn all the greed and desires of this world like trash. O God, let our personal adversities seem trivial to us compared to the calamity faced by our religion. Let us feel pleasure in our pains by seeing the affliction faced by Your religion. O God, we have fallen short of doing our rightful duty of serving Your faith; whatever little we have done, may You accept it.”
Because of the overwhelming urge in his heart to place the work of the propagation of Islam above all else, he referred in a Friday khutba in Dalhousie to a misconception of some members who thought that the Promised Messiah was the first Mujaddid to form a Jama‘at and therefore his main purpose was to create a Jama‘at. He said:
“Some people ask whether any previous Mujaddid formed a Jama‘at as the Promised Messiah did? This question arises out of ignorance. In every age work is done according to the needs of the time. The urgent need of today was to bring together a group of people who passionately wish to serve the cause of the faith, because Muslims had lost all feeling for the service of Islam.
One of our dear members is mistaken in questioning whether the objective of the Promised Messiah was the propagation of Islam or the formation of a Jama‘at. In his opinion the work of the Promised Messiah was to form a Jama‘at and this takes precedence over the work of propagation. In fact these are two separate issues. The real object is propagation but for that work a Jama‘at was required, otherwise his mission would have come to an end at his death.
In the statement of the Promised Messiah that is adduced in support of this idea he says that the Jama‘at has not reached the high stage of spiritual purity which is needed for the work of propagation. The work of preaching is not like a business. You must first have the strongest belief in the truth of what you are preaching and then whole-hearted devotion to this work is required. Hence the Promised Messiah says:
‘The real object of my coming is to form a Jama‘at of true believers who have real faith in God and a true connection with Him, and who make Islam their sign of identity and adhere to the example of the Holy Prophet … so that the world can then find guidance through such a Jama‘at.’
The last words above make it clear that the aim of forming the Jama‘at was to bring guidance to the world, and it was this guiding of the world and spreading the message of Islam that was the objective of the Promised Messiah.”
In his third appeal, on 13 September, he stressed upon making wills. Everyone should make a will, and contribute at least one-fifth of it by the time of the Jubilee in cash or property. Those who do not make a will, or whose will amounts to less than one month’s income, should donate at least one month’s income to the Jubilee fund. Women should donate at least one-tenth of the value of their jewellery to the Jubilee fund.
In his fourth appeal in October he made a heart-felt plea especially to the wealthy members, calling upon them to realise the importance of the Jama‘at and its work for twenty-five years. He drew their attention to the fact that when Islam had become completely subjugated and defeated, both politically and spiritually, that was the time of the Promised Messiah who then heard in that dark age this voice from on High:
Rejoice that you shall see that time very soon,
when the Muslims have been firmly established on a lofty minaret.
The words ‘lofty minaret’ are worth pondering. This was the path of spiritual conquests, which far excel political or territorial victory. Then all the knowledge, which is the weaponry for these spiritual conquests, was disclosed by Allah to the Promised Messiah, and today this small Jama‘at holds this inheritance from him.
The fifth appeal that he made in this connection contains exhortations which were significant not only on the occasion of the Jubilee but are of great importance for this Jama‘at at all times because this small community has the same magnificent task before it all the time. He wrote as follows in Paigham Sulh dated 22 October 1938:
“ ‘You will remember what I say to you, and I entrust my affair to Allah.’ [Holy Quran, 40:44]
A heart-felt plea:
… O men of wealth, where can I find words to appeal to you? Your indifference towards my appeals has straitened my heart. Your silence has halted my tongue. So, O Allah, again I bow down before You and ask: ‘My Lord, expand my breast for me, and ease my affair for me, and loose the knot from my tongue’ [Holy Quran, 20:25–27].
Should I appeal in the words of the Promised Messiah:
‘O Muslims, are these the signs of being Muslims, that the religion is in a ruined state and you are holding fast to the dead world? Is the citadel of the world impregnable in your opinion, or perhaps the memory of the passing away of the earlier people has left your hearts?’
Or should I appeal in the words of the Leader of humankind, Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him:
‘I swear by Allah that the one who gives wealth in the way of Allah does not suffer any loss.’
Or should I convey to your ears the voice of the Lord of the worlds:
‘Surely Allah has bought from the believers their persons and their property — theirs in return is the Garden’ [Holy Quran, 9:111]. This wealth is not yours; if you are believers then Allah has bought it from you.
‘Only those are believers who, having believed in Allah and His Messenger, … struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah’ [Holy Quran, 49:15]
‘Spend of that whereof He has made you heirs … Who is he that will offer to Allah a good gift, so He will double it for him and he will have a generous reward’ [Holy Quran, 57:7,11]. You are not the owner of your wealth. You are appointed as custodian by your Maker. When an order comes from the King, the custodian cannot set it aside. Give something out of your wealth for Allah and He will return it many times over.
You hesitate in spending in the way of Allah. There could be only two reasons for this. Either it may be because of some shortcoming that you perceive in me or in the Anjuman, or it could be because of your love for the wealth of this world. If it is the first one, then by giving your wealth your reward will not be reduced; … and if it is the second one, then it will cause great loss to you and we might be like those people about whom Allah says:
‘On the day (of judgment) when the hypocrites, men and women, will say to those who believe: Wait for us, that we may borrow from your light. It will be said: Turn back (to the world and spend in it in the way of Allah) and seek a light. … Then they will cry out to them (the believers): Were we not with you? They will say: Yes (on the face of it you were), but you caused yourselves to fall into temptation and you waited (to do it tomorrow or the day after that) and doubted, and vain desires deceived you till the threatened punishment of Allah came (leaving you with no control over your wealth)’ [Holy Quran, 57:13,14].”
Then the Maulana writes that the purification of the self which we all deeply desire, and the light we want to receive by worshipping God, can only be achieved when we cleanse our hearts of the love of wealth. The biggest idol that is worshipped is love of wealth, so it must be guarded against. The Divine religion should be treated as a son. If you have two sons let it be the third one, or if you have three let it be the fourth one, to share your wealth with the other sons.
The sixth appeal which he made on 30 November was to raise funds from the non-Ahmadis as well. Also members of the Jama‘at were asked to sacrifice their time along with their money.
In addition to these appeals that Maulana Muhammad Ali made to the Jama‘at through his writings, he also visited in person branches outside Lahore on a large scale in November and December in spite of his weak health, and went to see many prominent leaders of the general Muslim community. Above all these efforts, were his prayers and tearful pleadings before God the Most High, and falling before the Almighty in his tahajjud prayers, for the strengthening of the Jama‘at, for the spread of the Divine teachings and the Word of God in the world, for the diminution of the love of wealth from the hearts of the members of the Jama‘at, and for the infusion in them of the same spirit and zeal to work for the Divine cause that he himself had inherited from the Promised Messiah.
All these efforts and prayers were accepted by God. The Jama‘at that had been making sacrifices incessantly showed another incomparable example of sacrifice and selflessness. By the time of the annual gathering of 1938 a sum of 182,000 Rupees was raised in the Jubilee fund and later it increased to 200,000 Rupees, a half of which was in cash and the remaining in the form of property.
The sacrifice this small Jama‘at made on this occasion was quite unparalleled. Nothing like it could be witnessed in any other Muslim organization. A famous newspaper of Lahore, the Inqilab, wrote about it as follows in its issue of 4 January 1939:
“The Anjuman Himayat-i Islam [an association of the general Muslim community] held its Golden Jubilee at which 150,000 Rupees was raised, including a donation of 25,000 Rupees from the Government of the Punjab. Muslims are very pleased at this success.
But at exactly the same time, opposite to the grounds of Islamia College [where this Golden Jubilee was held], in the mosque in Ahmadiyya Buildings the Anjuman Isha‘at Islam of the Lahore Ahmadis celebrated its Silver Jubilee where there was gathering of hardly one thousand people. Do the Muslims know that this handful of Muslims, who are dubbed as kafir, misguided and all other bad things, by the general Muslim community, raised 182,000 Rupees for the propagation of Islam on this occasion and this sum does not include any donations from the Government or any ruler of a state. … It is very easy to call any Jama‘at as kafir and misguided, but it is extremely hard for the general Muslim community to provide a practical proof that, as compared with this, they themselves are the true believers. … Have the non-Ahmadi Muslims ever pondered why it is that the tens of millions of them, trying their hardest to raise funds for their national objectives, can never raise as much money as this handful of Ahmadis?”
From 25 to 27 December 1938 was held the 25th annual gathering of the Anjuman. It was like previous annual gatherings. There was no trumpet, fanfare or ceremony of celebration, but the hearts of those present were filled with thanks-giving and praise of God at the fact that the small plant sown by Maulana Muhammad Ali and his few comrades in 1914, in the face of the most adverse circumstances, had by the grace of Allah grown into a strong tree in 25 years, doing such magnificent work of the propagation of Islam which none of the other Muslim associations had even paid any attention to, and the many times bigger Qadian Jama‘at had not done even a small fraction of that work.
It seems appropriate at this point to give a summary of the achievements of the Anjuman over this 25 year period. In his presidential address on this occasion Maulana Muhammad Ali described the state of destitution in which the foundation of the Anjuman was laid in 1914, and then he gave a brief account of its 25 years work in the following words:
At the end of the first year our total income was 7,333 Rupees, which today after 25 years has grown 25 fold to almost 200,000 Rupees, and the Anjuman owns assets worth about one million Rupees. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. But the worth of a community cannot be judged by its numbers or by its income and assets. Rather, what counts is the service it has rendered. So praise be to Allah that the service to Islam this Jama‘at has carried out cannot be matched by any other Muslim community.
A. First Category of Practical Work
1. Propagation of the Holy Quran
The most valuable asset of the Muslims is the Word of God, but to this they have paid the least attention. Service to the Holy Quran holds the highest place in the works of the Anjuman. After merely four years of the Anjuman's foundation, the English translation of the Holy Quran was published and it spread so quickly throughout the world that the first edition consisting of five thousand copies was exhausted in two years. The second edition of eleven thousand copies was printed in 1920, and now it is into the third edition. During this period the Urdu translation and commentary, Bayan-ul-Quran, was published in three volumes in 1923, and an edition of the English translation without Arabic text was first published in 1928 consisting of five thousand copies, followed by another printing in 1934 of eleven thousand copies.
Around 1930, on the one hand the Central Jama‘at took in hand the work of translating the Quran in German, and on the other hand the Java branch started to translate the Quran in Dutch. The Dutch translation was published in 1936 and its five thousand copies have almost been exhausted. The German translation went to press in 1937 and three thousand copies are under print.
2. Writings on the life of the Holy Prophet
After the translation of the Holy Quran the Anjuman has turned its attention to biography of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The Muslims possess these two strong weapons to win the world: the Holy Quran which inspires love for itself in the hearts of its readers, and the virtues of the Holy Prophet which win the respect of people. Sirat Khair-ul-Bashar in Urdu was first published in 1917. Its English translation, Muhammad the Prophet, was published in 1924. A short life-story in English (The Prophet of Islam) was published in 1928 for wider circulation among non-Muslims. Both of these have so far been translated into sixteen languages.
3. Valuable literature on the teachings of Islam
Many valuable pamphlets were written on the teachings of Islam, the best of which is The Teachings of Islam. This has also been translated into many languages. Islam the Religion of Humanity and some other pamphlets have been translated into thirty languages. The most comprehensive book on Islam is The Religion of Islam, published in 1936. It consists of almost 900 pages dealing in full detail with all chief Islamic issues, whether related to belief and doctrine or to practice and actions. This book has been highly appreciated by prominent Muslim leaders, so much so that the late Marmaduke Pickthall opened his review of it in Islamic Culture, Hyderabad Deccan, with these words: “Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore.”
4. Service to Hadith literature
The Anjuman did not lag behind in doing service to Hadith. A book was written about the status of Hadith reports (Maqam Hadith). Sahih Bukhari was translated into Urdu with explanatory notes and published in two volumes under the title Fazl-ul-Bari.
5. Research about other religions
In this connection the Urdu translation of one part of the Vedas has been done and published. In the book Misaq-un-nabiyyin, written by Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, prophecies about the Holy Prophet Muhammad from the scriptures of various religions have been compiled and reproduced in the original text along with their translations. Many books and pamphlets have been written on Christianity and have been published in large numbers in different languages. A book has also been written on the Babi religion.
In addition to these treasures of knowledge, an extensive series of pamphlets continues to be published in which all kinds of criticism of Islam has been refuted as well as right guidance provided to Muslims both for their religious and worldly needs.
7. Free distribution of Islamic literature
A large number of books has been distributed free, reaching the most remote parts of the world. Ten thousand copies of the English translation of the Quran, fifteen thousand copies of the life of the Holy Prophet, and other pamphlets in even larger numbers have been distributed free. The literature that has been translated into other languages has mostly been distributed free. The tracts distributed free amount to a total of about ten million pages.
B. Second Category of Practical Work
1. The Woking Mission
When the Anjuman came into existence, while its first task was the completion and publication of the English translation of the Holy Quran, its second was to manage the Woking Mission. Till 1930 the Woking Mission worked under the Anjuman. Now there is a separate Trust for it. The Islamic and the Christian worlds today are well aware of the useful work this mission has done.
2. Berlin Mosque
The second mission was established in Berlin in 1922 where a magnificent mosque was built at a cost of 150,000 Rupees. A quarterly magazine in the German language is issued from there. A number of European intellectuals and scholars have embraced Islam through this mission.
3. Vienna Mission
Four years ago a mission was established in Vienna, Austria, under the supervision of Baron Umar Ehrenfels, but due to political problems he had to flee his country and the work of the mission is in abeyance.
4. Java Mission, Indonesia
The Java Mission was established in 1924. The majority of the population here is Muslim but Christian missionary activity is very strong. This mission has not only succeeded conspicuously in infusing a new spirit in the Muslims but has also translated a large amount of our literature into the Javi language. Its Dutch translation of the Quran has also conveyed the message of Islam to the people of Holland.
5. Other countries
In many countries the work of the propagation of Islam continues by distributing literature through local organizations, for example Nigeria, Congo, Southern and Eastern Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, North and South America and China.
6. Educational work
In twenty-five years the Anjuman has founded two high schools, and constructed buildings for both of these along with boarding houses. For a long time the Anjuman managed a Muslim Hostel where college students resided.
In this period of twenty-five years, the name that this Jama‘at earned for itself in the world can be seen from the excerpts given below. It is especially worthy of note that the particular quality of the Ahmadiyya community pointed out in these excerpts, namely that it is the only Muslim group whose attention is focussed wholly on the propagation of Islam and on nothing else, was exactly what Maulana Muhammad Ali always emphasised. He never allowed the attention of the Jama‘at to be diverted from this objective despite some instances when certain people within the Jama‘at tried to initiate activities which had no direct bearing on the propagation of Islam. Here are the views of some Christian and Western writers about the Jama‘at:*
[ * These excerpts have been reproduced in their original English words.]
Details of many such articles written by Christians about the Ahmadiyya Movement are given in the English booklet The Ahmadiyya Movement as the West Sees it compiled by Maulana Muhammad Ali.
At the end of 1937 and beginning of 1938, Maulana Muhammad Ali started construction of a house in Muslim Town, a development located outside the urban area of Lahore, on a plot of land he had earlier bought from Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah. To build this new house he sold all his land in Qadian and some of his land in his ancestral village Murar. In May 1938 he was taken ill and went to Dalhousie. When he returned from Dalhousie in October after his recovery, he took up residence in his new house. He had lived nearly 23 years in the house at Ahmadiyya Buildings. On moving from there, he published the following letter in Paigham Sulh addressed to all members:
“As friends know through this newspaper, on my return from Dalhousie this year I have taken up residence in Muslim Town, Ichhra. This settlement, which was founded many years ago by Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah, is on Ferozpur Road by the side of the canal, and is approximately five miles from Ahmadiyya Buildings.
One part of this settlement was named Ahmadiyya Basti (Ahmadiyya township), where many Ahmadi friends purchased plots to build houses. Now the Anjuman has itself acquired a large tract of land at a distance of about half a mile from there, and many other members have also bought lands there. I am sure that in the near future these will be populated and become a means of progress for the community. The purpose of founding this Ahmadiyya Basti was that in Ahmadiyya Buildings there was not enough space to meet the growing needs of the Movement and many members also felt that having our own settlement at one place is a way of consolidating the Jama‘at. However, that stage has not yet been reached that that purpose can be fulfilled, though some members of the Jama‘at have gathered here and the Shah sahib has built a mosque where congregational prayers are now held regularly.
Though that stage had not yet been reached that I should move from Ahmadiyya Buildings to this new settlement, but last year, at the beginning of 1937, a few days after the annual gathering, an illness came upon me which I took initially to be an ordinary ailment. However, by June, when I was ready to go to Dalhousie, the illness had progressed and in the opinion of the doctors it was tuberculosis. It was thought that by going to Dalhousie there would be remission from it; however, against expectation my condition deteriorated there and I was confined to bed for nearly two months. Then there was some improvement but all my doctors concurred that the cause was tuberculosis and under these circumstances I was forced to arrange for residence in an open area. After this, when the fever started again last May and continued till July, our friend Dr. Ghulam Muhammad also was of the firm opinion that it is tuberculosis. It was Allah’s favour that He helped me just at that time of complete disappointment and granted me a new lease of life. Keeping in view the causes of these circumstances, I had no choice but to take up residence in an area of open air.
It was not easy for me either to leave the house where I had spent more than twenty years of my life and on which I had spent much money to make it suitable for living and to provide the necessities of the house. But to disregard treatment and ignore precautionary measures would have been against the Divine law. So I was forced by circumstances to move. I cannot yet say whether this move of house will be beneficial for me or not. This is in Allah’s hands but it was my duty to try so that if Allah wills I could serve the religion a little longer. There is no doubt that here I would not be able to do the service that I could do by living in Ahmadiyya Buildings. Besides other facilities, I used to be able to meet friends and visitors at any time, but that is not possible here. However, I also want to say that, due to the attacks of illnesses during the past two years as well as on account of age, I cannot now work as hard as I used to be able to. By living away I will also be more free from office work as well as being able to rest more. So I hope that friends will excuse this move of house as being beyond my control.
It is true that my convenience will cause difficulty for those who want to meet me. But I hope that in view of my illness and disability they will be prepared to accept it for my sake. I assure them that my heart is still in Ahmadiyya Buildings, and it is my wish to spend the rest of my life in the company of those friends to whom I have become close during my stay of twenty-two years in Ahmadiyya Buildings, and that I die in their hands. In fact, it has always been my heart-felt desire that upon my death my funeral service should be conducted in the mosque of this same Ahmadiyya Buildings, my body being placed at the very spot where I have stood over the years drawing the attention of my friends to the service of Islam, and where I have spent the best time of my life after Qadian.
Under these circumstances I certainly request friends that whenever they take the trouble to come to Lahore they should take a little more trouble to accord me the privilege of a visit because meeting such sincere friends, who gather only to please Allah, comforts and strengthens my heart. Though it has become more difficult for my friends to visit me here, their reward has also increased by the same measure, and my separation has become a means of greater reward for them. Perhaps it is also a trial for them because when they have been coming to Lahore their visit has often involved some worldly purpose, but now that they will have to extend their journey it will be purely in the way of Allah and marked by more sincerity. It was my desire to come to Ahmadiyya Buildings every day regularly at a fixed time and spend one or two hours there, but in the present circumstances my friends do not agree.”
In 1938 two valuable souls of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at departed to meet their Creator. In the middle of May 1938 the death took place of Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, headmaster of the Muslim High School. He was distinguished by his high moral virtues, love for Islam and Ahmadiyyat and zeal to serve the Jama‘at. He had a natural aptitude for teaching and education, and the high renown of the Muslim High School was due to his hard work.
The other venerable figure was Babu Manzur Ilahi who died on 8 October 1938. Although he had been a zealous Ahmadi since during his employment in the railways, on retirement he devoted himself entirely to service of the religion and came to live in Ahmadiyya Buildings. The duty that he took up particularly, which he performed most excellently, was to disseminate information about Islam and the Jama‘at all over the world by means of correspondence and letter. It was as a result of his efforts that the valuable literature of this Jama‘at reached many countries of the world where it was translated into the local languages and branches of the Jama‘at were created in several countries. He did his work so quietly, unassumingly and selflessly that most people in the Jama‘at were not even aware of his valuable contribution and ceaseless efforts. The single-handed achievements of this one man are a golden chapter in the history of the Jama‘at, a glimpse of which can be seen in the obituary that Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote upon his death from Dalhousie:
“The news of the death of Chaudhry Manzur Ilahi reached me yesterday at about ten o’clock — ‘We belong to Allah and to Him do we return’. A few days ago I was delighted to hear that he had recovered and was on his way back from Batut. When we parted in Lahore both of us were ill. By the grace of Allah I recovered and I received the good news of his recovery as well. I thought that we had been given further opportunity to work together. But alas, with the Chaudhry sahib’s death, I have lost my arm.
This is an irreplaceable loss for our Jama‘at. We cannot see anyone else to take his place, but of course God has power over everything.
Most members of the Jama‘at will probably be unaware of the tremendous service to the religion done by the Chaudhry sahib because he worked so quietly that no one knew about it. I have never seen anyone working with so much sincerity, dedication, commitment and diligence.
When he was in employment he performed his official duties most ably and diligently. Alongside that, he carried on with his missionary work not only during his tours of branches of the Jama‘at, but when he would return from a trip or from his office, tired and exhausted, instead of resting at home he would head straight for the Anjuman’s office and busy himself in his extensive correspondence work till midnight. He kept in touch with news from Islamic countries so that if there was any useful information [from the propagation point of view] it would find a permanent place in his mind. He would search through newspapers and magazines to find out where in the world the work of propagation of Islam was required and to which corners of the world the message of Islam could be taken.
During the last two or three years, when his health deteriorated, even then he did not give up this hard labour and despite the repeated advice of his friends to take rest and reduce his workload he continued as before. Allah made his hard work and devotion bear great fruit. He made the Holy Quran and other Islamic literature reach such places in the world that were not even known to most Muslims. He spread the light of Islam to libraries of America and Japan, libraries on board ships, and to countries of Europe, Asia and Africa. By searching information about various islands and countries he tracked down Muslim communities whose existence was unknown to the outside world. His work in the field of propagation of Islam is unequalled by any other individual in this age. In outward appearance he was sitting at home, but his spirit used to travel over all the countries, spreading the message of Islam everywhere. The translation of our literature in different languages of the world and its distribution in those countries was due to his resolve and determination.
In the spread of the Ahmadiyya Movement also, no one else did as much as the late Chaudhry Manzur Ilahi. He set up branches of the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at in more than fifty countries. If the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at had spent hundreds of thousands of Rupees to send its missionaries to all those countries, all of them together could perhaps have not achieved as much as this man of God did single-handedly staying at home. There are many who call out for the extension of the Jama‘at but no one did as much practical work of Jama‘at building as the late Chaudhry sahib. What is painful is that there does not appear to be anyone to continue his magnificent work; but ‘You know not that Allah, after that, may bring about a new event’ [the Quran, 65:1]. He showed by his example that if a person is sincere and full of zeal he can achieve by working from home what others cannot do even by travelling all over.
The desire expressed by the Promised Messiah that we should propagate Islam by sending literature all over the world, and that it is not necessary to send missionaries to every place, was fulfilled by the late Chaudhry sahib. His name will remain forever as a guiding star in every country in the field of the service of Islam.
O God! shower Your countless blessings and mercies on his soul and produce in this Jama‘at such young people who would follow in his footsteps and grant them to work with the same dedication and diligence, quietly and unassumingly. Amen!
Dalhousie, 9 October 1938.”
The zeal in Maulana Muhammad Ali’s heart for the service and propagation of Islam, and his fervent desire for its triumph, can be glimpsed from a prayer which he sent in writing to Shaikh Muhammad Ismail of Lyallpur when the latter was going for the Hajj to Makka. He wrote:
“The place you are going to is the abode of all the grace and help of Allah the Most High. The days you will be spending there are the special days of the bestowal of the gifts of the Almighty. It will be a time when all veils between God and man will have been lifted. It will be the time when prayers are granted. Hearts will be melting, eyes will be full of tears, and thoughts will run towards God uncontrollably. In such an atmosphere, whether you are passing by the walls of the House of God, or standing in the gathering at Arafat, or are alone at night, and of course when you go to Madina and are at the Holy Prophet’s mausoleum, say the following prayer, in any form as God guides you.”That prayer was as follows:
“O God, Your religion is in a state of the utmost destitution. The world is full of your bounties; there are mountains of gold and silver in the world. Yet, O Master, means cannot be found to spread the religion sent by You, the very religion that You promised to make triumphant over all other religions, and about which You commanded that it should be taken to all corners of the world. O God, money is being spent like water to spread the teachings of Trinity and Atonement, with the backing of worldly power, but the true religion sent by You is so helpless that even the hearts of the Muslims do not melt for it. Many are the lovers of Your Holy Prophet but none to sacrifice themselves for that love’s sake.
O God, Your Promised Messiah created a community to spread Your religion in the world and to show Your promises being fulfilled, but sadly that community too has gone after the field of politics, leaving only a small group which the world looks down upon with contempt. But, O God, it is weak and unable to fulfil the duty You have entrusted to it. O God, create in their hearts the same passion for the cause of Your religion as You created in the heart of Your Holy Prophet. Create in them the same feeling of anguish for their religion as You created in Your Holy Prophet, as indicated in the words: ‘Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they believe not’ [Holy Quran, 26:3].
O God, cool down their love for this world and ignite such a fire of love for You in their hearts that it burns all trash and its heat inspires dead hearts with new life.
O God, send the winds of Your succour over this Jama‘at, pour down the rains of Your blessings upon them and open the doors of Your mercies for them. O God, grant this group to spread Your Word to the corners of the world. O God, make us witness in our lifetime that in the lands of the Dajjal the sounds of Allahu Akbar arise loudly, mosques are built and Your name echoes in the air. O God, show us the same sight that You showed to Your Messenger and his true followers, of people entering into Islam through them in groups upon groups. Amen, again amin!”
(Paigham Sulh, 26 January 1938)
On Eid-ul-Fitr, 24 November 1938, he addressed the young people of the Jama‘at in the following words:
“At the end I want to say something to my young friends — that is that you must keep alive the traditions of the Ahmadiyya community. The Ahmadiyya Jama‘at stands for spreading Islam in the world and taking the Holy Quran to people. Do not let this tradition of yours go into decline. I assure you that there is no other work in this world worthy of greater respect. This is the mission for which God has been sending prophets and righteous servants. There are countless other tasks in the world but God does not send prophets for any of those. So it is a matter of pride for us that in this age when the Muslims have entirely neglected the propagation of Islam Allah the Most High has chosen our Jama‘at to spread Islam. While it is a matter of pride, it is also a position in which we must humbly plead before Allah, as the task for which Allah had raised such great people in the past has now been given to unworthy and incapable people like us to have the opportunity to carry out. So pray to God for strength to enable you to live up to this standard.
I will again say to my young friends and say it again and again: keep alive the traditions of your community. Adhere to the Islamic code of morals and behaviour, read the Quran, listen to it, ponder over it and act upon it. Make it your mark of identity that you respect the commandments of Islam.
The day will come, for each and every one of your elders, when you will bury their bodies in the ground with your own hands, and your descendants will do the same to your bodies. My young friends, I stress upon you with the greatest emphasis and advise you not to bury your traditions along with the bodies of your elders. Keep them alive and take them forward lest people say that this community is dying away.”
(Paigham Sulh, 30 November 1938)