A talk about Maulana Muhammad Ali
at the Lahore Ahmadiyya Centre, London,
5 October 2003
Note: All quotations given without a reference to the source will be found with full references in Maulana Muhammad Ali’s biography A Might Striving (see link).
Key facts about life
- Born Punjab (India), 1874.
- Did brilliantly in his studies and acquired the degrees
of M.A. in English and LL.B. in law by 1899.
- First saw Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1892 at public
meeting in Lahore.
- In March 1897, went to Qadian: “a new world was opened
before my eyes”, a world of service of Islam. He joined
the Ahmadiyya Movement.
- Started corresponding with and visiting Hazrat Mirza
sahib frequently, and translating his writings into English.
- In 1899, made arrangements to start practice in law,
but decided to spend some time with Hazrat Mirza sahib before
- During his stay, decided to abandon plans for legal practice
and to devote life to service of Islam and Ahmadiyya Movement:
“All I can say about myself is that if Almighty God had not guided me towards this
work, I would, like my fellow-students, have become at best
a successful lawyer or judge. But the man who directed me to
this work, then set me on this path, and guided me correctly
is the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad of Qadian. At a time when I had gone into a worldly path,
he not only pulled me out of the mire of this world but also
created within me a light of faith that has stayed with me throughout
this struggle. … In exactly the year 1900, when I was on my
way to Gurdaspur to start my law practice, with all arrangements
completed, the premises rented, and my belongings and books
moved there, my Guide took me by the hand and said: ‘You have
other work to do, I want to start an English periodical for
the propagation of Islam to the West, you will edit it.’ What
great fortune that, on hearing this voice, I did not hesitate
for a moment as to whether I should start this work or the work
for which I had prepared myself.” (Urdu booklet whose title translates as A Moment’s Reflection for every Muslim and every Qadiani, published in 1949)
Hazrat Mirza sahib published the following opinion about him:
“I am very happy that another good young man, having
found the grace of God, has joined our community, that is Maulvi
Muhammad Ali, M.A., Pleader. I have very good expectations of
him. For a long time he has borne a worldly loss in order to
stay in Qadian to serve the religion, and is learning the deep
knowledge of the Holy Quran from Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din.
I am sure that my foresight will not go wrong in this, that
this young man will make progress in the path of God, and
I am sure that by the grace of God he will prove to be so
firm in righteousness and love of religion that he will set
an example worthy to be followed by his peers. O God, let
it be so! Amen, again Amen.”
Became in 1902 editor of the Review of Religions. Magazine
became renowned for high standard of its contents. Through this
work he acquired his scholarship and authoring ability. Gained
knowledge of Islam from Hazrat Mirza sahib, Maulana Nur-ud-Din
and by own study and research.
- In 1906 appointed by Hazrat Mirza sahib as Secretary of the
Sadr Anjuman (Ruling body of Movement).
- Served Movement as author, scholar as well as in administrative
- In 1909 started work on English translation and commentary
of the Holy Quran under guidance of the head Maulana Nur-ud-Din.
- 1914: Forced to migrate from Qadian when Hazrat Mirza sahib’s
son Mirza Mahmud Ahmad introduced wrong beliefs into the Ahmadiyya
- May 1914: Along with some other Ahmadis, founded the Ahmadiyya
Anjuman Isha‘at Islam in Lahore. Started work from scratch. Anjuman
began with no funds, no offices, no staff.
- Headed the Anjuman till his death in October 1951. Wrote numerous
books in English and Urdu on Islam and the Ahmadiyya Movement.
Carried out management of the Jama‘at and organized its
missionary and publication activities. Conducted a constant debate
with the Qadiani Movement through speeches and writings to prove
that Hazrat Mirza sahib did not claim to be a prophet.
- By the end of his life, some of his achievements were the following:
- Created a comprehensive, unique literature on Islam relevant
for the modern age. An invaluable resource of knowledge and
spiritual training, a powerful missionary tool, and even a
financial asset for the Jama‘at.
- Clarified numerous misunderstood issues relating to the
basics of Islam.
- Organized a community to carry forward the Islamic reform
work of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
- Become recognized internationally by Muslims and non-Muslims
as an authority on Islam.
- Made the name Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore world
- Attained recognition from Muslim leaders for himself and
the Anjuman as doing important Islamic work. Was personally
known to, and respected by, Muslim statesmen, religious leaders,
intellectuals, writers, high officials, ambassadors and dignitaries
of his time.
- Clarified the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad for both
Ahmadis and other Muslims. Explained the true Islamic teaching
on ‘who is a Muslim’ and made our Jama‘at the only
Muslim group that understands and follows that correct position.
Refuted the wrong Qadiani beliefs and made their leaders speechless
and unable to reply.
- Presented Islam as a religion of tolerance both towards
other faiths and within its own fold.
- He attributed his work and success to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad,
and presented his achievements as proof of Hazrat Mirza sahib’s
“I declare it openly that if the Imam and Mujaddid
of this age had not guided me, I was not capable of doing this
work. I received a spark of the light which filled his breast.
… In reality, this is not my work. It is the work of the one
who took my hand and set me on this road. … Just like me, the
late Khawaja Kamal-ud-Din too, by sitting at the feet of the
Imam of the age, was blessed with opening the first Islamic
mission to Europe at Woking, shedding such light on the teachings
of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad that the
entire attitude of Europeans towards Islam changed. Not only
this, but that Mujaddid produced thousands of people whose hearts
ached with the urge to spread Islam, and who gave their lives
and wealth to spread the Divine faith in the world.… Has there
ever been in the world a liar and impostor who filled the hearts
of his followers with such an urge for the propagation of Islam,
and to whom Almighty Allah gave so much help as to continue
fulfilling his dreams and aspirations long after his death?
… Whatever work of the propagation of Islam we have done up
to today, whether it is little or much, it is all the outcome
of his inner urge which Allah had strengthened with the power
of His own Will.” (Urdu booklet whose title translates as A Moment’s Reflection for every Muslim and every Qadiani, published in 1949)
In this section the quotations given are from the impressions of
some of those persons who worked with and knew Maulana Muhammad
1. Hard work and prayer
Usual daily schedule:
Would get up daily at about 2.00 a.m. for tahajjud prayer,
which he performed till about fajr prayer time. Then go to
mosque for fajr (varying from 4.00 to 5.30 a.m. or so). Then
go for morning walk, come back, and have breakfast. Then start work
in his office without break till zuhr prayer. After zuhr and lunch, rest for an hour or so. Resume work in office (or give dars of Quran). Receive visitors in the evening. After maghrib spend time with family. After isha prayer usually retire
to bed soon (9.00 p.m.), but sometimes had to work. In younger days,
he would sometimes get up before tahajjud prayers at 1.00
a.m. and do his writing work till 2.30 a.m.
Even during serious illnesses he worked whenever he felt a little
better. Was untiring in his work. Dr Saeed Ahmad’s personal observation
was as follows:
“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.”
Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi wrote:
“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.”
Said tahajjud prayers without fail, even while gravely ill,
or travelling. Always exhorted the Jama‘at to adhere to this
prayer, especially during Ramadan. Said all his prayers with full
concentration and humility.
Various people have described observing his tahajjud prayers:
“… in seclusion, he would be falling before God in prayer.
Whenever anyone woke, they would hear a melodious, wonderful sound
of heart-felt crying and supplicating, which included glorification,
praise and sanctification of the Almighty. God alone knows if at
that time he was in this world or in another world, but his voice
was like that of one who is cut off from this world and all its
trappings, and was elsewhere, having lost himself in the Divine
Being, and expressing before Him the pain and concern in his heart.”
— His biographers.
Dr. S. M. Abdullah writes:
“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.”
2. Jovial, cheerful, witty, pleasant
Despite his worship, spiritual exertions and mental efforts of
day and night, shouldering great burdens and suffering problems,
he was always very jovial and cheerful. Even during his long illnesses
he never became irritable. Had a good, refined sense of humour.
Never showed displeasure when interrupted in his work.
3. Informal, modest, humble
Greatly detested pomp, ostentation and show. Was simple in his
nature and untouched by arrogance or pride. Disliked being distinctive
or sitting at a reserved place in a gathering. Dress was always
very simple. Humility and tolerance were an innate part of his nature,
and he never imposed his authority upon others. His life was free
of pretence and flattery. Disregarded ceremonials and formalities,
received dignitaries in his simple everyday attire. His modesty
is illustrated by this incident, related by an Anjuman worker:
“We went to see the Hazrat Maulana. He had been very ill.
Besides discussing the affairs of the Jama‘at, I also said:
‘Praise be to Allah that you have recovered, we were much worried’.
He replied: ‘You people should better worry about your own 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.”
4. Never spoke ill of people or of critics
“In the meetings of the Anjuman … 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.” — Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi.
“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.” — Dr Saeed
“He was an epitome of humility and modesty. As secretary of the
Anjuman, I had the opportunity to see him close at hand. He was
not at all in the habit of back-biting or complaining.” — Maulana
5. Care, concern for members of Jama‘at
Treated members of the Jama‘at as his own brothers and children,
and shared their joys and sorrows. Respected and valued the rich
and poor alike, above all he valued those people who had a zeal
for the propagation of Islam. If anyone was ill, he would visit
them, arrange treatment, and even send doctors of the Jama‘at to see the sick person.
“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.” — Maulana Murtaza Hasan Khan.
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s daughter writes:
“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.”
Always provided letters of reference if a member needed to see
some official. He was not only a spiritual guide but also concerned
about the material welfare of his community.
Encouraged the workers of the Jama‘at:
“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.” — Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi.
“He always appreciated every little thing I did” — Maulana Murtaza
“He was always mindful of dignifying his assistants and workers,
encouraging them … He always introduced them to prominent 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.” — Shaikh Inam-ul-Haq.
“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. …
He felt sympathetic towards every member of the Jama‘at.”
— Maulana Ahmad Yar.
“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.” — Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad.