100 Years Ago… – Demise of Lord Bishop Lefroy

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Another Chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat’s History Concludes

The renowned Lord Bishop George Alfred Lefroy (1854-1919) conveyed an open address on 25 May 1900 and announced that while the Prophet Muhammadsa had left this world and was buried in Medina, the Muslims believed that Jesusas was still alive in paradise. After the discourse, the group of spectators was allowed the chance to talk about the issue. 

A sincere follower and a faithful companion stood up and read a paper written by the Promised Messiahas which he had composed just the previous day and was printed at Qadian that night. The follower had come to Lahore to attend the gathering. An imperative characteristic of that article was that it contained a full answer to every one of the arguments that Lord Bishop would present on the day. The Promised Messiahas comprehensively proved the demise of Jesusas in his article and emphasised that the prophet that continues to live on forever is none other than the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, whose beneficence shall continue till the end of times. 

This account has been mentioned in Al Hakam of 14 January 1919 by Hazrat Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfanira Sahib as follows:

Al Hakam, 14 January 1919

It is a mere coincidence that in the previous year, when the first issue of Al Hakam was published, an article was written under the heading of Recollection of Past Events. The first thing that was mentioned in that article discussed the gatherings of Bishop Lefroy in Lahore. At that time, neither was I aware, nor could anybody have predicted that in the coming year, in the very second issue of Al Hakam, I would record the news of the Bishop’s demise, and with that I would revisit the events from the history of the Jamaat related to Lord Bishop Lefroy. The previous year, on its completion, closed this chapter. 

Lord Bishop Lefroy, owing to an ailment, resigned from his designated post on 31 December 1918 and in a matter of a few hours, he passed away (on 1 January 1919) in Kolkata. The lord bishop arrived in Hindustan and joined the Cambridge Mission to Delhi in 1879. He came to Lahore in 1899 and served as the Bishop of Lahore till 1913. Then he was appointed as the Lord Bishop of Kolkata.

Lord Bishop Lefroy’s morality, passion to promulgate his religion and fortitude are valuable characteristics for a person who is a missionary. 

The accounts of his life hold an interesting place in the history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, therefore I will give a somewhat detailed account of the happenings. 

Bishop Lefroy, before he was given the rank of bishop or lord bishop, had a keen interest in having religious debates with Muslims and tried to learn Arabic to the best of his abilities. He used to deliver speeches in Urdu with great command and frequently held debates with the religious scholars in Delhi. Ultimately, he was able to convert Hafiz Ahmad to Christianity, who now goes by the name of Ahmad Masih. However, I will not comment on the circumstances which led him to renounce his religion. 

After practicing adequately for his cause in Delhi, he came to Lahore and started a series of lectures and debates. I, the editor of Al Hakam, was a student of Government Model School of Lahore in those days and had a passion to have religious debates with different religious orators and lecturers. 

An announcement was carried out regarding the gatherings of Reverend Lefroy in the Rung Mahal Mission School of Lahore. After his lecture in Lahore, a session of questions and answers was held for the first time in his gatherings. He delivered lectures on the superiority of Jesus Christ and the atonement. 

I had a debate with Reverend Lefroy regarding these lectures and this was the first occasion when the Muslims, carrying opposing views [to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat], accepted that the Ilm-e-Kalam (science of discourse) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat was most supreme in countering the arguments of Christianity. Various people who witnessed this debate are still around. At last, a special debate with Reverend Lefroy was held at the residence of Reverend Grey, which continued for several hours. I told him that I would accompany him wherever he would deliver a lecture on Islam, but he said that he would return to Delhi. 

This happened in 1891 when only a year had passed since the claim of the Promised Messiahas. In those days, emotions were high in Lahore and elsewhere, so Reverend Lefroy did not pay a visit to Lahore again for his cause. However, as soon as he was appointed as the bishop of Lahore, he renewed his resolve and started to hold gatherings of a similar kind in 1900. 

Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Sahib was in Lahore at that time and I, editor Al Hakam, had already come back to Qadian a few years earlier and Al Hakam was being published. Hazrat Mufti Sahib took part in the initial gatherings of Bishop Lefroy, rendering him speechless. 

This incident occurred on 18 May 1900 and then an announcement was made regarding a lecture on the living prophet that was to be delivered on 25 May 1900. The Promised Messiahas penned a speech for the gathering of 25 May 1900 on the topic of the living prophet. It was not a mere speech but in fact, a clear sign of divine revelation, as it was a comprehensive refutation of all those arguments and subjects that were presented by Bishop Lefroy in his lecture. The audience was awestruck at the sight when Mufti Sahib began reading a pre-published article which contained the refutation of all the arguments presented in the preceding speech. How was it possible to write and publish this response in an instant? Bishop Lefroy was struck with consternation himself. 

Hence began a direct contest of Bishop Lefroy and the Promised Messiahas on 25 May 1900. The details of this encounter have been mentioned in the first and second issue of Al Hakam, volume 20, under the heading Recollection of Past Events. If the readers go through those pages again, they will find them quite fascinating and absorbing. 

(Translated by Junaid Ahmad Waraich, Pakistan)

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