100 Years Ago… – Qadian to London – Nayyar’s Travelogue – Arabia to the UK

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Al Fazl, 4 October 1919

26 July 1919: The ship is cruising along the ocean in such manner that it takes pride in passing the country which has a place of worship that was built by the father of all the prophets [the Holy Prophetsa] and where the perfect Shariah [divine law] descended upon the chief of all the prophets. A steamer full of pilgrims going to visit the place of their beloved can be seen on the right side of the ship.

Right now, our ship is at 10-14 longitude and 42-43 latitude. So far today, up until midday, after 24 hours, it has covered a distance of 283 miles. Fervent eyes are eagerly waiting for Jeddah. From far away, they want to send Salaam and offer Durood upon the leader of both the worlds but an Abyssinian khalasi [a sailor or porter] says that Jeddah will appear tomorrow after we pass seven mountains. Coming face to face with the coast of Arabia, the soul is in bliss and the heart is engaged in prayers.

Today, by the grace of God Almighty, I have conveyed a detailed message of the truth to certain people of Lucknow and Delhi. Standing on the upper deck of the ship, I have also read out those couplets of Durr-e-Samin [a collection of poems written by the Promised Messiahas] which carry the news of Hazrat Nanak’sas acceptance of Islam in front of two respectable Sikhs. A discussion on the subject of “Islam’s attributes” and “Islamic purdah” was held with a professor from Bombay [now Mumbai]. The professor is an admirer of Islamic purdah.

There is a respectable barrister from Bombay on the deck of the ship who is well aware of respected Khawaja Sahib and his mission. He mentioned that Khawaja’s mission in the UK is without success and further added that he is deceiving the people of India.

27 July 1919: Today, the position of the ship is, longitude 12-19 and latitude 28-39. It has covered a distance of 385 miles in 24 hours. Every day, people place bets on the speed of the ship and gambling is common among English people.

Today, at around 12 noon, the birth place of the master and Syed-e-Laulak [Prophet Muhammadsa] passed by. I handed over the poetical work of the Promised Messiahas to the dove of affection in my imagination and sent it to the land of the beloved in the following way:

حمامتنا تطیر بریش شوق وفی منقارھا تحف السلام

الی وطن النبی حبیب ربی وسید رسلہ خیرالانام

“Our dove, having the gifts of Salaam in its beak, flies with the feather of love towards the country of our Prophet who is the beloved of our Lord and master of all prophets and best of all creation.”

28 July 1919: Today, I had the opportunity to convey the message of Islam to a lot of young men. A graduate expresses great love for the Promised Messiahas and accepts him as the mujaddid [reformer]. They are ready to follow the teaching of the Promised Messiahas. However, they insist that though the teaching is beautiful, there is no need to accept the personality of the tutor. I am trying to convince them. Certain people are reading Durr-e-Samin. Today, a Christian by the name Nuruddin was startled while studying Durr-e-Samin [when he read]:

ابن مریم کے ذکر کو چھوڑو

اس سے بہتر غلام احمد ہے

“Leave the account of the son of Mary [because] the servant of Ahmad [the Holy Prophetsa] is far superior.”

Then, he kept listening to the comparison of Prophet Muhammadsa and Jesusas of Nazareth with keen interest for around one and half hours. Thereafter, he raised objections on polygamy to which answers were given. Certain Englishmen also kept listening to the questions and answers with close attention. At last, the gentleman was satisfied and was interested in asking questions the next day.

The sight of the sun setting in the ocean is extremely captivating; a huge red and yellow ball appears to be drowning in the waters far away. The spectacle of Dhul-Qurnain mentioned in the Holy Quran can be seen with purity and detail. After Maghrib prayer, Chaudhry Sahib and I stood on the central deck of the ship facing the coast of Arabia and read out the following Persian couplets of the Promised Messiahas with such zeal and passion that only a momin’s [true believer] can produce:

عجب نوریست درجان محمد

عجب لعلیست درکان محمد

“There is an extraordinary light in the persona of Muhammadsa and there are unique gems in the mine of Muhammadsa.” O’ Allah shower peace and blessings upon the Holy Prophetsa!

29 July 1919: The ship is cruising past the point where God revealed the Torah upon Mosesas and Mount Sinai, which was blessed by Allah Almighty. It is on our right. The ocean water is clear and green. Round shaped and green coloured fish move past the ship. The coast of Arabia has ended and Egypt has arrived. Dry land is appearing lush green, but the greenery can only be seen on one side. It is the glory of Allah that He caused springs of spiritual water to flow in sandy lands and dry mountains. And the world’s greatest spiritual men were born in “dry Sinai” and sandy Arabia. All praise belongs to Allah, the Exalted!

It is evening time and the ship has reached the Suez. This is a small town of Egypt on one side of the Suez Canal, where the waters of the Red Sea meet the Mediterranean Sea through the waterway and fulfil the prophecy of the Holy Quran:

مَرَجَ الۡبَحۡرَیۡنِ یَلۡتَقِیٰنِ

[“Verily, He (Allah Almighty) will merge the two oceans, joining them together.” (Surah al-Rahman, Ch.55: V.20)]

It is located on that place where the waters of the Mediterranean Sea helped pass Mosesas following the orders of the Divine, and drew a distinction between right and wrong by drowning Pharaoh and his army. These thoughts which flash into one’s mind by this sight were still afresh when Egyptian boats waving their flag with the symbol of “crescent and star” came close to our ship, and people standing on the deck of the ship started buying and selling goods with boats stationed on water. A bucket was sent down through a rope and pulled upwards. This way, merchandise and payment would reach the hand of the buyer and the seller.

29 July 1919: The moon of Dhul-Qadah was seen with all its glory in the land of Egypt and this traveller, with hands raised, recalled his coming endeavors and the dear ones left behind [at home]. Immediately after the sunset, the ship started sailing again from the canal. It was delightful to experience the slow and steady movement of [the ship] “China” passing between Asia and Africa.

30 July 1919: Cruising all night in Suez, we were in Ismailia by the sunrise. On the way, situated above the canal, we saw the bridge of the train which joins Africa with Asia and runs from Cairo to Jerusalem. The bridge can be dismantled and rebuilt whenever required. I had a discussion with an open-minded Christian while viewing the sight of the canal. He said, “The Messiah keeps appearing in every age. I am not convinced by the fact that he appeared once in Jerusalem and that was it.” The gentleman was the representative of Congress from Madras. He was told about the message of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya and literature was given to him. Most of those present on the deck of the ship are studying the English translation of “Tuhfat-ul-Maluk” [Gift for the Kings] and they do it regularly.

The ship reached Port Said by noon and we went to the city with some literature. This is a European style city. Various Christian nations make up the major portion of the city’s population. Greeks are settled in great numbers. Masses of Muslims are also present in the tea-houses. We got a letter of recommendation from the British council and had our passports signed from the French council, and distributed a lot of literature in the city.

A Hindu gentleman met us. He promised, after taking some literature from us, “I will distribute it in every hotel over here.” Hence, he performed this task exceptionally well. The exposure of the Jamaat reached far and wide in Port Said and while returning to the ship, a learned Egyptian gentleman searching for us, with the help of Indian students, met us. Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sahib preached to him for nearly half an hour. We sent some literature for him from the ship as well.

Trams are pulled by horses in Port Said. It has a European way of living. Egyptian women purchase and sell goods wearing black burqas. They were seen selling vegetables at a market.

A remarkable mosque is located at the city centre carrying the name “Abbasi Mosque”. We offered prayer in it and carried out tabligh to the imam and returned after receiving the title “فاضلان جدان” ”[scholars of Jeddah] from the imam.

The incident in Port Said which was going to have a great impact on my heart and will continue to do so, was that of the “little Yusuf” who was seen in the shop of a Christian. As we entered the shop, he looked at us with extremely affectionate eyes. I asked him in Arabic, “Are you a Muslim?” He replied, “I am a Muslim, Alhamdollilah.”

I handed over the English translation of Surah al-Fatihah to him that was printed as a sample. He accepted it with great love. There was another child with him. I handed him a sample as well. Owing to a spontaneous thought which normally comes to mind, Yusuf immediately said, “I am a Muslim but he is Greek.” Nevertheless, the Yusuf of Egypt, a servant in a Christian shop, his innocent face and his coming to the door to bid us farewell, was a sight that will never be forgotten.

A short discourse was held with a Christian missionary as well. He was surprised to hear that we were “bearers of Islam’s glad tidings” and said, “This is the first occasion when I have seen the missionaries of Islam and come to know that Muslims also preach to Christians.”  This is the opinion of those Christians who work in Muslim countries. I hope to God that Muslims soon become [true] Muslims.

The art of deceiving travellers is common at Port Said. A bundle of beautiful paper is prepared and sold at one or two shillings and it is said that inside it is something unique and should be unwrapped on the ship. It has one or two playing cards in it or pieces of trash paper. Likewise, a lot of people were deceived. These are the signs of modern day civilisation.

Divers [can be seen] swimming around the ship in the waters of the Port. As soon someone throws a dawanni [two annas], they immediately dive in and bring it out.

31 July 1919: The ship entered the Mediterranean Sea and left Asia behind. Europe is on the right and Africa is on the left side. Disturbances were experienced in the ocean and a number of people fell sick.

1 August 1919: The ship has covered a distance of 370 miles in the past 24 hours and today at 12 noon, it is on 53-64 longitude and 43-60 latitude. Most of the people have exchanged addresses with us and discussions about the Jamaat take place everywhere.

2 August 1919: Today, the ship passed between the Island of Sicily and the country of Italy. Crossing through Sicily and Italy, leaving behind Turkey, Syria, Arabia and Egypt, with Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria on the right and Hispania in front, the past glory of Muslims comes to mind and the bloodshed of Muslims in the name of Christianity and the dark spots of the efforts for effacing their traces can be seen clearly.

The Ahmadi missionaries have faith in God Almighty that He will spread the teachings of Ahmad again in these countries with the help of spiritual weapons. And bring the centre of Christianity under the spiritual kingship of Islam and prove to the world that Islam was not spread by the sword.

3 August 1919: There is an arrangement for Christian workers to offer prayer on the ship and the priest of the Church of England leads the prayer. Most of the Christians left as the bell rang for the prayer. One of the few who remained sitting explained that he is associated with the “Vezelian” [Vezelay] church, therefore he did not go.

Today, the ocean was rough again and the waves crashed and tossed with such force that the deck is filled with water.

4 August 1919: Handing over the distribution of literature to a friend, we disembarked at Marseilles. It is a fortified port and in reality, it is “Mars-Ali.” The indication of Marseilles is present in: بسم االلہ مجریھا ومرسھا. The actual meaning is “Port of Ali” and perhaps its foundation was laid in that age when the Mediterranean was an Islamic sea, and Muslim sailors would sail their trade and warships around its shores. They would probably build such ports in places that suited them.

After praying here, we disembarked on the land of Europe. In order to buy a ticket and to get [our passports] signed again from the French council, we went in the city of Marseilles. Starting from the station, there was a long straight line of bars and pubs.

 On the way, French soldiers were seen walking in various uniforms. Certain soldiers had the symbol of the crescent and star on their caps that gave an idea that perhaps they are Muslims. However, they were French soldiers who had started living in Algeria. Everywhere, women can be seen working. Men and women holding hands and arms walk freely in the market places. Hardly any Muslims from Algeria and Morocco can be seen. We met two or three Muslims but they were afraid to openly talk to us.

4 August 1919: Seeing those people, I realised the worth of the British Government’s freedom. Below are the things which were a new sight for us in Marseilles:

1. Abundance of bars

2. Abundance of women

3. Huge horses for transportation. As if these horses are the elephants of Europe.

A Jewish porter met us on the railway station. He said, “My mother is from Damascus and my father is from Egypt and I am from France.” There was a crowd on the railway station of Marseilles for the Geneva mail train, so we were unable to find a place in the second class carriage. Even in third class, we kept standing for a while, but then some French sailors came and there was a window of opportunity to board for us between their entering and the exit of the soldiers, so we secured a place to sit.

The French soldiers closely resemble the Pathans of the tribal area. There is only the difference of language. They kept singing and shouting throughout the entire way. We felt like strangers in the country of France and were surprised to see that these people know very little English.

5 August 1919: At 12 noon, we reached Paris and witnessed the paradise of worldly people. I used to think that there are false rumours about Paris, that it is a very indecent city. Suddenly, a woman appeared and placed a nude picture before an Indian student companion of ours, so that he may purchase it. This single instance displayed the picture of that country’s civilisation. Thereafter, neither was there any time nor any desire to see anything else.

Europe has simple car rental motors. We rented a motor and reached the mail train for “Boulogne” and boarded it. Time was spent in praying and wishing for the seedling of Islam to be planted in the land of France. Advertisements are erected here in farms and fields as well and the landlords are given payment for them.

Passports have to be shown in Boulogne. After embarking the ship and crossing over the English Channel, one reaches Folkestone. Hence, this practice was followed. By the grace of Allah Almighty, engaged in prayers for England to be enlightened with Islam, we reached Folkestone after sunset. The ocean was very peaceful and everywhere, fishermen were busy catching fish in their sailing boats.

As explained by Mufti Sahib, at times, it is very difficult to cross the channel. However, by the grace of God, everything went well with us. The effects of the war in France are only visible by the broken roof of Jasmine Station. Otherwise, there is no indication of any kind which shows that this country had to face an unparalleled horrifying war. We drove from Folkestone to Charing Cross railway station and found it filled with a lot of women and some men.

A slight mishap of the telegram made our friends unable to reach the station. Otherwise, it was the desire of Hazrat Mufti Sahib to welcome us along with English ladies and gentlemen. At the railway station an English guide told us the way to the underground railway station. Boarding the train, we reached Edgware Road railway station. Located at a three-minute-walk from this station is the house which is the residence for Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya’s missionaries. A new English lady convert, Mrs Florence Abbasi opened the door and respected Mufti Sahib, with a white beard, long shirt, relatively fair face and comparatively healthy body, came out with the gift of Assalamo Alaikum. Entering the house, we lay prostrate before Allah Almighty to express thankfulness for the peaceful completion of the journey and said Alhamdolillah!

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