A reformer in Paris – A leaf from history

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(Hazrat Bhai Abdur Rahman Qadiani’sra account of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad’sra visit to France in 1924, taken from his diary, published as Safar-e-Europe)

French newspaper, Le Matin published the news of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II’sra visit to France on 30 October 1924 during his tour of Europe. The Grand Mosque of Paris can be seen in the background.

Paris, 30 October 1924: Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II[ra] went out for sightseeing in the city of Paris on the morning of 30 October 1924. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud[ra] left straight after breakfast and was accompanied by Chaudhry Zafrulla Khan Sahiband Khalifah Taqiuddin Sahib. Lunch was served upon Huzoor’s[ra] return to the hotel at around 1:30pm.

Huzoor[ra] had planned to offer Zuhr and Asr prayers at the Grand Mosque of Paris, so he started getting ready to head there straight after lunch. Accompanying Huzoor[ra], we all left the hotel at 3pm for the mosque.

It was raining heavily and in this rain of blessings, Huzoor[ra] entered the Grand Mosque of Paris. Local residents and the administration of the mosque saw the scene of Huzoor[ra] entering the mosque with great excitement and welcomed him with great honour.

The architect showed Huzoor[ra] around the mosque and led him to the mihrab. As the building is still underway, they moved the rubble aside to clear the area for Salat. They had laid mats and rugs to make the place for prayer as comfortable as possible. Huzoor[ra], standing in the mihrab, asked Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahib to call the Azan. Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahib recited the Azan with such a melody that everyone present was deeply moved. It was as if the universe had just come into being and every soul had bowed before its Creator.

This Azan was the first Azan ever to be called in this mosque and the Salat that followed – led by Hazrat Khaifatul Masih II[ra] – was the first ever salat to be offered in this mosque. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] combined both Zuhr and Asr prayers. The following gentlemen were in congregation:

1. Abdur Rahman Qadiani (the author)

2. Chaudhry Zafrulla Khan Sahib

3. Dr Hashmatullah Khan Sahib

4. Chaudhry Ali Muhammad Sahib

5. Abdur Rahim Dard Sahib

6. Malik Nawab Din Sahib

7. Khalid Sheldrake Sahib

8. Misbahuddin Sahib

9. Khalifa Taqiuddin Sahib

10. Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahib

11. Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfani Sahib

12. Zulfiqar Ali Khan Sahib

13. Hazrat Mirza Sharif Ahmad Sahib

14. Sheikh Abdur Rahman Misri Sahib

15. Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sahib

16. Chaudhry Muhammad Sharif Sahib

17. Abdur Rahim Nayyar Sahib

18. Dr Malik Muhammad Ismail Sahib

The administration invited Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] to tea and Huzoor accepted their offer. The tea was more of an infusion and not the traditional breakfast tea that is served with biscuits. The way they served us the tea expressed their deep love and sincerity.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra in the Paris Mosque

During tea, Huzoor[ra] expressed his gratitude for the hosts and prayed that may Allah reward them for the good deed of building the mosque. Huzoor also thanked the French government on the good gesture of allowing the mosque to be built in their country. As the majority of those present were of Moroccan or of other Arabic origin, Sheikh Abdur Rahman Misri Sahib translated Huzoor’s[ra] words into Arabic.

The architect of the mosque came out saw him off. It was still raining but as we had to board the train to Italy, Huzoor[ra] walked to his car in the rain. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, we started preparing for the journey that we were to embark upon later that night. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] himself packed his luggage and assigned various duties to us all – cargo bookings, train reservations etc.

We arrived at the Gare de Lyon Station of Paris. The clerical staff, the porters and all other railway staff could not understand a single word we spoke in English and we could not grasp a single word of French. The whole situation became very amusing, but we were concerned about missing our train. Something had to be done.

Our train was scheduled to depart at 9:20pm and it was already 8:45pm. Porters had loaded our baggage onto trollies but left without moving the trollies. Finally, Huzoor[ra] arrived and we all felt relieved. Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan Sahib and Khalid Sheldrake Sahib had to do a bit of running around before issues were resolved and we were just about able to catch the train.

As we anxiously ran to catch the train, passengers and bystanders looked on in great excitement. The train was about to set off when we somehow managed to haphazardly throw in our luggage and jump aboard ourselves.

The train had just started to move when someone said that our booked luggage had not been boarded. Abdur Rahim Nayyar Sahib was given a 10-pound note and told to immediately get off the train and come with the luggage the following day. It was later discovered that the luggage had been boarded on our train. It was by the sheer grace of Allah that this near impossible task was accomplished, albeit with great difficulty. It was as if each one of us had a dozen angels as helpers.

As the train started to head towards our destination, putting all the scattered luggage together was a big task. Sheikh Abdur Rahman Misri Sahib supervised this. That done, everyone started to feel hungry, so food was served – this     helped in diverting our attention from the worries of the journey. Having eaten well, we all felt like talking to other passengers and try to do a bit of tabligh to them. After all, this was the primary purpose of the whole tour anyway.

There were four French passengers in the compartment that I sat in, three men and a woman. They had a French newspaper which they would glance at and then start staring at us. We tried to break the ice by talking to them but of course they would not understand a word, sign language also proved to be of no avail.

Finally, they held out the newspaper towards us, showed us a photograph and asked which one of us that was. The photograph was of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] that a newspaper had published with the story of Huzoor’s[ra] presence in Paris.

Although with great difficulty, we were able to somehow communicate to them that the person in the photograph is a man of God and is seated in the first-class compartment right now.

We told them that he wears a white turban and that makes him easily recognisable. I am sure that they would have definitely caught a glimpse of Huzoorra when we all disembarked the train as they seemed to be inquisitive. I had a few franks in my pocket which I offered them in exchange of the newspaper. They refused to accept the money but gave us the copy of the newspaper. We were aware of this photograph being published along with the news but had not been able to get it, so by the grace of Allah, we were able to obtain it this way.

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