Tracing the Footsteps of History

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As Ahmadi Muslims, we envy those who lived in the time of the Promised Messiahas and got the opportunity to see him and to listen to his blessed words directly. Such individuals are undoubtedly stalwarts of the Jamaat’s history. 

But there were others who came in contact with the Promised Messiahas in his very eventful lifetime and, although they never accepted his message, are also of great historical importance. 

John Hugh-Smyth Pigott

John Hugh Smyth-Pigott claimed to be God and was warned by the Promised Messiahas through a published tract sent not only to Pigott but to newspapers and journals in the West; the latter publicised it enthusiastically. 

Dr Henry Martyn Clark

Then there was a Dr Henry Martyn Clark – a Christian missionary doctor – who held a debate with the Promised Messiahas, lost it, and later accused the Promised Messiahas of a murderous attempt. 

Captain (later Colonel) Montagu William Douglas presided over this court hearing and acquitted the Promised Messiahas, declaring the accusations made by Dr Clark as fabricated stories.

The Promised Messiahas had revelations about all three. For John Hugh-Smyth Pigott, the Promised Messiahas was told that he would not repent and would have a very disastrous end. 

In Dr Clark’s lawsuit, the Promised Messiahas was informed by Allah that the case would be dismissed by Captain Douglas – the just district magistrate of Gurdaspur.

All three lived to witness the prosperity of the movement that was founded in the unknown village of Qadian by the then unknown Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. All three witnessed the truthfulness of his claims through the fulfilment of the prophecies he had publicised about them.

Out of curiosity, I set out to search for the progeny of these three persons. The search was a very challenging one and would not have seen success had it not been for the guidance and blessing of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa. It was destined for the progeny to be found in the blessed era of the Khilafat of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, and, by the grace of Allah, it happened so. 

Pigott had been the most intriguing figure for me. Our opponents always brought the prophecy about him up when they saw that they had lost the logical plot in a debate. The first warning sent out to Pigott by the Promised Messiahas stated that claims of divinity did not befit a human being and that Pigott should refrain from such claims or see destruction in the lifetime of the Promised Messiahas

Cutting the long story short, it was later revealed to the Promised Messiahas that Pigott would not repent or refrain and would see a chaotic end. Since Pigott (d 1927) outlived the Promised Messiahas (d 1908), our opponents have always used this to try and prove that this prophecy was not fulfilled. 

What is ignored is the revelation that the Promised Messiahas received about him not repenting and seeing a drastic end. How it all unfolded can be read at www.reviewofreligions.org/5593/rev-john-hugh-smyth-pigott-his-claim-prophecy-and-end

So it was for the curiosity to know how and where this false claimant of divinity ended up that I decided to go out and search for the answer. All the information collected can be read in the article mentioned above, but what I must mention here is the long and winding path that led to his progeny. 

Having read many books and theses on the Agapemone – the cult of Pigott – I contacted the authors. One of the authors had been in touch with the family and was kind enough to provide me an address where one of Pigott’s granddaughters had lived when the author was working on his PhD thesis; some 15, 16 years ago. With very little hope, I decided to set out for the address in Bradford. 

Before leaving, I mentioned to Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa that I would be making my way to Bradford for the said purpose, but with very little hope. On this, Huzooraa replied, “Search properly and you will find her”. With this “good luck charm”, I headed off to the address on a Saturday afternoon. 

Having arrived in Bradford quite late at night, I thought it was best to visit the address the following morning. You can imagine the type of response one gets on knocking at someone’s door on a Sunday morning – especially in England; that is exactly what I got. 

The gentleman was a bit surprised with my query and told me that it had been more than a decade that they bought the house from the woman and that he had no idea where she might be living now. I was very disappointed. But as I turned back to my car, he opened his door again and said, “She said she was going to move to [naming the place near Bradford].” He said this at almost the same time as Huzoor’saa words were echoing in my ears. I was to realise, only a few minutes later that that was all I needed. 

I got hold of a telephone directory of the town and started calling every single person that had the same surname as hers. I must have sounded like a desperate telemarketing salesman because many just put the phone down on me. Going through the unending list of that surname, I finally dialed a number where a very kind lady picked up the phone. I asked if she was Ann Buckley and, to my luck, she confirmed that she was. 

She sounded surprised and shocked at the fact that someone had traced her and called her to ask about her grandfather, but she was kind enough to invite me over. 

In about an hour’s time, I was at her cosy flat sipping a cup of tea she had served. But she knew that more than the tea and biscuits I was interested in what she had to offer about her grandfather. As she went down memory lane, recalling the peculiar atmosphere of the Agapemone – the walled colony of Pigott and his followers in Spaxton – she said that she had nothing to do with the beliefs of Pigott. She also confirmed that there was not a single person left who belonged to Pigott’s community. 

She was partially aware of the correspondence that had taken place between the Promised Messiahas and her grandfather – who had claimed the same title for himself – but wanted to know more from me. You can imagine how proud I must have felt in saying that “my” Promised Messiah’s community had now spread all over the world with millions of followers.

She had archived a great deal of material related to Pigott: photographs, letters, clothes, books and other items. What involved me the most was the official seal of John Hugh Smyth-Pigott. What had once been the pride of a flamboyant “messiah” now laid buried under files of yellowing paper and piles of brown archive boxes.

A plaque from Piggot’s belongings written in Latin. The translation of this text, recorded at the back of the pendulum, reads: “I am a man. Nothing akin to humanity do I consider alien to me.”

Ms Buckley later visited London and had an audience with Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa. She enjoyed the company of Huzooraa and had a lot of nice things to say about the great man she had just met. Her visit, and the Lebanese food that we had for dinner that evening, was to turn into a very cordial friendship. 

She later visited Jalsa Salana in 2012, addressed the audience and mentioned the good feelings she had about the Ahmadiyya Community. Albeit occasionally, I visited her on many occasions and so did she, whenever she was in London. 

In 2016, she decided to donate the whole archive – and the only remains – of Pigott to the Ahmadiyya Archive and Research Centre. What a coincidence it is that the day my colleague, Qaasid Muin Ahmad, and I collected the archive collection from her was 23 March 2016. On the blessed occasion of Promised Messiah Day 2016, anything that was left of Pigott was handed over to the Khalifa of the Promised Messiahas. Praise be to Allah!

Finding Jolyn Martyn Clark was relatively easier. It took a lot of time and effort to find a name from the progeny of Dr Henry Martyn Clark, but tracking him down was not as difficult, thanks to his blog which he keeps alive with great enthusiastic activity. 

Jolyn was more surprised to listen to the background of my search than Ms Buckley; he had no idea of the whole controversy. He laid before me the items belonging to Dr Henry Martyn Clark on his coffee table. One of the items was a vote of thanks, calligraphically written and framed, presented to Dr Clark upon his retirement and his return to Edinburgh. 

Jolyn had never known what language it was and what it meant. I read it out to him and to his and my surprise, it had mention of the great debate that had taken place between Dr Clark and the Promised Messiahas in Amritsar. 

This first encounter too turned into a warm and cordial friendship. He visited London and had audience with Huzooraa. I was fortunate to be in the room where the two great-grandsons met; one of the Promised Messiahas and the other of his great opponent. But this great-grandson of an opponent had nothing but love, admiration and adoration for the great-grandson and Khalifa of the Promised Messiahas

Jolyn Martyn Clark meeting with Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa

Having known of the great debate, he proclaimed that he could not say who the winner of the debate was, but it was clear from the success and prosperity of the Jamaat who had actually been triumphant. He said that it was awe-inspiring to witness that his own great-grandfather was, if at all, only remembered by the community of the person that he had once opposed. I have occasionally expressed my desire to preserve the archive material that he holds, but never very openly. I know he holds it too dear.

Colonel (more commonly known as Captain in the Jamaat) Douglas’ footsteps were the hardest to trace. I managed to find the address where he lived the last days of his life; I managed to get to the place, but nothing at all to point towards his children. 

I mentioned to Huzooraa in a mulaqat that I was at a dead end. Huzooraa replied, “Perhaps you’re not searching in the right direction!” I must confess here that this was one of the incidents that was to teach me that no word of Khalifatul Masih should ever be taken casually. 

When Huzooraa said this, I thought to myself where I could have gone wrong. All along I had been quite confident that I was searching in the right direction; I still was. The only faint hope I had was the one last place to visit where Elizabeth – Douglas’ daughter – had taught at a school. As I drove on the motorway, a buried away memory flashed in my mind. 

It occurred to me that Mir Mahmud Ahmad Nasir Sahib had once mentioned that he was in London when Colonel Douglas passed away. They had attended his funeral and met his daughter and son-in-law. I dialed his number straight away and asked if he remembered anything about the couple. He said that he did not remember anything, only that they were planning to travel to South Africa after the funeral. 

From thereon started a long journey of going through South African records that later turned my direction to Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) records. As a fulfilment of the words of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa, the boomerang had gone to the land of Africa before landing back in the Pimlico area of London where Douglas’ grandson, Christopher, was then residing in a flat. 

Although it is sometimes seen as bad manners to turn up out of the blue at someone’s doorstep and knock, but I managed to find only his residential address. My passion to meet the grandson of the great man who had acquitted my beloved master in a fabricated lawsuit made it easier for me to be “ill-mannered” in that moment. 

So I knocked, but got no reply. I knocked a second time and no reply again. The third knock was going to be my last attempt as we have been taught and we have also been taught to not feel bad if the one on the other side does not respond. 

For the very first time in my life, I felt how difficult it can sometimes be to follow this teaching. Having knocked for the third time and waited for a few minutes, I turned around in disappointment when I heard the latch rattle. From the little opening of the door, all I could see was an eye and a bit of grey-hair. 

“Who is it?” The softly spoken words helped me recover from disappointment. I began narrating the story. He paused me and asked if he could see me in a couple of hours and listen to the whole story then.

That evening, we sat in a café opposite his house in Pimlico and went through a century-old story when his grandfather had acquitted the Promised Messiahas and how the Promised Messiahas had appreciated the justice of Douglas. He was glad to know that the Jamaat, in line with the Promised Messiahas, referred to his grandfather as Pontius Pilate of the Messiah of this age. It was hard for him to believe that a community had kept alive the name of his grandfather, and that too with great reverence. 

When he came to know that the successor of the Promised Messiahas now lived in London, he couldn’t wait to see him. An audience was requested which Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa very graciously granted. 

There we were: Christopher and I, waiting to see Huzooraa in a fine spring afternoon.

Christopher Douglas-Pulleyne (grandson of Colonel M W Douglas) meeting with Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa

The awe and joy of having met Huzooraa was evident from not only his face but from every word he uttered. 

Later, the flat that he lived in had to be put up for sale and Christopher had to move out of London, but he remains a very good friend and maintains contact. 

His text messages often have the words: “Could you please request His Holiness to pray for my health”. How Huzooraa has given him love and care is a very faith-inspiring story that ought to be told at a more suitable time.

(AB)



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