100 Years Ago… – Engagements of Ahmadi missionaries and passion of new converts for the spread of Islam in England and America


The Review of Religions [English], June, July & August 1922

London Old Bond Street geograph 3066999 by Ben Brooksbank

London mission

Brothers Mubarak Ali and Azizuddin have had a heavy work on their shoulders, and the latter though he has to devote a good deal of his time to agency business can still find time to help the former in his correspondence work and the giving of interviews. He moreover lectures in the Hyde Park preaching there three times a week. The volume of correspondence is growing and the brothers are hard put to it, but with the help of Ahmadi students and other sincere friends who all spare their valuable portions of time for this labour of love somehow or other the work is pulling through. A successful beginning has been made of the Sunday lectures at the Mosque – for a syllabus of these lectures we refer our readers to the last issue of this magazine. 

Brothers Abu Bakr Augusto of Nigeria and Omar Ali Bacon miss no opportunity to help in the mission work. Mr Bacon who stays at the Mosque (he has left it now – Editor, The Review of Religions), has begun Arabic reading and translation of the Holy Quran. He writes nice letters to preach his friends and to other correspondents and inquirers. Recently he invited a Catholic bishop who came in his official robes and had about two hours of friendly conversation with our brothers at the Mosque. He confessed that he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, and the doctrine of atonement. Moreover, he did not, he said, object to polygamy nor did he find anything objectionable in the Moslem creed – “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His apostle,” but for the present he stuck to his own religion because that was his sentiment. This shows what a mighty transformation is coming over the Christian Church and signs are not wanting that sooner or later it shall have to make room for something more in conformity with human reason and requirements. 

The spirit of earnestness that is finding its way into the hearts of our new brethren may be gauged from the excerpt that we give from the letter of our new brother Mr HT Lake (Abdul Huq) who hails from Brighton. Writes he: 

“What I am going to write to you is not a superfluous expression of an emotional mind, but the opinion I have formulated and have decided to act upon after nights of deep meditation. I have been brought from darkness and chaos of theological argument to the light of wonderful and elevating theodicy of the believers of what I have the conviction to be the only true faith, that is Islam. […] I beseech you to instruct me more fully into the sublimities of your religious doctrines. […] I want to give my whole life to the propagation of true religion.” 

In addition to the bishop mentioned above, other noted visitors at the Mosque were Mr SH Riza MA BSc PhD who has been in England for the last 12 years and is said to be a novelist by profession, Mr QC Sampson, an educated Englishman who has been in Sudan and knows Arabic. The latter particularly enquired of the association of Ahmad[as] with general Islam and was told that Islam and Ahmad[as] were synonymous, as the elimination of Ahmad[as] meant the withdrawing of life-principle from the body of Islam for it was the timely appearance of such a one as he that saved Islam, from a total wreck and gave it a new lease of life, while the absence of such master spirits from the body-politic of other religious systems indicated an absence of vitalising force. 

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din of Woking was one of the visitors during the last week of January. Mr GC Bhaduri, a Bengali gentleman who has married and settled in London and preaches “humanitarianism,” came with his wife and two sons 14 and 12. They spent last Friday afternoon with our brothers. Mr Bhaduri is studying Islam. He was loaned “A Present to the Prince of Wales” and several other books. Miss Jhonson and Mr Sumpson also visited the Mosque. 

Another visitor to the Mosque was in the person of Mr Tad Walker, member of the East African Delegation. By birth, a Poona Hindu, he has lived in East Africa for 15 years as a business man. He is brother Malik Muhammad Hussein’s friend and has a high opinion of the Ahmadis of Nairobi. He was shown round the Mosque and a copy of A Present to the Prince of Wales was lent [to] him for reading. He was shown The Moslem Sunrise and Maulvi Abdul Hashem Khan Chaudhry Sahib’s Ahmadiyya Movement. He was highly impressed with what he saw and heard. 

Brother Mubarak Ali also paid a visit to Sir Michael O’Dwyer at his residence. Our brother was received very kindly and the conversation ranged over many subjects. Sir Michael asked our brother to see Nawab Hamidullah Khan of Toru who was staying at the Hotel Cecil. Sir Michael was very pleased to accept a copy of A Present to the Prince of Wales and gave our brother a card for admission to a lecture by Sir Percy Sykes on Persia. He inquired about the Mosque and said that he appreciated two things in our movement very much; the first is the attempt to find the points of agreement between Islam and other religions and thus trying to find a way of approach among different religions instead of harping on the points of difference only and thus widening the gulf that separates them from one another. The second beauty in the Ahmadiyya movement, continued Sir Michael, is its social service, that was the fruit by which a tree of faith should be known. He said the Ahmadis did splendid work during the influenza epidemic of 1918. He also said that he has a high opinion of those Ahmadis whom he met, for their sincerity, honesty and straightforwardness. He was gracious enough to see off our brother to the door and his last words were “Please give my best salams to Mirza Sahib” meaning His Holiness the Khalifatul Masih [IIra]. 

Our brother also saw Mrs Rabia Vernon at her place. Her son Nasir whom she wishes to bring up as an Islamic missionary was suffering from measles. 

Our brother, moreover, saw Nawab Hamidullah Khan of Toru at Hotel Cecil as desired by Sir M O’Dwyer. The Nawab received our brother very kindly and talked over various topics for more than an hour. He spoke admiringly of our efforts and promised to visit our mission house. It would not be amiss to state here that the Nawab has three sons in Oxford, one has been appointed ICS, and another as Deputy Inspector-General of Agriculture, while the third is studying for BA and the Bar. He told our brother his impressions of London – unrestricted freedom of women, their gross misuse of that freedom, wealth of the people, their high style of living, orderliness in public life, cleanliness, truthfulness, mass education, worldliness and indifference to religion. In such circumstances the Nawab asked our brother whether there was any chance for Islam. Our brother’s reply was that though the task was most difficult, yet faith, perseverance and patience were some to prevail in the long run. 

Though there was no lecture at the Mosque, there was a splendid meeting in Hyde Park, Brother Mubarak Ali spoke there from 2 pm to 4:30 pm, and then brother Azizuddin spoke. There were questions and objections which were ably dealt with. There was a large audience of several hundreds. Some of them attended the lectures and discussions with marked interest. On Sunday, 14th of May [1922], there were again lectures and discussions in the Hyde Park. Two Muslim students from Palestine who had heard our brothers’ lectures accompanied them to the mosque. They were very keen about knowing the difference between the Ahmadis and the other Moslems. The fundamental difference they were told lay in the interpretation of the prophecies relating to the advent of the Promised Messiah through whom the spiritual regeneration of Islam was to come about and only through spiritual means, while the other Moslems held that in political means and political leaders lay their salvation. 

During the week ending on the 17th May [1922], Mr Bacon spoke at the Mosque on Moslems in Spain, Mr Khalid Sheldrake occupying the chair. Mr Bacon generally followed Lane Poole’s Moors in Spain. He dealt with the conquest, rule and fall of the Moslems, and spoke admiringly of the high standard of civilisation attained by the Moslems. Mr Khalid Sheldrake in his presidential address dwelt at length on the Saracenic Civilisation. Brother Mubarak Ali, contributed to the general discussion by touching only on two points: 

1. The indirect service of Islam to humanity is not less valuable than the direct one. 

2. Illustration – The intellectual atmosphere created by the Moslems inspired Dante, the greatest poet of Europe, helped Renaissance in Europe, and led to the Reformation culminating in the French revolution. 

Brother Mubarak Ali dispatched copies of A Present to the Prince of Wales to nine leading papers and 21 notable men including Professor TW Arnold, Professor Brown of Oxford, Lord Headley, Lord Balfour, Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir Conan Doyle and the Secretary of State for India. 

At the lecture on Persia During the War before the Central Asian Society, brothers Mubarak Ali and Ali Muhammad the only non-English members of the audience met again Sir Michael O’Dwyer who came over close to our brothers’ seats saluting and shaking hands in a very gracious manner. 

Old prejudices are hard to die, and habits once formed become almost ineradicable. This is well exemplified in the case of Mr Bacon. He is out of the vicious system of Christian system of monasticism, he knows its defects, and abominations, but his mind still reverts to it. He longs for monasticism in Islam which condemns it in unmeasured terms. 

American mission

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At the request of the paster of the Church of Truth, Dr Mufti Mohammad Sadiq delivered his lecture before an audience of 300 members. The minister introduced to the audience our brother who after reciting in Arabic a portion of the Holy Quran, Surah Ikhlas, spoke for about three quarters of an hour. He briefly dealt with the Christian doctrines of trinity and atonement, adducing arguments from reason and book to show the hollowness of the Christian creed, and in this connection, he explained certain sayings of the Holy Prophet[sa] of Arabia dealing with the advent of the Promised Messiah[as] whose life account he gave briefly but very succinctly and he tried to prove the truth of those traditions in their application to the Promised Messiah, peace be with his soul. At the end of the lecture, the audience one and all gave expression to their delight and appreciation, and thanked the learned lecturer for his illuminating speech. 

Though our brother whose health has always been very delicate suffered severely for the last two months from various ailments of neuralgia, swollen eyes, fever, vomiting and dysentery, so much so that at one time his condition gave cause for alarm, but through the grace of God he shook them off. Now though he is still suffering from general weakness he is on his way to recovery. 

The work of preaching and propagation during this period of illness went on as usual, though instead of public speaking, correspondence occupied the prominent place. Madam Rahatullah and M Mohammad Yusuf Khan of Jehlem have been his chief coadjutors in these trying times. 

At the Grand Rapids, Dr Mufti delivered a lecture in a church. Our learned brother after a brief introduction read out forty Dos and Not Dos from the Holy Quran and gave their literal translation. This had a very good effect upon the audience. After the lecture, it was announced that our brother was staying in the town for about a fortnight, during which time all seekers after truth who desired to know more about the divinely instituted Ahmadiyya movement, were welcome at any time in the afternoon. 

At Washington, the capital of the USA, there is a special bureau whose duty it is to reply to any inquiry and supply the necessary information. Our brother has received an intimation from the same bureau telling him that it is receiving letters of inquiry from all parts of the country. He is further told that all such inquirers are informed about the address of our learned brother and The Moslem Sunrise. The bureau asks him to supply it with more information so as to enable it to give detailed replies to the inquiries preferred to it. This shows that the seeds sown have begun to sprout, and with faith and hope we can rest assured that the day will certainly come when Islam will take its proper place in the minds of the educated people of the West. 

Our brother had an interesting conversation with a Roman Catholic clergyman. During the course of this conversation, the reverend gentleman in an unguarded moment argued the infallibility of the Pope on the following line. He said that Jesus declared Peter as the rock of his church, and as the pope represented Peter therefore the Pope as the rightful representative of Jesus was incapable of any sin. Our learned brother was quick to seize this opportunity and he bit hard. He said that if Peter being entrusted with the keys of heaven and declared as the foundation stone of Christianity could not escape from committing the gravest sin of blaspheming against Jesus, what immunity could his representative enjoy? Naturally such a rebuff could not but silence any further talk on the subject. 

The following seven gentlemen accepted Islam at the hands of brother Dr Sadiq, six of whom were led to declare for Islam through the untiring efforts of Mr Andrew Jacob, while the seventh was converted through correspondence with the brother Dr Sadiq himself. Their names are as follows: 

1. Mr Edward Rupert 

2. Mr John Wilson 

3. Mr Lack Merrisuether 

4. Mr George Malonee 

5. Mr JS Wilberger 

6. Mr Eliph Standard 

7. Leondeis Mcdonald. 

Seven more men accepted Islam and joined the fold of Ahmadiyyat. Their names together with their Muslim names are given as below:

1. Mr. John Williamson of Chicago (Rehmatullah) 

2. Mr Eugene Charles of Chicago (Samuillah) 

3. Mr Charles Wyatts of Chicago (Karemullah)

4. Mr Andrew Digger of Chicago (Rahemullah)

5. Mr AK Sims of Chicago (Shamsuddin) 

6. Mr Thomas Heifas of Chicago (Said)

7. Mr AK Auranga of Cincinnati (Salik) 

Our brother had the good fortune to come across another claimant to prophethood. This person is really a native of Chaldea and a Christian by religion. But he has long resided in America and now he earns his living by working as a labourer in a factory. He claims to be the greatest prophet. He says the first prophet in the world went under the name of Alla whose son he claims to be and he calls himself Bala. He has a book of his revelations which have not as yet seen the light of day. His chief mission, as he avers, is the unification of all White races. He says he is not sent for the Black or Brown races. Our brother sent him a copy of The Moslem Sunrise and invited him to the truth of the mission of Muhammad and Ahmad, peace and the blessings of God be upon them both, who were raised for all the races irrespective of their colours. In reply he asked our brother to see him and become his follower, whereupon he was told that as our brother was an Indian, a coloured people, hence it was against his own principles that he was inviting a coloured man to his mission. Later on, he met our brother and attended two of his lectures in Chicago. He seems to be well acquainted with our brothers’ mission and work, and during the course of a conversation which turned on the wealthy Rajas and Nawabs of India he asked our brother to get him some monetary help from these rich folk. Our brother replied that so long as he, the claimant, did not make a radical change in the articles of his faith and included the people of India in his mission of unification, he could not get any consideration at the hands of Indian gentlemen, whereupon he promised to reconsider his position and to devise means whereby he could include the Indians among his Pan-white movement. He requested our brother not to disclose this fact for the time being, as his revelation had said that he was not a prophet for India. His real name is Joseph Simon. There seems to be an abundance of such “profits” in the West. 

(Transcribed by Al Hakam from the original published in The Review of Religions, June, July & August 1922)

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