A journey of divine fortune and grace: Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II’s tour of Europe 1924


Al Fazl, 28 December 1939

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra (1883-1948)
Al Fazl 1939
Al Fazl, 22 July 1924 | Showing a map of the route of the journey

Conference of Religions’ proposal

Early 1923 was the beginning of the tenth year of Khilafat-e-Thania, [epoch of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra]. By then, after spending two years in West Africa, giving the glad tidings of the “rising of the sun from the west” to the African people, this humble one, [Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Nayyarra] returned to London. There, I proclaimed from a high platform the divine vision of the messenger of Allah, the Promised Messiahas, [about delivering an eloquent speech in London and catching several white birds afterwards]. Eventually, calling the people to pave the way and reminding them of the message [of Prophet Jesusas], “[Repent], for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matt. 4:17)

Meanwhile, the angels of God Almighty were at work to create specific means for the prophecy of the “rising of the sun from the west” to be fulfilled in a glorious manner. Consequently, plans for the Wembley Exhibition began to take shape, and in 1924, the exhibition commenced with people arriving from all parts of the world.

Along with the proposals for this exhibition, a divine influence inspired Mr William Loftus, a socialist leader, to collaborate with the exhibition organisers to arrange a ten-day Conference of Religions during this event. This proposal was well-received by the orientalists, and the organisers also agreed to it.

Considering the manageable distance and other conveniences, the venue for the conference was set at the Imperial Institute in London. The dates for the Conference of Religions were scheduled from 22 September to 3 October 1924.

How did I come to know about the conference?

Although I had been in London since the beginning of 1923, I had no knowledge of the proposal for this conference. By the time the committee was formed, the speakers were selected, and others had nearly dominated it, and more than half of 1924 had already passed. It was then, in a conversation at a society, that a lady mentioned it to me. Upon hearing this, I met with the Joint Secretary, Miss Sharples MA, and learned that the programme had already been set. Mirza Hussein Ali Irani, a follower of the Baha’i faith, was nearly dominating the Conference of Religions. Lady Blomfield, a dedicated Baha’i, was taking a special interest in it. A European Baha’i residing in Canada was being especially invited to deliver an address, and Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Baha’is, was coming from Akka to personally participate in the conference. On the subject of Islam, Khawaja Kamal-ud-Din was coming all the way from India to deliver a speech, and on Sufism, Khawaja Sahib’s son, Khawaja Nazir Ahmad, who was the imam of Woking at the time, was going to present a paper.

Observing this situation, my heart began to sink, not due to my own carelessness or negligence, but rather because it struck me that despite having been established in London for ten years, obscurity and helplessness prevailed, so much so that even now we were unaware of significant events, and the people here also showed little concern. Most people believe that the markaz of Islam is Woking. The Woking authorities also try their best to portray us as their branch and themselves as the main centre [of Islam].

Invitation to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih

I had several meetings with Miss Sharples. This capable lady soon realised that the perspective of the Ahmadiyya Community must be presented, and my name was mentioned in the committee. Upon this, Dr Arnold, a notable author of The Preaching of Islam and a close friend of mine, advised the committee to consult me in the selection of speakers.

Consequently, the time came when Mis Sharples began consulting me on every matter. It was through divine providence that I had installed a telephone at my residence a few months after returning from Africa. Hence, we had a daily exchange of thoughts both in person and over the telephone, and all the proposed programmes were reviewed.

The names of Pandit Shyam Shankar MA, and the Buddhist leader Dr WA de Silva of Ceylon, were recommended by this humble representative of Ahmadiyya Jamaat for Hinduism and Buddhism, respectively. Regarding the paper of Mustafa Khan Sahib, who is a ghair-mubai‘ [i.e., those who did not pledge allegiance to the second Khalifa], facilitation was provided through the same means. For Sufism, the name of Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahib[ra] was suggested to the committee for consideration by this Ahmadi missionary in London. Upon seeing the names of Naqshbandi, Soharwardi, Qadri, and Shadhili with Maulvi Hafiz Sufi Roshan Ali Sahib[ra], and determining that “Hafiz Sahib can only come if His Holiness, Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II[ra], [then] head of the Ahmadiyya Community permits,” the secretary expressed her desire if it was possible for His Holiness, the Imam of the Ahmadiyya Community to personally attend [the conference]. Miss Sharples was deeply moved by the thought of Huzoor’s[ra] arrival. When the suggested names were presented to the committee, Dr Arnold and Professor Margoliouth in particular, due to their personal acquaintance with this humble representative of Ahmadiyyat Jamaat and familiarity with Islam, and the entire committee in general, unanimously decided with utmost sincerity and admiration to request Khalifatul Masih’s participation in the conference, along with the request of inviting Sufi [Hafiz Roshan Ali] Sahib. Thus, an invitation was extended to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] on behalf of England’s most prominent orientalists.

Qadian to London

Upon the request of the conference organisers, consultation was sought from the Jamaat [as a whole], and the England Jamaat was also conferred. In accordance with the divine decree and the wishes of members of the Jamaat, the Khalifa of the Promised Messiahas embarked on his most anticipated journey, travelling through Syria, arriving at Bab al-Ludd.

Departure from Qadian: 12 July 1924

Mumbai: 15 July

Cairo: 2 August

Egypt and Syria: 2-13 August

Port Said: 13 August

Brindisi, Italy: 16 August

Rome: 17 August

London: 22 August

In this busy schedule, packed with the fulfillment of various prophecies, after visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Damascus, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud[ra] conveyed the message of Islam in the abode of the Pope. He also met Signor Mussolini, and visited the catacombs [in Rome] of Ashab-e-Kahf. After fulfilling his mission of [Islam’s] propagation during his forty-day journey, Hazrat Umar II, Khalifatul Masih[ra] entered the capital of the British Empire.

Press and coverage

As soon as His Holiness, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] set out from India with his entourage, the newspapers started publishing the news of the Messiah and his twelve disciples. 

The initial part of this article clearly illustrates our obliviousness and helplessness. But later on, when I appointed Mr Khalid Sheldrake as secretary to inform the British press and political figures about the visit, I felt a strong realisation for the second time, (the first being my previous unawareness about the conference in London), that we had not yet established any recognisable status. When I looked forward to announcing the arrival of His Holiness in the Daily Express, they enquired from the folks at Woking, asking, “Who are these [people]?” They evaded the question by mentioning us as their branch and a group of insignificant people. However, as it was God’s mission, His name and Islam were to be glorified.

Consequently, I personally called the editor of the Daily News after praying [to God Almighty], and explained the difference between the Ahmadiyya Mission and Woking and clarified the position of His Holiness. The editor then wrote the news and published it with Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud’s[ra] full title as follows: 

“His Holiness, Alhaj Hazrat Mirza Bashirud Din Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Messiah, Head of the Ahmadia Community.”

At that moment, a humorous incident occurred when the editor asked, “Is this lengthy name meant for one [person]?” I replied, “In the East, prominent people have long names.”

By the grace of God, this was a significant success and the foundation for all future efforts was based on it, as events would later prove as well. Subsequently, the news was circulated through the Central News Agency, which has branches all over England. Alhamdulillah, by the next morning, the news of the arrival of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] had spread throughout England. This incident became the basis for the successful and extensive propagation of Ahmadiyyat worldwide. In England, the first exposure is difficult, but once it is done, things become easier.

Hence, from his arrival to departure, the news of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II’s[ra] journey was published successfully in both pictorial and non-pictorial formats on a daily and weekly basis. It even happened that a prejudiced Roman Catholic newspaper wrote that the use of the term “His Holiness” for the head of the Ahmadiyya Community in the newspapers made it seem like: “The whole of the British press has been intrigued.” 

Besides the press, I published over ten thousand two-page tracts before and after Huzoor’s[ra] arrival. One of them had the bold title: “He is Coming? Who? Read inside.”  The other similarly stated, “He has come. Who? Read inside.” 

In short, the publicity surrounding Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud’s visit to London, his stay, and his activities brought extraordinary recognition to Ahmadiyyat.

Arrival in London

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] arrived at Victoria Station in London on 22 August 1924 at 6 pm instead of the scheduled 3:30 pm. The large gathering, consisting of friends, press correspondents of pictorial and non-pictorial newspapers, and videographers, was distressed. However, I arranged tea for most of the friends and in this way, we waited until the evening train arrived. All praise is due to Allah that this arrangement was successful, and we were able to warmly welcome our Imam.

Upon reaching London, I requested Huzoor[ra], “Your Holiness! I request that you pray for this benighted country, that Allah may enlighten them with the light of Islam.” After this, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] raised his hands and prayed with his companions, and thus the London schedule commenced, consisting broadly of the following:

22 August 1924: Huzoor[ra] led [everyone in silent] prayer in front of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and also carried out du‘a on Mount Ludd and Bab al-Ludd. Then, his stay was arranged at the Egyptian Palace.

22 August to 22 September: Inspection of Ahmadiyya Dar al-Tabligh London, meetings with correspondents of British newspapers, various other meetings, visit to the [Chattri] Memorial in Brighton constructed in memory of the martyrs of the Great War, the first English speech at East and West Union, lecture in Portsmouth and the idea of building a mosque there, expression of great sorrow for the martyr of Kabul, Maulvi Nematullah Khan, and his protest rally under the leadership of Dr Walter Walsh, and the extensive propagation of Ahmadiyyat worldwide with a special contribution of martyrs to this cause.

23 September to 2 October: Attending the Conference of Religions and various related activities.

3-24 October: Laying of the foundation of the first mosque in London by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] and the commencement of a new phase of Ahmadiyyat in Europe. The Spiritual Conqueror of England prayed at the place where William the Conqueror landed [with his army]. These days were the busiest in terms of meetings and preaching. The unforgettable event of the green turbans also happened. Then, Huzoor[ra] departed from Liverpool Station, and after an immensely successful two-month plus two days stay in London, and leading the first congregational prayer in the new mosque in Paris, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih[ra] returned to his home country.

Impact of Huzoor’s journey and presence in London

Since the detailed accounts of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s[ra] entire journey of 1924 have already been published in Al Fazl, I have only mentioned two incidents [in this article] that have not been previously documented. However, I will now delve into the impressions and impact of this tour based on my personal experiences.

Conference of Religions

As mentioned at the outset, if Huzoor[ra] had not graced the occasion, the conference would have been dominated by the Bahá’ís and ghair-mubai‘een. However, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s[ra] presence had an electrifying effect. Neither did the Bahá’í leader, Shoghi Effendi, dare to appear before Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud[ra], nor could any representative of the ghair-mubai‘een muster the courage to appear and speak in the presence of the unyielding Mahmud[ra]. As a result, in all quarters, the press and public alike were abuzz with the mention of His Holiness, Imam of Ahmadiyya Jamaat, clad in a simple dress with a white turban, alongside twelve green-turbaned servants.

When representatives from Africa, America, Berlin, and London, including 12 disciples of Qadian, gathered on the platform, and the prophecy of the “rising of the sun from the West” was practically fulfilled through Huzoor’s[ra] eloquent speech in English from the high platform, the futile attempts of opponents were completely thwarted. Christianity and the Bahá’í Faith were raising their heads and causing great confusion, but they were forever silenced by the grace of God. The world came to know that Islam does not wield fire or sword but rather Ahmadiyyat presents it as a religion of peace and harmony.

Consequently, the misconceptions of Christianity were dispelled, the unnecessity of the Bahá’í Faith was realised, and the so-called centralisation of Woking was disregarded.

Those who witnessed Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s[ra] presence and heard his words were deeply moved. President of the Conference, Theodore Morisson, considered himself fortunate to witness a peaceful movement within Islam in his lifetime. The seekers of the second coming of the Messiah saw their hopes materialised, and those who loved God with affection and sincerity expressed their happiness. They took pride in their participation in the Conference, and an elderly, religious and educated lady sitting close to me, voiced the feelings of the attendees in the words, “Luther has returned. His heart is ablaze with fervour.” 

The detailed proceedings of the Conference have already been published in previous reports.

Martyr of Kabul

During Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s[ra] stay in London, another incident that significantly elevated the prominence of Ahmadiyyat on the world’s stage was the stoning to death of Hazrat Maulana Nematullah Khan, known as the Martyr of Kabul. Huzoor[ra] received the news of his martyrdom before it reached the Kabul embassy officials in London. And before this news appeared in the British and foreign press, (which it did on the next day), I announced it from the Ahmadiyya platform at Hyde Park, expressing the extreme sorrow we all felt at the time. This immediate circulation created a significant impact within the Kabul embassy and government circles. 

Following Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud’s[ra] instructions, I met Mr [James Louis] Garvin, editor of the renowned newspaper “The Observer,” and showed him the account of the stoning of Hazrat Abdul Latifra, the first martyr [of Kabul], from an Italian author’s book. Mr Garvin then wrote a compelling note on the incident of martyrdom and presented the account of the first martyr in a very impactful manner.

Foundation of the Mosque

The third and highly significant event in the history of Ahmadiyyat was the laying of the foundation stone of the London Mosque [i.e., Masjid Fazl]. Four days prior, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II[ra] expressed his intention, and in one night, the plaque with his handwritten inscriptions in both Urdu and English was enlarged and installed. This humble missionary of Ahmadiyya Jamaat in London prepared it, and Huzoor[ra] was pleased with it. The inauguration of the mosque fulfilled the Community’s major objective of promoting and safeguarding Islam. The gain that the opponents had due to the presence of their mosque was nullified. As Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud[ra] stated, “The primary purpose of this journey has been achieved.” He added, “I believe that one of the objectives for which God has sent me to these countries [abroad] is to lay the foundation of the London Mosque.” A British lady remarked, “Witnessing a mosque creates a very clear and distinct perception about your religion, which is completely different from just hearing about it.” 

All praise belongs to Allah that the tears I once shed at Westminster Abbey, upon seeing the grandeur of Christianity, bore fruit that day with the foundational establishment of God’s house in London by the hands of [then] Imam of the Ahmadiyya Community, and the eventual completion [of the Mosque] with the donations of Ahmadi women. 

Surely, Allah the Almighty blessed Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II’s[ra] journey to Europe in every way, as Huzoor[ra] himself stated, “Ahmadiyyat has now become so well-known in England that if the work is continued adequately, there is hope for great success, insha-Allah.”

(Translated by Al Hakam from the original Urdu, published in the 28 December 1939 issue of Al Fazl)

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