Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Missionary-in-Charge UK
Arab Ahmadis reminisce about Maulana Abul Ata Jalandhari
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Kababir (Palestine) held their Jalsa Salana in April 2000. I participated in that Jalsa as a delegate from the Markaz as per directive by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVra. I was accompanied by my wife. During my two-week stay there, I had the opportunity to meet the Jamaat members there and hear from them about my respected father.
Given my relationship with him, the members met me with such love and affection that I used to be overwhelmed with emotions. Allah Almighty had instilled such love of my father in the hearts of Ahmadis there, that they reminisced about his time and again. One day, all those who had seen my father and had spent some time with him gathered for a meeting at my request. They all came eagerly and a memorable meeting replete with love, affection and sentiments of attachment took place. All of them narrated their old memories and inspiring anecdotes.
A video of this inspiring meeting was prepared, alhamdulillah. A historical group photograph of all the sincere and devoted friends was also taken. I had heard about the faith and sincerity of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat of Palestine and their love for my father many times but greatly enjoyed witnessing it personally and listening to sentiments of love and various narratives and my heart was filled with praise of, and gratitude to, Allah. It is difficult to describe the feelings in words. Even today, when I recall the visit, tears well up in my eyes. May Allah reward all the devotees abundantly, amin!
One Ahmadi friend told me:
“I used to work with the maulana in the printing press. The maulana used to write articles for the Arabic magazine himself, then he composed those articles himself and printed them on the hand-operated printing press with the help of some members. He used to operate the machine himself as well.”
Another Ahmadi friend mentioned that he used to play football with him and he used to frequently manage to dispossess him of the ball. Some of them narrated their memories of travels with him. Some of them narrated details of his debates with the opponents and his preaching conversations. Some mentioned the coffee he prepared himself and then served them with it. In short, these wonderful narrations expressed with love and affection revived the memories of my father and everyone’s heart was filled with prayers for him.
I also learnt that adjoining the old mosque there used to be a small room where my father stayed for some time. That old mosque has since been replaced with a magnificent and beautiful new mosque. Later my father moved to another house close to the mosque. That too has been replaced by a new house.
One day, Muhammad Sharif Odeh Sahib, Amir Kababir Jamaat, took me and my wife to show us the spring, situated in the foothills near the mosque. My father used to go there to have a bath in the cold water. He told us that in the fields nearby, the maulana used to practice delivering speeches in Arabic during his early days. He used to buy the latest Arabic newspaper, go there all alone and, standing in the fields, read out the news loudly and thus practised delivering speeches. One day an Ahmadi was passing nearby, and he heard the loud voice of the maulana. That’s how we found out the secret and came to know how hard he used to work, day and night, to propagate Islam and the methods he adopted to increase his skill and ability.
One day Mr Abdullah Asad Odeh took me along to meet his long-standing and elderly acquaintance, who was a well-known scholarly person and leader of a local Islamic organisation. He had had contact with the Jamaat and would come to our mosque at times. He had been informed of our visit and in keeping with Arabic tradition, he came out of his house to welcome us. He received us with a sincere, affectionate, and passionate embrace and led us into the house most respectfully.
He seated us centrally and engaged himself with hospitality straightaway. Other family members were willing to help but he would go in himself and bring food items one by one and serve with love. This was my first experience of something like this. His affectionate words and respectful style reflected his cordial love. He expressed his pleasure repeatedly and insisted that we had more of the food. Once we got over the initial formalities of hospitality, we started conversing. Mr Abdullah talked about some Jamaat affairs and the venerable old man mentioned a few things. During the conversation, I asked him, “Since when have you been acquainted with the Jamaat?” His reply greatly surprised Mr Abdullah and me. He said:
“I have known the Ahmadiyya Jamaat since I have been to their mosque several times. I met Sayyed Maulana Abu‘al Ata, who was the Jamaat missionary here and was a great scholar.”
Hearing that we were greatly surprised, and happy as well.
When Mr Abdullah told him that I was the son of the maulana his reaction was worth seeing. He got up and embraced me most affectionately. Thinking of my respected father then, I could barely control my emotions. How great is divine grace that his sweet memories and his sacrifices are still alive! Tributes are being paid to him even today.
Musa bin Abdul Qadir of Haifa Jamaat once mentioned to me in London that as a result of the debates by my father, the fame of his knowledge was established in the whole of Palestine to such an extent that the scholars opposed to Ahmadiyyat used to change their route when they saw him coming and thereby acknowledged his scholarly superiority.
The popularity of Al Furqan
Al Furqan ranks high in the history of the Jamaat’s journalism for its popularity and importance. It may be because of the renowned personality of my father, but the real reason for its popularity was its scholarly standard. That is why not only was it one of the popular monthlys in the Jamaat but was also well-reputed and popular among non-Ahmadi academic and religious circles. I write down my personal experience for the benefit of the readers.
In 1967 or 1968 I had the good fortune of offering myself for waqf-e-arzi (temporary dedication). I spent that period in Murree, Pakistan with respected Syed Mir Mahmood Ahmad Nasir Sahib and Malik Farooq Ahmad Khokhar Sahib. One day we thought of visiting the centre of Pir Mohrra Sharif. We managed to find our way to the place. The centre was situated in the foothills near Murree. We reached there after a fairly long journey. The staff there welcomed us cordially. We expressed our desire to spend some time with the Pir Sahib, if possible. Within a few minutes, all three of us were ushered into Pir Sahib’s drawing-room. He was seated on a carpet. He was a middle-aged, handsome, well-educated and broad-minded person. We chatted in a very friendly atmosphere. We introduced ourselves and he was very pleased and told us that he had known Ahmadiyyat quite well. Saying that he lifted a corner of the carpet and there he had the latest issues of Al Fazl and Al Furqan. He said that he received both regularly and read them eagerly. He added that he kept these publications under the carpet so that others could not see them!
A conversation with an anti-Ahmadiyya Muslim editor
I vividly remember an interesting meeting of my father with an anti-Ahmadiyya man, Shorish Kashmiri, editor of the weekly, Chitan Lahore. I was with my father on that occasion. We were in Lahore to purchase paper for Al Furqan. We arrived at the shop of Malik Abdul-Latif Satkohi who had been my father’s pupil. As usual, he received us warmly and entertained us with tea. During the conversation, he suddenly said:
“Maulana! I will bring you face to face with Shorish Kashmiri with whom you have exchanged thoughts frequently.”
We saw Shorish Kashmiri wearing a robe and pyjamas, bare-headed walking along very athletically. By chance, he was also coming to the shop of Malik Sahib. We got introduced to one another. After the preliminary talk, my father brought up the issue which had been a hot topic in the columns of the weekly Chitan those days. The editor of Chitan had stirred up a mischievous campaign against the Jamaat by insinuating that the Ahmadiyya Jamaat had a new Kalima and he “supported” this with a doctored picture of the Kalima written on the façade of an Ahmadiyya mosque in a Nigerian town that appeared in Africa Speaks. He doctored the word “Muhammad” to “Ahmad” in the Kalima written on the mosque and published it prominently on the front page with the caption “Lo! The hunter has fallen into his own trap”.
A well-reasoned and comprehensive rebuttal to that allegation, in addition to the original picture, had been published in Al Furqan. Referring to that answer, my father asked him:
“Now tell the truth, Shorish Sahib, do you still believe that Ahmadis have a new Kalima?”
At this Shorish Kashmiri laughed out aloud in his typical style and said:
“Leave it Maulana! After all, we too have to sell our magazine!” He further added:
“These remarks are off the record. If you publish it in your magazine, I will deny it immediately.”
Dishonesty, falsehood and that obstinacy surprised us all. Once a person is engaged in lies and slander there is no limit to how far they can go; we witnessed a pitiable exhibition of that. And it clarified the meaning of the Quranic verse:
وَتَجۡعَلُوۡنَ رِزۡقَكُمۡ اَنَّكُمۡ تُكَذِّبُوۡنَ
“And do you make the denial thereof your livelihood?” (Surah al-Waqi‘ah, Ch.56: V.83)
May our religious leaders fear Allah and avoid making falsehood their livelihood!
Fulfilment of an earnest desire
Every righteous father wants to see, with his own eyes, his children rendering service to religion. My father too had that desire and always prayed for it. Although after completing my education, I spent most of my time out of Pakistan, I am pleased to say that during my father’s lifetime, many such occasions delighted him to no end and he prayed for me.
When Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh visited the UK in 1973, my father was also in London on short leave. I was invited to address a meeting of local police officers. At my request, my father also accompanied me. The organisers welcomed us warmly and both of us were seated on the stage. I introduced Islam during my speech and answered questions by the attendees.
Some participants asked my father about his dress, particularly the turban. My father answered in Urdu, and I translated it into English. In short, it was all very interesting. I remember vividly that my father was extremely pleased listening to me speaking in English and propagating Islam and he said that in so many words. Expressing his gratitude to Allah, he prayed for me affectionately. I have mentioned this incident very hesitantly, only to illustrate my father’s desire concerning his children and that Allah Almighty graciously fulfilled his intense desire and thereby comforted his heart and soul in his earthly life. Alhamdulillah. May he continue to receive good news about all his children in the hereafter as well.
His students’ fraternity
My father’s students, rather students of his students, are spread throughout the world engaged in religious service. Most of them, whenever they met my father, proudly mentioned that they were his students. On such occasions, my father used to say:
“According to my principle, my student is he who confesses to being one himself’.
In the family setting, he talked about his competent and righteous students most affectionately, expressed his pleasure over their success and prayed for them. He never wished for any of his students to serve him, rather he was pleased to serve them and honour them. By Allah’s grace, he was blessed with a vast circle of blessed and obedient students and this loving relationship continued throughout his life. Even after his demise, the love and respect with which his students meet indicate that the memory of my father is still alive in the hearts of his students. Some of them have tears in their eyes and are overwhelmed with emotions when talking about him.
That was the result of the love and affection that he had for all his students. I remember that because of his failing health, when he went to Kotli (Azad Kashmir) for recuperation, the late Maulana Muhammad Din Sahib served him, day and night, with such love and devotion that my father’s heart was filled with immense love for him, and he prayed for him from the core of his heart. May Allah reward him abundantly!
Love for the dervishes of Qadian
My father had heartfelt love for the dervishes of Qadian. I accompanied my father to Qadian many times and I observed often that he helped them financially as much as he could, secretly. He did that discretely so that it fulfilled the need of the needy brothers without hurting their self-respect. Moreover, he adopted different styles of respecting, comforting and encouraging the dervish brothers. He met each one of them with love and prayed for them. He used to invite the dervishes visiting Rabwah to his house and held feasts for them.
I remember one particular incident, apparently trivial, but which demonstrates the hearty feelings of my father. Some dervishes had come to Rabwah, probably for Jalsa Salana. As usual, my father invited them to the house for dinner. The dinner was prepared at home as usual. However, on this occasion, he specially arranged to get yoghurt from the market, not in a small quantity but a whole lot of a full “kunda” – a large flat earthen platter used by milk sellers to set yoghurt in. Everyone was surprised at such a large quantity.
My father explained that on returning from the office the day before, he saw a dervish standing by a shop, buying and fondly eating the yoghurt.
“I thought that they like it very much. Therefore, I got the full ‘kunda’ to let them eat their fill”, he expressed.
A memorable Eid at Qadian
I will always remember one Eid celebrated at Qadian. I was 12 or 13 years old and had accompanied my father to Qadian. Eid took place during that period; it was solemnised in the garden of the Bahishti Maqbarah. It so happened that at the very start of the Eid prayer, someone accidentally prodded the honeycomb on the trees there. That led to the honeybees flying around and biting everyone. My father was the Imam. Raising the hands repeatedly for takbirat during the prayer further infuriated the bees into attacking more vehemently. Given the sensitivity of the situation, my father shortened the prayer by reciting Surah al-Kauthar in one rak‘at and Surah al-Ikhlas in the second and limited his sermon to two to three minutes with his face covered by the end of his turban. By then the assault by the bees had gained momentum.
As soon as the Eid prayer was over, some people ran, over the Dhab bridge, straight to Qadian and some in other directions. Yet there were others, including myself, who rushed under the prayer carpets to protect themselves from the bees. Not caring for the new clothes, I ventured under the carpet, however, the heat and dust thereunder made life miserable. If I raised the carpet a bit to breathe easy, the bees came in and if I lowered it, I breathed in the dusty air.
Anyway, after a few tough minutes, I heard someone calling my name to find out where I was. I shook the carpet to indicate my location. Some Khuddam came along, rolled me in a blanket, and holding my hand, took me to Qadian Dar-ul-Aman. I had been bitten by a couple of bees but was comparatively better off; some others were in bad shape. My respected father was also helped by a friend to reach Qadian safely.
The incident made that Eid an unforgettable one!
Humility and gratitude were the hallmarks of my father’s life. I heard him expressing his shortcomings and humility many times in the privacy of his home. He always remembered the circumstances of his early life and periods of financial straits. He used to be in tears talking about those days and thanked Allah Almighty in ways that made me overwhelmed with emotions. His condition was a living epitome of the words of the Promised Messiah as:
سب کچھ تِری عطا ہے، گهر سے تو کچھ نہ لائے
“It is all Thy bounty; we did not bring anything from home.”
He loved his mother intensely. He used to pray for her and said that his mother was prayers personified for him.
A salient feature of my respected father’s life was his effort to participate in funeral prayers, regardless of whose Janazah it was. He expressed his condolence to the relatives and counselled them for forbearance and accompanied them for burial if he could, especially when the number of participants was small. The motive was to console the relatives.
Cheerfulness and humour
My father was a very cheerful person. Cheerfulness and a sense of humour were salient features of his disposition. However, he made sure that his funny remarks did not hurt anyone’s feelings. It was the same within the family circle. He used to tell jokes and was fond of listening to jokes. I remember that once I happened to get a book of good jokes. It became a routine that after lunch, I used to read out some jokes from it. My father and the rest of the family used to enjoy that very much. I do not remember the title of the book, but as a joke, we called it “chooran” – a powder made of medicines for promoting digestion.
During early days in Rabwah, there were only a few taangas – horse-driven coaches. My respected father usually hired a taanga owned by Chaudhry Muhammad Boota Sahib of Darul-Yaman, Rabwah; he too was readily available to render the service happily as and when required. My father used to pay him a bit more than the prevailing rates. Whenever my father was invited to a dinner party, he urged the hosts to feed the coach driver. He also paid him a little extra during Eid days and other celebrations. He used to talk to them in a jocular mood as well.
Once travelling in his coach in Rabwah, he noticed plants being planted on the roadside. Pointing to them, my father said to Muhammad Boota:
“Mr Boota, your name is multiplying” – a pun on his name Boota which means a plant. Mr Boota and all others enjoyed the pun.
Adulteration of various products, such as adding water to milk, is a common malpractice in our country. An old lady from a nearby village used to supply us milk. We suspected that she was guilty of that at times, (may Allah forgive her). One day my father pointed this out to the lady in a lighter vein. We were sitting in our courtyard wherein we had a water pump. Addressing the lady my father said:
“Look, we have a water pump in our house, if need be, we can add water ourselves!”
Diligence for ablution
Allah Almighty, with His grace, had blessed my late father with supreme qualities. One of these was his habit of performing ablution before going for dars – a religious lecture – or a speech or address to a gathering of any type.
He was very particular about it and used to advise performing ablution before any speech. It helps purify thoughts by the grace of Allah and attracts divine help. Moreover, I noticed that generally, he tried to be in a state of ablution and whenever it needed refreshing, he attended to that at his earliest convenience. That reflected the state of his mind and heart.
He also had an aesthetic sense; his dress was simple but clean. He was very particular about physical cleanliness as well.
“Elixir of life” – A dream about his age
Once my father told me that, in a dream, he was shown a bottle containing a red drink, labelled as “elixir of life” in bold letters and with a note below in rather small letters, that this drink will remain useful for 75 years. I remember vividly that my father added, “I am particularly delighted with the word ‘useful’ because with that Allah Almighty has given me the glad tiding that my life will be useful right till its end and not a life of incapacity. Allah will enable me to serve till the last breath.”
Alhamdulillah, this dream was fulfilled in every respect. He lived for 75 years according to the lunar calendar and Allah Almighty enabled him to render services abundantly in the cause of Islam and he met his Lord treading on the path of service.
“Khalid-e-Ahmadiyyat” – An unforgettable memory
I remember vividly the day when Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra awarded him the title of “Khalid-e-Ahmadiyyat” during his speech in Jalsa Salana of 1956. After the Jalsa, I met my father at home. I congratulated him. My dear father was so overwhelmed with emotions that he struggled to utter a word. He was humility and gratitude personified. He would start to say something but was overwhelmed with emotions. It was such a scene that, even after 60 years, writing these words brings tears to my eyes. It is simply unforgettable and indescribable. May Allah Almighty continue to raise my respected father’s ranks forever and evermore, Amin!