Coming from every distant track: Ghulam Akbar of Batala, father of Agha Babar, visits the Promised Messiah

0

A series looking at the high standard of morals of the Promised Messiahas and his Khulafa when receiving visitors in Qadian

Awwab Saad Hayat, Al Hakam

Agha Babar, a prominent Urdu writer and journalist, was born on 31 March 1919. Agha Babar’s real name was Sajjad Hussain and he was born in Batala, Gurdaspur district. He was a graduate of the Government College Lahore and Punjab University. 

Initially, he worked as a dialogue writer in films. After the establishment of Pakistan, he became the editor of Mujahid and Hilal magazines of ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations). After retirement, he moved to the United States where he spent the rest of his life. 

Agha Babar is one of the most prominent Urdu fiction writers. He also started writing his autobiography, but it remained incomplete due to his demise. Agha Babar was the brother of the renowned intellectual, Ashiq Hussain Batalvi (1903-1989) and Ijaz Hussain Batalvi (1924-2004). Agha Babar died in New York on 25 September 1998 and was buried there.

Agha Babar used to write a regular column, in the well-known and widely circulated Urdu Magazine, Nuqoosh, entitled “Khadokhal”(literally meaning, “features”). His regular and ongoing article, Khadokhal, was read with great interest. This magazine, Nuqoosh, was issued by the world-famous personality of printing, Muhammad Tufail. 

In the 138th issue of Nuqoosh, the editor of that time, Javed Tufail, had published an episode of Khadokhal written by Agha Babar on page 202. In it, Agha Babar mentioned his parent’s childhood, education, school friends, etc. Whilst mentioning his father’s interests and hobbies, he wrote with reference to Batala city:

“There was a street adjacent to a large and spacious building which was called ‘Supertin Street’. There, lived a superintendent in the deputy commissioner’s office. Due to the rise of the British [government], being the superintendent of the British deputy commissioner’s office was a great and valued job. The word ‘superintendent’ was difficult to pronounce and could not be uttered by the common man. Even the ‘tin’ in ‘Supertin’ could not be easily pronounced. Therefore, its name was changed from ‘Supertin’ to ‘Superna’. The superintendent’s name was Babu Aziz Din. He had taken his pension; and due to some fatal eye disease, he had lost his sight. He was one of the elders of the neighbourhood. News reached him that Ghulam Akbar [the father of Agha Babar] had fainted while trying to hypnotise his mother. He [Babu Aziz Din] called the young boy [Ghulam Akbar] and spoke with him. He [Babu Aziz Din] came to know that the boy possessed an adventurous nature.

“[Babu Aziz Din, who had lost his sight, told the young boy, Ghulam Akbar, to read a book and] he listened to him whilst he read the book. Then he told him to read The Divan of Hafiz [a collection of poems written by the Iranian poet, Xawje Shams-od-Din Mohammad Hafiz-e-Shirazi, known by his pen name Hafiz].

He then told him how people use divination from Hafiz’s book of poetical pieces. The adventurous boy [Ghulam Akbar] said, ‘Foretell my future.’ Babu Aziz Din began to foretell his fortune, and said, ‘Turn the page and read the seventh stanza:

بر‭ ‬زمینے‭ ‬كہ‭ ‬نشانِ‭ ‬كف‮  ‬پائے‭ ‬تو‭ ‬بود

سالہا‭ ‬سجدہ‭ ‬صاحب‭ ‬نظراں‭ ‬خواہد‭ ‬بود

“‘[Wherever your footprints will be, the people of sight will prostrate.]’

“Aziz Din said, ‘[The guess about] your destiny seems to be good. Your fate shall be good.’

“A sigh of satisfaction was released by the orphan youth [Ghulam Akbar]. Babu Aziz Din said, ‘Look, my closet is full of books. It would be nice if you could come for an hour [daily], pick up a book and read it and I will listen. We will both benefit from this, your reading will increase and, as I can’t read a book, [in this way] I will hear it from you.’

“My [Agha Babar’s] father was very impressed by Aziz Din’s words of love and compassion and started visiting him for an hour a day.

“In those days, the books of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani were being printed and widely circulated and people were reading [his books] with great interest [and wanted to know] who this person was and what he said. [People wanted to know more about his claims which Hazrat Ahmadas made, such as] ‘I am the Promised Messiah’, ‘I am the servant of Ahmad’, ‘I am Ahmad’, ‘[The attributes] of Gautam and Krishna run in my blood’, ‘[The qualities] of Joseph and Moses are in my right and left pockets’, ‘There is an ocean of [divine] light inside me’, ‘A light is rising [from the] inside of my body’, ‘The sun [of divine light] is dawning through me’ and ‘The galaxy of stars leans over me and greets me’.

“How strange those days were when the [rule of the] political department of the British government was at its peak and no legal notice was filed [against Hazrat Ahmadas]. The things he wrote about were not political; they were about faith and religion. Why should the British interfere in this? As long as law and order was preserved, all was fine [in the eyes of the British government].

“One day, Babu Aziz Din asked my father to take a book of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad from the bookshelf and start reading to him. He read it for an hour or two. The next day, he started reading from where he left off. He finished [the book] within four to five days. Then, one day, he started reading Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya.

“He [Ghulam Akbar] was young and of pure nature. His intelligence was in the prime of youth. He was very curious. Many questions arose in his mind [whilst reading Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya]. In a few days, he finished reading the first volume of Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya. Then, he [Babu Aziz Din] asked him to take out and read another book [of Hazrat Ahmadas] from the bookshelf, which was about the importance of the dreams, the significance of glad tidings and meaningful hints for the interpretation of dreams.

“[As familiarity grew] Ghulam Akbar started calling Babu Aziz Din, ‘Chacha-ji’. Chacha-ji used to say many times, while listening to the book, ‘Ghulam Akbar! Ghulam Ahmad is a wonderful man; his words are magnificent and his style of literature is unique. I wonder what kind of a man he is; one should go and meet him.’

“One day, my father [Ghulam Akbar] went to Qadian, which was eight or nine miles from Batala. [Qadian] was a small village, just like small villages are in which some houses made of mud are [situated] here and there. [Due to the houses made of mud] dust particles were visible in the air. This was around the middle of the 1800s when there was not a single concrete house and a village had only mud and clay homes. 

“After much searching, the house [of Hazrat Ahmadas] was found. He knocked on the door. A man, who seemed to be [a well-educated] writer, opened the door and saw a young boy, in his teens, standing at the threshold. His [Ghulam Akbar’s] face was fresh with signs of adolescence and curiosity. There was an innocent shimmer in his eyes for acquiring knowledge of life. The hermit of Qadian [Hazrat Ahmadas] was surprised to see the stranger [and thus asked him], ‘Where have you come from?’

“My father mentioned his name [and said], ‘I have come from Batala. I have had the chance to read some of your books; rather, I read your books to a gentleman who is visually impaired. [Since then] my desire to meet you grew. Thus, I came.

“‘You look tired.’

“‘Yes, I am.’

“Mirza Sahib picked up a clay bowl lying upside down on the mouth of a mossy pot in the corner of the room and poured cold water in it and gave it to my father. My father sat down on a piece of cloth that was laid out on the floor in the room. In the other corner of the room was a small piece of carpet and a pillow to lean on. Next to it was a box with some books placed on it and a small table used by writers on which was an inkstand. Mirza Sahib sat next to the small table and, whilst resting on a pillow, began conversing.

“‘Who is the person you read my books to?’

“My father replied, ‘I have read [to the visually impaired person] so-and-so book and now I am reading so-and-so book.’

“‘Are you able to understand [my books]?’

“‘There are many things that even Chacha-ji [Babu Aziz Din] doesn’t understand.’

“At this, Mirza smiled [and asked], ‘Would you like some sharbat?’

“He got up, added sugar in the same pot and mix it with a reed pen, and asked, ‘What does your father do?’

“My father replied, ‘He has passed away. I have a sister and my widowed mother takes care of us.’

“‘You seem to be a wise young man. You should come and visit every so often.’

“[After going back to Batala] when my father told Chacha-ji about his meeting with Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Aziz Din was surprised and repeatedly and excitedly asked what had happened [during the meeting], ‘You have done a great job, Ghulam Akbar. You went to Qadian. You are a great young man. So, what did Mirza Ghulam Ahmad say?’ 

“My father replied that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said to him, ‘You should come and visit every so often.’ [Aziz Din asked] ‘Did he pour the sherbet for you himself, the author of the books?’ [With excitement, he said] ‘This is great! You have done a great job.’

“After two months, Ghulam Akbar Sahib knocked on his door again. Mirza Sahib opened the door. He was more compassionate than before. He asked about his health and how he was doing. He said, ‘Ghulam Akbar, I am writing a new book. Do people read my books with interest?’

“My father replied, ‘Yes, of course. Chacha-ji is immersed in your books.’

“He [Hazrat Ahmadas] smiled and said, ‘Read this book from the first page.’

“My father had read half the page when he said, ‘Excellent! Shall I give you something special to eat?’

There was a basket hanging from the ceiling on a rope. He got up and took something out of it and said, ‘Someone sent this as a gift from Amritsar. It’s called a biscuit. How is it?’ My father said it was good.

“[Hazrat Ahmadas] said, ‘Englishmen eat this. It is very delicious.’

“He then said, ‘Son, what do you intend to do [in life]? Will you look for a job, or something else?’

“My father replied, ‘I am not sure. I don’t have a father. How will I even search for a job? If I am to ask around, then who do I ask? There is no one in my family who I could ask [for help].’

“Mirza Sahib patted my father’s shoulder and said, ‘If you want, you can come here and stay with me. I am always in need of young, intelligent people like yourself. I will make something out of you.’

“My father noticed the lack of convenience and comfort in the room and looked at the basket hanging from the ceiling on a rope and thought to himself, ‘If I leave the nest of my home and come here, then what will I be able to accomplish?’ He then asked, ‘What will you be able to make out of me?’

“[Hazrat Ahmadas said] ‘Son, Ghulam Akbar, situations change.’

“My father replied, ‘I disagree. I will find a job, earn some money and give it to my widowed mother.’ Mirza Sahib placed some pamphlets in between his [Ghulam Akbar] arms and said, ‘Take this for Chacha-ji, read this to him.’

“[Ghulam Akbar made his way back to Batala and once again, narrated his meeting to Babu Aziz Din.] Chacha-ji, whilst listening [to Ghulam Akbar], asked, ‘Ghulam Akbar, how was his appearance? Was his hair brittle? Was it long, or adhering to the fashion trend of the time? What did his beard look like? Was it long? Did he wear a turban or a topi?’

“My father replied, ‘His hair was not brittle, nor long, nor adhering to Western trends. He was wearing a slightly tight topi and his beard was long.”

Agha Babar’s column continued on page 204 of Nuqoosh No. 138.

It is not possible to corroborate all the details mentioned in this incident with available sources on the history of Ahmadiyyat. Nonetheless, the simplicity of the Promised Messiahas, his selflessness, his intellectual prowess, his compassion for God’s creation and his high degree of hospitality for everyone becomes evident.

No posts to display

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here