A testimony of how, according to the Quranic promise, “fear” was turned into “security and peace”
Asif Mahmood Basit, UK
I arrived in London in 2002 with my wife and two-year-old son as a refugee. It took me almost an entire year to settle down. With time, I gradually became familiar with my surroundings. Apart from my parents and sisters, who already resided in the UK, everyone was a stranger to me, including those who I saw frequently and those less so but had heard of. The strange thing was that the place I associated such people with, never felt unknown to me.
Since the very first day, the Fazl Mosque welcomed me with warmth and affection. The first time I saw the mosque was on 2 April 2002 as the sun had begun to set setting and the shadows were growing longer. Seeing the structure of the mosque and the buildings surrounding it made me realise that this scene had been etched into my mind since very early on.
Demise of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh
We were living in Zambia when one morning, we received the news of the demise of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh.
Every Ahmadi child is born with the love for Khilafat infused into them by their mothers. But this love remains a mere emotion before it finds rational grounds as one progresses towards maturity. The same was in my case.
I knew quite well that the Khalifatul Masih was dearer to my parents than anything. But to grieve and mourn the demise of Huzoorrh in that manner was completely beyond me. It was my first encounter with the death of a dear one. There was a strange sense of sadness and loneliness looming over the house. Any question to my father was met with a short reply and a perpetual answer to “pray, just pray”. He may have mentioned it, but truthfully speaking I was still unsure about what exactly I had to pray for.
“A Khalifa has passed away, so Allah will appoint another.” Even in that age of innocence, I did not dare share my confusion because I knew that to say anything related to Khilafat required one to think twice. That is what I saw and that is what I had learned. I prayed, albeit unaware of what I was praying for.
It was on that occasion when, for the first time, I heard of “turning fear into peace” and overheard my parents praying for this.
The start of the Fourth Khilafat
What fear? What peace? I had always been taught by my parents of “peace” as the antonym of “war”.
Where is this war taking place! Hardly a day had passed in that state of mourning when, once again, a shimmering glow of happiness returned to my parents’ faces. The first cause was the whispered announcement my father made to us while still on the phone.
“Mian Tari!”My mother became overwhelmed with joy. She began to cry and fell into prostration. We were also made to do the same. Then, gradually, we were told of further details.
My father, who had casually and due to old habit, referred to him as “Mian Tari”, now, with utmost respect and reverence, began referring to him as Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad. He began to tell us about him and would use the term Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Al-Rabi‘ for him. We had become so accustomed to the term Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Al-Thalith that the term Khalifatul Masih Al-Rabi‘ seemed peculiar. But it would not take us long at all to be accustomed to the new term because for the next few days, it was used at home so often that it became part of our regular jargon.
The following days were spent being introduced to Huzoorrh. It was in those days that I began to understand some aspects of the status and importance of Khilafat. (I say “some aspects” because even today, I have probably not fully understood it. Truly fortunate are those who claim to have attained full knowledge, if there are any at all.)
Then, after some time had elapsed, our home was swept with another wave of panic. I woke up one morning to see my father continuously on the phone, switching from one call to the other. Some of the calls came from Rabwah and others, he would dial himself. It wasn’t before midmorning that he broke the news to us: Huzoorrh had migrated from Rabwah to London.
Even though the distance from Zambia to London was pretty much the same as it was to Pakistan, Huzoorrh now seemed much closer than before. But the sense of closeness was due to my father’s instructions of constantly writing letters to Huzoorrh. He would teach us how to write letters and how to phrase the opening line. (In truth, I still write my opening sentences in the same manner today.)
After writing the letter, he would get us to neatly fold the letter into an envelope and write the address:
“16 Gressenhall Road, London, UK, SW18 5QL”
From 1984 to 2000, i.e. 16 years, this address remained a metonymy for England. We would frequently write letters to this address and frequently receive replies. We cherished those letters more than anything. May Allah reward my parents abundantly, for they taught me to treasure each word that was written in those letters. Allah always accepted the prayers of Khalifatul Masih in our favour.
May Allah continue to accept those prayers for my parents because to this day, the letters I write seeking prayers from Huzooraa are a result of the love and reverence my parents had for Khilafat.
The day I arrived in London, we went straight from the airport to my sister’s house. I asked her how far the Fazl Mosque was from there, to which I was told that it was only a five- to seven-minute drive.
I was completely taken aback to find that someone could live so close to the Fazl Mosque. I requested them to take me, to which they said, “It will be time for Maghrib shortly; we will go then.”
So, we reached the Fazl Mosque as the sun was setting. Various thoughts crossed my mind. The number of times I’ve seen this mosque on MTA … This is remarkable!
Even before MTA, we would listen to audio cassettes of the Friday Sermons delivered from the Fazl Mosque. During those sermons, we would often hear the passing of a train from a distance. When my father once returned to Zambia from London, he told us that trains passed every minute or so along the tracks near the mosque.
Then the Friday Sermons began to broadcast live on MTA and the concept of the mosque was completely transformed. Initially, we would imagine the train passing close to the walls of the mosque. We could not imagine a mosque being so near a railway track because in Pakistan, we had only seen heaps of litter and waste surrounding the tracks. How were we to know that, unlike Pakistan, it was not a common sight to find heaps of waste anywhere in England, even along the stretch of railway lines?
With video recordings of the Friday Sermons (that came to us on VHS tapes) came our first glimpses of the mosque. What a sight! Year in and year out, we heard Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh deliver sermons in that mosque; the nearness of God, the purpose of worship, poverty in the world, education, moral upbringing and general day-to-day issues, and a vast variety of topics had been taught to us through those sermons.
Leaving the setting sun outdoors, I entered the mosque where, in a few moments, the sun that I had seen dawn for many years on the television screen would dawn again before my eyes. One can witness the nur (spiritual light) coming from Huzoor’s blessed countenance through the television screen but cannot feel its warmth. But the combination of nur and warmth enveloped my entire being that evening. I was barely able to look up as Huzoorrh entered the mosque, but as he departed the mosque after prayers, I was able to see him. It was then that I was struck by something strange.
Huzoorrh would take small, careful steps. It was not the usual pace that we were accustomed to from the videos of Huzoorrh. What happened to the renowned energy of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV?
I then realised that the reflection is not necessarily always the same as the original. Faces and places seen in pictures always seem different in real-life. Thus, I consoled myself and returned home. But I was full of confused emotions. Never had I seen Khalifatul Masih from so close.
In 1982, when we were to depart for Zambia, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh graced us with a mulaqat. I was only seven at the time. I have a very hazy memory of the mulaqat – a clouded memory, much like a dream. I remember the details of that day, but I suspect it could be imagery resulting from hearsay. Then, after a few years of moving to Zambia, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh passed away. A few years later, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh migrated to London. Five years later, when we returned to Rabwah from Zambia, we found Qasr-e-Khilafat (the abode of Khilafat) standing tall, with the only difference that Khilafat had moved to a far-off land.
I continued writing letters to Huzoorrh. In that era of remoteness from Khilafat, I stepped into my youth, became a man, got married and was blessed with a son. In short, a very long time had passed without seeing the Khalifa of the time.
After many years, I had now come to my beloved’s abode! My whole being had desperately waited for this moment. That day, I was extremely ecstatic. I felt as if I had no worries or problems and that none could ever come near me ever again.
I felt so, but reality does not always care for what we feel or wish for. When we returned home after the Maghrib prayer, my family started to talk about Huzoor’srh health. Everyone was concerned. It was painful for everyone. But for someone who had been desperately waiting for so long, it was truly heart-wrenching.
I requested a mulaqat with Huzoorrh for as early as possible. We were given an appointment, which was fortunately not too long away. A few days had passed when my wife and my two-year-old son, Romaan Mahmood Basit, and I sat in the waiting room for our names to be called out.
Before I commence with the details of what happened next, come and sit in the waiting room with me and share what I felt in those moments.
The wait in that room caused my heart to race with emotions. Urdu poetry is rich with the experiences of being distant and far from a loved one, and also about the moment when nearness is attained. In my life, I had read many verses referring to the ebb and flow of such experiences.
During that wait, a verse from one poem would appear in my mind when another verse would soon replace it. Then, I would remind myself that that was the time for durood and prayers. Thus, I was swamped in mixed emotions – ones I had never experienced before.
How will I start talking when I enter? What will Huzoor say? There was also a certain desire that I had in my mind for many years, which I hoped would come true. That yearning was due to a certain life-changing event.
A long-awaited moment
In my youth, when I would write poetry, I would send it to the daily Al Fazl. As I always saw my attempts as that of an amateur, I had no expectations for the poetry to ever get published. But the late Naseem Saifi Sahib – may God rest his soul – squeezed my poetry into a small corner of the last few pages. That was something very special for me. What could be more of an honour than to have an early attempt at poetry published in Al Fazl.
When it was first published, for a few days, I walked around with a broad smile on my face while people congratulated me wherever I went in Rabwah. However, after a few days, all those compliments were outshone by a very special one.
In those days, a person would bring the letters of Huzoorrh from the private secretariat in Rabwah. One day, the worker handed me an envelope. But the envelope was different from the letters I had received before. Normally, the letters would arrive in small square envelopes. The style of the envelope would testify to its Pakistani origin. But the envelope I received that day was far bigger and of higher quality. I immediately opened it and found a few typed lines under the letterhead of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh!
As I read the letter to myself, I laughed, then cried, then jumped up with elation and hopped about in celebration. (Bear in mind that I was only 17 at the time.) My parents rushed outside to see what the matter was. I handed them the letter. Both my parents were overwhelmed with joy. My father has always had a silent expression for everything, be it good or bad. But my mother would hug me and kiss me. The letter was unbelievable for us all.
“My Dear Asif Mahmood Basit,
“Assalamo alaikum wa rahmtaullahi wa barakatuhu.
“I read your poem in Al Fazl. Masha-Allah, it is of a very high standard. Please introduce yourself as to who you are and if possible, send me a picture of yourself. I would like to see this rising star in Ahmadiyyat’s world of poetry. Wassalam.”
I do not know what qualities my poem had, but I was stunned at Huzoor’srh expression of love that on such a small effort of a child, he expressed such affection and lifted my spirits.
Of course, I replied to Huzoor’s letter and sent a picture of myself. I received a lot of prayers in return. Then I began to receive letters from Huzoorrh with comments of my various poems that would, by then, be regularly published. I received such appreciation for my amateur poetry that I felt embarrassed.
So, for many years, I had lived with the wishful thought that whenever I would meet Huzoorrh, he would immediately recognise me.
There I sat, to meet Huzoorrh. The person who knew me among the millions he knew.
First mulaqat with Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh
All those thoughts were running through my head, during which we were called to the next waiting room. And then the next. And then, finally, we were standing outside the door behind which was my beloved Imam.
Those of our relatives who had had the opportunity to meet Huzoorrh told us to request for a picture towards the end of the mulaqat. They told me that Huzoorrh would stand and thus, a memorable picture could be taken.
The door opened. We entered. Huzoorrh was seated on his chair. His blessed countenance was glowing. We sat on the chairs opposite him. I wished to say something, but Huzoorrh began speaking to our son most affectionately. Huzoorrh asked him how he was and pulled out a chocolate-bar from the drawer to his side and handed it to him. Then, Huzoorrh raised his blessed hand as if to say goodbye.
It is impossible to describe what I felt in a mulaqat that seemed to have ended even before it had started. I felt like a person who, having just arrived at the platform, saw his train pulling away, and as he rushed to catch the train, it kept getting faster and faster; he just about got to touch the last carriage of the train but couldn’t get a grip; he watched the train disappear into the narrowing perspective, leaving him behind on the platform.
My train was also leaving and I could see it leave before my eyes, yet it was still visible.
As Huzoorrh raised his hand, we also got up from our seats. As I got up, I wished to say something, but with a glistening smile on his face, Huzoor said, “Assalamo alaikum wa rahmatullah”. And we were outside.
When we came out, we were all extremely happy. The happiest of all was my son who had seen Huzoorrh and was given a chocolate bar. I was also very happy to have seen Huzoorrh, but I was experiencing a strange overriding emotion.
First of all, my wife turned to me, displeased: “Why didn’t you request a picture? It was such a memorable moment!” When we got home, I was met with the perplexity of my relatives, some of whom were even upset as to why I hadn’t requested a picture.
How could I explain to them what I had been through? The status and reverence of Khalifatul Masih is such that one doesn’t feel the courage to associate with him the words we usually use to describe any other person’s ill health.
If it were any ordinary man, then I would have told them, “He was too frail!” But how could I say the same for a man of such status and with whom my whole being had such a deep, spiritual connection? All I could say was that I did not have the audacity to request Huzoorrh to stand up for me. Those who were sensible understood. Yet, most of them saw this as an unacceptable excuse.
For many days, I regretted that mistake. Then the happiness one gets after meeting Huzoorrh dawned upon me.
So what if Huzoor didn’t recognise me! It was not necessary for Huzoor to recognise me. I recognise Huzoor! That itself is the greatest blessing of Allah. The world does not recognise him, but Allah has granted this Jamaat the ability to recognise him. This great man is seated on the throne of Prophet Muhammadsa; the throne he was blessed through Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. God Himself has seated him there.
Then I thought to myself, “How silly of me! For so many years I desperately waited for this moment. Now, when the moment arrives, I am being ungrateful!”
Well, what do you think happened next? From dawn till dusk, I would travel back and forth to the Fazl Mosque to catch a glimpse of Huzoorrh. I got to see Huzoorrh day and night at the mosque and this brought me great comfort. When I found a job, I would go to the mosque for the evening prayers.
18 April 2003 was a Friday and I was in the Fazl Mosque. I had planned to be somewhere that evening, but a last-minute cancellation brought me back to the Fazl Mosque for Maghrib prayers.
I offered Maghrib behind Huzoorrh and was fortunate enough to be seated in Huzoor’s question-and-answer session. I was in the Mahmood Hall, which was usually seen as a second choice, but on that day, this became a blessing in disguise. As Huzoorrh left the mosque for his residence, those seated in the Mahmood Hall got the chance to stand outside and catch a glimpse of Huzoorrh. Who would have thought that that would be our last glimpse of Huzoorrh?
The next morning, an announcement was made on MTA International. The effect it had on the Ahmadis around the world does not require any description. It was as if the Jamaat had lost all its strength. But the gist of the concluding words of the announcement was, that the past hundred years bore testimony to the fact that God Almighty had never left the Jamaat alone.
At the end, the name of the signatory of this announcement was read out. “Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Nazir-e-Ala and Amir-e-Muqami, Rabwah.”
If anything pumped some strength back into the Jamaat’s body, it was the name that was read out at the end of the announcement. But who was to know that after all of this, the new life that awaited the Jamaat would be in the very name cited at the end of the announcement?
According to the will of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, the heart-breaking announcement was to be made by this devout individual. Thus, Huzoor’s will was acted upon and probably for the first time, a great majority of the Jamaat became acquainted with this name.
This pious individual, like his master the Holy Prophetsa, had always preferred to remain in seclusion. A small circle in Pakistan knew of Huzooraa due to his administrative capacities. But an even smaller minority was aware of the characteristics that made him an extra-ordinary human.
As soon as I heard the announcement, I rushed to the mosque. Crowds had started to gather from far and wide at the Fazl Mosque, but despite people crying and praying, everything seemed to stand still and silent. Everyone seemed as uncertain and anxious as an orphaned child. There was a strange atmosphere of grief and sorrow looming over the Mosque.
The English weather, gloomy and grey as it usually is, had become even gloomier that day – the day when a sun had set in millions of hearts. If I was to summarise the entire atmosphere under one word, it would be “fear”.
The atmosphere that day took me back to the morning of June 1982, when we were in Zambia and had heard of the demise of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh. My parents went through those very feelings. Due to being so young, I had not appreciated entirely what they were going through. But now, I had come to the realisation that it was indeed “fear”.
What will happen next? Who will it be? What tribulations await the Jamaat? What if this happens? What if that happens? And countless other questions crowded my mind.
That day, the Fazl Mosque was draped in the same cloak of fear that I had seen many years ago, although I had not felt it. That day, I realised that that fear was no ordinary fear. It was the same fear that left my parents restless in 1982.
Everyone here today, myself included, was experiencing that fear. Tears flowed down our cheeks and our hearts ached with anguish. Everything stood still. The one sound that murmured around was the question of what would happen next.
For the next few days, the fear stretched over the entire Jamaat. We had been orphaned! The Jamaat no longer had a head who loved, cared and supported them, more than a loving father.
Inquisitive about the unknown man
There was a strange feeling in the prayers that were said then. As the Jamaat fell into prostration, you could hear wailing and sobbing from every part of the Fazl Mosque. When people would begin to gather themselves, they would start enquiring about the man who had sent out the message. Some would express their unfamiliarity, while others felt privileged to have known him. I was among those lucky few who knew the unknown man; albeit very little, but I knew him.
Whenever I heard that name or had to explain to someone who he was, I would start picturing Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Masroor Ahmad in different settings: outside the nazarat-e-talim offices; as the special guest at a Nusrat Jehan Academy event; parking his bicycle at a stand in Rabwah; addressing a gathering at the Ahmadiyya Hostel, Dar-ul-Hamd, in Lahore; driving his modest car on the roads of Rabwah; turning into Rajeki Road from Aqsa Chowk; seated in the offices of nazarat-e-ulya or, the fondest of all memories, the day when we gathered at Aiwan-e-Mahmood at the occasion of my walima where he entered the gates in his car and blessed the occasion.
It is but natural to imagine the person and how he looks when talking about him. Very rarely do you reminisce the person alone; they always come with a package of memories. Albeit vaguely, images of Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib always appeared on the canvas of my mind in varying colours of seasons and settings.
Every picture showed his wonderful characteristics. Simplicity, sincerity, modesty and composure. But the most prominent quality that I would notice was one that is only found in Godly people; a charisma that cannot be attained without nearness to Allah. When light passes through a prism, all the colours that are hidden in the ray of light become manifest. When brought together, it is called nur. Thus, the manifestation of hundreds of colours was the most apparent feature that I could recall.
In the images that crossed my mind, I would recall a short beard that was once jet-black; then the full beard that was black with some grey hairs while the visible hair on his head (the rest usually under a Jinnah cap) was black entirely. It should be remembered that those images were appearing in my mind without any conscious effort. In the context of the nature of discussions, various images would flicker in my mind.
Although I had not met Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib a lot, the occasions where I had met him were engraved in my memory. When I would recall those occasions, I would become extremely happy, but at others, very fearful. “Fearful” because the age of my adolescence, ignorance, immaturity, foolishness and incompetence had all been witnessed by him. (I do not intend to say that all that has passed. Apart from adolescence, everything else has only changed slightly.)
After attaining my bachelor’s degree, it was Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib (may Allah strengthen his hand) who gave me the responsibility of teaching at the Nusrat Jehan Academy. In the capacity of chairman of the Nasir Foundation, he was the patron of the Nusrat Jehan Academy. One day, he handed me a note and sent me to Khalid Goraya Sahib, Principal of the Nusrat Jehan Academy. The following day, I began my teaching career.
With that came a stipend and thus, I could partake in the blessed scheme of Al–Wasiyyat. That too was a result of Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib drawing my attention towards the noble cause when I received my first stipend.
It was this very person who took me out of that atmosphere and instructed me to pursue my master’s degree. Otherwise, I would have remained in the teaching position at Rabwah. Actually, I was quite adamant about remaining there and would never have moved, quite like a brat. He instructed me to reside and study at university as such exposure has its own benefits in life.
When I informed him that I had enrolled but there was still a month before the classes commenced, it was he who advised me to join a computer course at the same university. In the capacity of nazir talim, he designated a grant to enable me to attend the course.
That was about 27 years ago, but to this day, I have greatly benefitted from knowing how to use a computer. I have never felt the need to rely on people to help me type or compose a document. Today, I type these lines on a computer and since the day I developed computer skills, the face of the person who enabled this all to happen always comes to mind.
Then, when I began my master’s degree, I informed him that I had gained entry to a post-graduate course in philosophy. I will never forget his response. “A poet studying philosophy; God help you!”
Then he narrated a joke.
“Once, a philosopher went to a farmer and asked why he had tied a bell to his cow’s collar. He replied, ‘As long as the bell continues to ring, I know that the cow is at work’. The philosopher asked how he would know the cow was at work if it stopped walking but continued to move its neck. The farmer simply replied, ‘It’s a cow! Not a philosopher!’”
But today, it has to be declared that those words uttered by Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib later proved to be a prayer for me and Allah always sheltered me with His blessings. The cause of this was always Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib and to this day, he remains my shelter. (In fact, now he is a cause of shelter for the whole world.)
When I arrived in Lahore, I had no accommodation other than Dar-ul-Hamd (Ahmadiyya Hostel, Muslim Town, Lahore). In those days, the hostel was under the management of the Jamaat in Lahore. But bearing in mind its state and its erstwhile condition, “management” is surely an overstatement.
This was the place where Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra had once delivered his masterpiece, The Economic System of Islam. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh had also delivered speeches to the Ahmadiyya Students’ Association here.
The recollections I have of that time include many mischievous pranks among students, but the kind of mischief that is acceptable at such an age. The good fortune of the institution would strike when it would be assigned to nazarat-e-talim (department for education, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Pakistan). I was there when the transformation took place. The institution began to take a new form very quickly. Chronic ailments take time to heal, but if a skilful doctor is at hand, then the process of healing is expedited. Thus, during my stay in the hostel, the healing process began.
In those days, Huzooraa would regularly visit the hostel. I must admit that I was not innocent of the mischief surrounding the atmosphere of the hostel. There is a possibility that he was aware of it. (I spent 22 years thinking there was a “possibility”. How I found out that this “possibility” turned out to be a “reality”, will follow below!)
In those days, when everyone wanted to find out about this saintly person and when his name echoed here and there, these memories would come to mind.
I recalled the day when he graced my walima ceremony. It is not just a memory, but I have a picture of the event still with me. My family and I were gathered around that saintly individual. The same simplicity and glow. In the picture, everyone held simple paper cups. Now when I see the picture, I feel ashamed. But those who have been through the eventful days of a South Asian-style shadi will agree that the groom is completely helpless on what is supposed to be his “big day”. Thus, I comfort myself with this reason for the shortcomings on that day.
Now, let me take you back to the days when fear had encompassed every aspect of life. Every day, people would be seen joining the queues at the Fazl Mosque to see one last glimpse of their beloved Imamrh. Having walked past their Imam, who now rested in a coffin, they would join the back of the queue again. Such was their state of restlessness. The leader of the faithful had passed away. The Jamaat was, for now, orphaned. Their source of peace remained no more. Thus, by means of repeatedly seeing his face, they tried to heal their wounds. They would repeat this cycle until the certainty of the unimaginable sunk in.
On one such afternoon, news spread that members of the electoral college from Rabwah had arrived in London. At the time, it was not fully known who they were or where and when they had arrived. All we knew was that people had begun to flock towards the Fazl Mosque.
That day, after the evening prayers, a crowd had gathered just outside the doors of the mosque. The crowd surrounded a certain individual. I raised my heels to see who the individual was; one who was being met so passionately by so many people.
As I got closer, I saw that the person in question was none other than Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Masroor Ahmad. I was seeing him after many years, but his complexion, features and appearance all seemed to be the same. His beard was a mix of black and grey.
He stood patiently, comforting and meeting all those people. I also joined the queue. The queue was more of a crowd that kept swelling up. Some joined the crowd from one side, while others pushed in from another to get the chance to meet him.
I was left perplexed because only that very morning were people wondering who this Mirza Masroor Ahmad Sahib was, but now that he had arrived, people were meeting him as if they had known him for years. Other people had also come from Pakistan, including members of the family of the Promised Messiah who were close relations to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh! Of all people, why were people crowding around him?
I tried my best to push forward, trying my luck to take me to him. But after all, everyone around me was as grief-stricken as the other.
When some time had passed and it seemed difficult to cut through the crowd, I decided to pay my condolences to him the following day. Having lost hope, I made my way to the gate to leave. I began to walk along the footpath parallel to the fence of the Fazl Mosque when I glanced up at the crowd again. From that angle, I could see Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib’s face.
There was something about his countenance that was both strange and unique. It was only a glance, but I noticed that he seemed to be the most devastated and grief-stricken person in the whole world. I stopped in my steps. Suddenly I felt my legs push me back. I was now rushing towards the entrance. “Whatever happens, I will meet him and I will meet him today!”
I found myself in the same crowd, being pushed and shoved as I advanced towards Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib.
Now, I was in front of him and there was only one individual between me and him. As Huzoor embraced that man, his eyes met with mine. There was an electrifying current in his eyes, yet a strong sense of pain. As soon as that man moved to one side, I embraced Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib and held on to him. To this day, his “Wa alaikumussalam” echoes in my ears.
The first feeling of peace was felt when I heard his name after the announcement. The second was felt when I physically embraced him. Being so close to his blessed presence gave me firm belief in the statement made in his announcement that God Almighty would never leave the Jamaat alone and helpless; He never had and never would!
Up until that point, my mind could not accept that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh had passed away. Naturally, I would begin to think who the next Khalifa would be, but I would shun those thoughts immediately. I had been taught by my parents from childhood that the term “next Khalifa” was a no-go area.
People spent those days expressing condolences and comforting one another. I had met and embraced countless people since. Many of them had been elders of the Jamaat from Pakistan. But today, I must admit, albeit with caution, that while meeting Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Masroor Ahmad, I felt something distinct. Don’t ask what it was because I do not know! The term I had attributed to that feeling in order for me to understand it, was a term my heart did not permit me to think about.
The childhood lessons were clearly in practise now. I had met and embraced hundreds of people. We were all in a state of sorrow and despair and we continuously comforted each other. But from among those hundreds of embraces, one stood out. If only I knew what that feeling was, I might have embraced him a little longer!
But “a little longer” was out of the question! The crowd was so powerful that I didn’t even realise that my time had come and gone. I felt as though I was walking in the bitter cold but had passed by a blaze of warmth. It was as if I had only just begun to raise my hands to absorb the heat that the bell had rung and I was compelled to move on.
The following day was a strange one. I saw Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib two or three times after various Salats but did not have the audacity to meet him. At times, he was alone, while at other times, he was accompanied by members of majlis-e-mushawirat (the consultation committee). But my steps failed to move towards him. The feeling I had the previous day was extremely peaceful and I wished to experience it once more. But I was frozen in my steps.
On the afternoon of the day the Fifth Khalifa was to be elected, I was walking along Melrose Road outside the guesthouse by the Fazl Mosque. I turned the corner and saw Hazrat Sahibzada Sahib walking towards the guesthouse. The same humility that always remained a hallmark of his personality was now complemented with an aspect I had never seen: Awe! As always, his gaze was lowered, but I could see that his eyes were bloodshot, probably from staying awake. The same humility was in his steps but every step was so majestic as if a king strode forward. I shuddered and stopped where I was, which was a safe distance away. I realised that meeting him now would not be appropriate. But if his eyes met with mine, I would not be able to contain myself. That afternoon, I saw a personification of the revelation, which I would later become more familiar with:
وہ بادشاہ آیا
“Here comes the king.”
Along with his companions, he entered the building adjacent to the mosque.
Thereafter I saw him in the evening as he entered the mosque for the divine appointment of the Fifth Khalifa. He wore shalwar kameez with a simple blazer on top. But there was something different now as compared to when I had seen him earlier. It was very bizarre for me to grasp.
“This is not the same person”, I thought to myself. “This is someone else!” In that moment, he seemed to be a holy man who had submitted himself completely to His Lord just like a lump of clay, ready to take any shape that the potter intended. How was I supposed to know that the same majesty, splendour, magnificence and awe emanating from his eyes was still there, only in a different form?
Those moments truly were trying ones and everyone wished that they passed quickly so that we may come to know who Allah had chosen as our new Imam.
The state of our prayers at that time is beyond expression; a deep and stirring emotion. Everyone was in a state of fear as if they were waiting at the threshold but could not knock on the door or take a step forward. It was as if we were just waiting at the doorstep of an unknown world to lay open before us. The time of fear was soon to be over, but anxiousness and restlessness were part and parcel.