Last Updated on 31st January 2021
Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra was a companion of the Promised Messiahas, member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, judge of the Federal Court of India, president of the International Court of Justice, Pakistan’s first foreign minister, Pakistan’s representative to the UNO General Assembly and a devout servant of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Islam.
Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Missionary In-charge, UK
Hazrat Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, may Allah be pleased with him, was abundantly blessed with good qualities and distinctive attributes. A lot has been written about him and a lot more will be written in the future.
In this article, rather than giving a biographic account of his outstanding achievements and services, I would like to write down some anecdotes and impressions based on my personal observations and experiences. I would like to do this for the benefit of the younger generation, who did not have the opportunity to see him during his lifetime.
This is an attempt to make the younger generation develop at least some understanding of the strength of character and grandeur of Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra.
Greatest good fortune of life
First, I would like to narrate a delightful and profoundly impressive incident. A journalist, representing one of Pakistan’s literary magazines, interviewed Hazrat Chaudhry Zafrulla Khanra for a special issue of the magazine. He asked him, “Chaudhry Sahib! You have achieved countless successes in your life. What do you think was the greatest blessing of your life?”
Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra answered this apparently difficult question promptly and comprehensively by saying, “The greatest good fortune of my life is that I recognised the Imam of the age, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, peace be upon him, and performed Bai‘at at his hands. All praise be to Allah.”
My first introduction
By the time I reached the age of discretion, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra was very well-known as a great man and a wise leader throughout the world.
I had the pleasure of listening to his speeches during Jalsa Salana. He was extremely eloquent, and his delivery style was unique. He had the uncanny ability to explain even the most complex concepts in an easily comprehensible manner. This simplicity in his expression made his speeches accessible to everyone. That is how I came to know him initially.
My first direct contact with him, that I vividly remember, was when my late father (Hazrat Maulana Abul Ata) invited some respected members of the Jamaat for dinner to his house named “Bait-ul-Ata”in Darur-Rahmat Wasti, Rabwah. Chaudhry Sahibra was one of the guests.
When Chaudhry Sahibra was about to leave, my father told me to accompany him to his bungalow in Darus-Sadr Gharbi. Thus, Chaudhry Sahibra and I set out on foot. Because of his towering personality and my extreme reverence for him, I was hesitant to speak. However, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra talked in a relaxed manner about several things.
I realised that he had a very affectionate, relaxed, calm and simple disposition. At one point, he took hold of my upper arm and upon observing how lean it was, he remarked, “Is that all?”.
When we finally reached his bungalow, Chaudhry Sahibra thanked me, and I requested him for his prayers before leaving. This short meeting only lasted 15-20 minutes, but it left a pleasant and lasting impression on me that I relish even today.
Expressions of affection begin
When I arrived in London as a missionary and deputy imam in September 1970, I had the opportunity to meet him regularly. I hereby present some anecdotes relating to that period which illustrate various aspects of Chaudhry Sahib’sra pleasant personality.
This was my first venture outside Pakistan, it was the first time for me to travel by air through the blessing of Ahmadiyyat. I had studied English language at school and college but never needed to write or converse in English while in Pakistan. I had delivered some prepared (and memorised) speeches in college and Jamia, but my English was not proficient for day-to-day conversation.
I mention this because two months after my arrival in London, I was subjected to a test in English and the examiner was none other than Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra.
It so happened that the late Bashir Ahmad Khan Rafiq Sahib, the then Imam and missionary in-charge told me once that someday I would be required to deliver a Friday sermon in English. I expressed my opinion that there was no rush for that and in due course such opportunities would, God-willing, arise. That, I thought, was the end of the matter.
A few days later, on Friday, I had offered my sunnah prayer and the second azan was called shortly afterwards. Khan Sahib, who was sitting next to me, nudged me to get up for the sermon. I was not mentally prepared for that, but there was no room to make excuses as I could not engage in discussion with the mosque full of worshippers. I had to get up.
With prayers, I started the sermon with Tashahud, Ta‘awuz, and Surah al-Fatihah. That much was easy enough. As I looked around, I saw Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra seated in a chair as usual towards the right of the first row. As he heard the voice of a new speaker, he glanced at me. I am sure he would have prayed for me, but I was awestruck by his personality.
Just then, I remembered the farewell advice by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh as a flash of inspiration. He had advised me to speak English confidently and without hesitation while in London and not to worry if I made mistakes in the beginning. That encouraged me and I bolstered my morale thinking that Chaudhry Sahibra had also progressed to his current standard of excellent English gradually.
These ideas passed through my mind over a short time. Putting my faith in Allah, I started the sermon. I do not remember the topic, but it lasted for 15-20 minutes. After Khutba-e-Saniya [the second part of the sermon in Arabic], I led the prayers. After that, I offered the sunnah prayer and spent longer than usual offering these. I was hoping that Chaudhry Sahibra would have left by then and I would not have him hold my arm and point out my mistakes in front of all the people.
After the sunnah prayer when I got up to go, I saw that Chaudhry Sahibra was still engaged in prayers. It was an opportune moment for me to leave the mosque immediately. Now I waited for the result of my test and expected to receive guidance from Chaudhry Sahibra shortly.
In the evening when I met Bashir Rafiq Sahib, he congratulated me. “For what?” I asked. He replied, “Chaudhry Sahib has given you a pass in English.” I said, “Alhamdolillah” and thought that he must have added some grace marks out of his magnanimity for the new speaker on his first attempt. His kindness and graciousness to me continued later in various ways.
Allah the Almighty had blessed Chaudhry Sahibra with countless blessings and honours. He had been to great palaces and chambers of the world and had met great personalities. However, by nature he was a very humble person. Simplicity and dervish-like nature were the salient traits of his life.
For one, he was very frugal in spending on himself but very generous in spending in the way of Allah and in helping the poor and the students. For instance, whenever he went to Central London via the District line, he used to walk to East Putney Underground station instead of Southfields station. He would take this longer walk, so that he could save on the tube fare, which was probably one penny saving.
Generally, most people living in the area started their journey from Southfields and did not care for the tiny difference in the fare, giving preference to their comfort. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra used to save one penny per travel; he mentioned it to others and urged them to do the same.
I clearly remember him telling in his speeches that people used to argue with him as to what did he save by doing so, to which he replied, “One penny.” They would then ask what benefit he got. He would reply again, “One penny.” Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra used to relate this in detail. He used to narrate in his style that though apparently it was a saving of one penny only, but continued savings like that would add up to hundreds and thousands of pounds.
On such occasions he used to quote the Persian proverb:
قطرہ قطرہ مى شود دریا
“Drop by drop a river is formed.”
Helping the needy
His style of counseling was very effective. At the same time, his excellent personal example of spending generously in the way of Allah was apparent to everyone. He had established an institution by the name of Southfields Trust to help the needy and deserving students and the less privileged. Stipends were given out as interest free loans or as aid. That was a great service and ongoing charity.
Additionally, there was a whole network for the help of the needy. Generally, he helped people in such a discrete way that others would not know about it. I had the opportunity of working as a member of this trust for some time and was inspired by this aspect of Chaudhry Sahib’s character.
Humble way of great financial sacrifice
A proposal was once under consideration that the then existing two buildings that were very old in the Jamaat UK centre be demolished and replaced by a large complex comprising of a big hall, offices, two large residences and a small flat. However, the Jamaat did not have the necessary funds for the project at that time.
It is not the Jamaat’s policy to take bank loans on interest. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra was requested to lend the amount, which would be paid back to him in instalments over a period of time. He agreed.
In accordance with Quranic teachings, a contract was drafted to the effect that Chaudhry Sahibra would pay the Jamaat £100,000 and the Jamaat would be responsible to pay it back. The draft was shown to Chaudhry Sahibra one evening. He said that he would study it carefully, sign it and return it the next day.
The following morning, Chaudhry Sahibra said:
“I mulled over it. My own self told me, ‘Zafrulla Khan! You have reached thus far because of Ahmadiyyat. All that you have achieved is due to blessings of this Jamaat. Do you now want to give the money to this beneficent Jamaat as a loan to be paid back?’ My soul reproached me a lot. I really felt embarrassed about this and sought Divine forgiveness. I decided there and then that I shall present that amount to the Jamaat not as a loan, but as a humble donation.”
Saying that, he tore up the draft, wrote a cheque for £100,000 and presented it to the Jamaat. He pleaded that this donation should not be mentioned to anyone in his lifetime other than Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh. What an excellent example of sacrifice, humility and sincerity!
In the context of this building, I would like to mention another magnificent incident. The foundation stone of the building was laid in 1967 and it was completed in 1970. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra requested the Jamaat to allow him to reside in the small flat on the second floor whenever he needed accommodation while in London. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh happily granted permission.
The flat was small. I had the opportunity to go to the flat several times and see it closely. Albeit small, it was enough for Chaudhry Sahib’sra limited and simple needs. It comprised of a small bedroom, a compact kitchen, bathroom and a medium-sized sitting room which doubled up as his study where he spent most of his time.
He had a modest sofa set in the sitting room and that is where he entertained his visitors. The bedroom in the flat was so small that it was barely furnished with a single bed, a small cupboard, a small table and a chair. There was hardly any space to walk around. In that small bedroom, he spent many years with simplicity and contentment.
One of his close friends told me that once Chaudhry Sahibra took him along to show him his flat. As he entered the bedroom he asked, “How do you cope in this small bedroom?” Chaudhry Sahib’s answer was prompt and insightful: “The place where we are going after this life will be even narrower.” How unique is the thinking of spiritually elevated people! They are ever-mindful of the Hereafter and keep preparing themselves for that ultimate, final journey.
Simplicity, informality and contentment were the hallmarks of Hazrat Chaudhry Sahib’sra life. His attire used to be decent, clean and dignified. He looked after his clothes and made them last a long time while still looking nice. He never felt embarrassed to tell us how old his suits were.
On the contrary, he would eagerly and confidently mention that he purchased a suit or a pair of socks in such and such year from such and such shop for such and such price.
I remember that he once told me that the shirt that he was wearing was bought by him for one dollar so many years ago from a shop situated on a road in New York.
In short, it was well known that Chaudhry Sahibra used to make his outfits last for a long period.
Once, on Eid day, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra gifted this humble one a woollen scarf. He specifically mentioned that the scarf was not old and that he had only worn it once on the day when he presided over the session of General Assembly of the United Nations. I received that memorable gift most thankfully.
Favourite topic of dicsussion
His style of discourse was marvellous, which proved to be very effective and informative during Jamaat meetings. His opinions would be robust, to the point, relevant and in accordance with the situation.
One topic that I heard him talk frequently about was gratitude to Allah the Exalted. He used to emphasise this aspect during his tarbiyat lectures, often quoting the Quranic verse:
لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيْدَنَّكُمْ
“If you are grateful, I will, surely, bestow more favours on you.” (Surah Ibrahim, Ch.14: V.8)
During his conversations, he would talk repeatedly on this subject of gratitude in a moving and inspirational way. I personally observed that he always mentioned the gratitude for the blessings of God in a tender and touching manner and tears would well up in his eyes out of gratefulness.
I can say that gratitude was his favourite topic. Accordingly, he titled his autobiography, Tehdis-e-Nemat (Recollection of Divine Favours), a most appropriate name according to his personality.
A specific feature of the book is that when narrating stories of his life, he never forgot to mention and thank anyone who had done him any favour and prayed for them. Along with gratitude for Allah, expressing the same for Allah’s servants was an integral part of this grateful man.
Prayers and Salat
Chaudhry Sahibra was extremely dedicated and committed to supplication. Prayers and worship were an essential part of his being. He used to make a very diligent effort for offering Salat. He was very watchful to ensure that he offered his Salat on the exact, prescribed times. Whenever he visited London from Holland, he would enquire about Salat times without fail. He prayed diligently, virtuously, attentively and always at the earliest possible time.
During the prayers, he preferred the recitation of a person who demonstrated a clear understanding of the subject matter and took pauses appropriately. After arriving in the mosque, he spent his time in praising and remembering Allah.
He would listen carefully and register, in his memory, the names and needs of those who requested prayers of him, and there were surely hundreds of them.
He once told me that he had prepared in his mind a list of such people in a particular order and grouped them together according to their needs. In this way he remembered all the names and supplicated for each one of them regularly. Sometimes that led to amusing incidents.
Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra stated one example himself. A young man once requested him to pray for his marriage. His name got registered in Chaudhry Sahib’sra computer-like memory and he continued to pray for him. After about three years, the young man met Chaudhry Sahibra who asked him if he had got married. The man replied with a smile, “Yes Chaudhry Sahib! I got married and have got two children.” Chaudhry Sahib said, “You should have told me. I was still praying for your marriage.”
He was very regular in morning walks. He devoted all that time to the remembrance of Allah and supplications, for which he had formulated a map and a sequence in his mind. He told me on several occasions that by the time he reached a spot or turning during the walk, he had recited Durood so many times or supplicated in particular words so many times.
If it was raining after Fajr, he would walk around in the Mahmood Hall for the same duration as his daily walk. Thus, by completing the specified number of supplications and tasbeeh [remembering Allah] he could also guess the distance he had covered.
I recall an interesting thing that he told me in connection with his walk. He said that an Englishman of such and such appearance crossed him every morning at the same spot and they exchanged good-mornings. He added, “He seems to be very punctual.” Then, he smiled and said, “I am no less than him.”
Along with his unlimited scholarly capabilities, Allah the Exalted had blessed him with a remarkable memory. I never saw him with a diary. He used to save his engagements and appointments in his mind and never had any problem with that. He knew the phone numbers of his friends and contacts by heart.
During his stay in London, he used to come to my office by about 10 or 11 o’clock very often and asked me to dial a phone number for such and such person. As I went for the directory, he would say that he would tell me the number off-hand. That happened every time he came.
To my amazement, he told me that when in Britain, the telephone numbers of British friends were highlighted in his mind and when in America, the American numbers were highlighted and the British numbers faded away.
Another amazing thing of the kind was that he could tell the days of different dates of the year off-hand. We look at the calendar to plan any event, but Chaudhry Sahibra would calculate and tell the day immediately.
Once I asked him the secret. He said, “When the new year starts, I download the days of a few important and fundamental dates in my mind and use that data to calculate the day on the required date.”
An amazing incident
Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra wrote his life history in detail titled Tehdis-e-Nemat (Recollection of Divine Favours) himself. The book is a treasure house of information. It is a comprehensive book comprising of Jamaati history, as well as political, national and international affairs.
It is said that Chaudhry Sahibra wrote or dictated the entirety of this book, or most of it, from memory. Once the book was completed, he had the proofreading done by a friend to doublecheck the references, dates and other details. Corrections were probably not required.
When it was published, he had some of its copies put in my office for those desirous of getting it. One day, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra was sitting in my office. One person who had taken the book a few days earlier came and said some of its pages were missing and were probably left out during the bookbinding phase. I retrieved that copy and gave him another one. When he was about to leave, Chaudhry Sahibra asked him what the subject matter in that book was before and after the missing pages. The gentleman looked at the book and answered. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra filled him in, there and then, about the subject matter in those missing pages and added, “I have given you the gist, you can read the details at home.”
Hazrat Chaudhry Sahib ra was an extremely punctual person. He was ever mindful of this in his daily routine and urged others to do the same. In fact, he trained them practically.
Once, he started a Talim-ul-Quran (study of the Quran) class in London that was attended by young students. The time for the class was fixed and he made it clear to them that the time would be adhered to. He used to come a few minutes before the class and shut the door at the fixed time. Late-comers were not allowed in. Consequently, all the students became punctual in a couple of days.
When Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra was appointed the president of the General Assembly, he maintained his tradition of starting the proceedings on time. Thus, he gave a practical lesson of punctuality to the members of the assembly who were usually casual about time-keeping.
In the context of punctuality, an interesting incident comes to my mind. A friend narrated to me that once, students or Khuddam in Karachi requested Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra to speak on the qualities of a good speaker. He mentioned many qualities in detail. The last thing he mentioned was that a good speaker must be well-aware of the end of the time allocated for his speech. Having said that, he sat down on the chair. The audience noticed the allocated time for his speech had just ended.
During his stay in London, it was his routine to offer his prayers in the mosque. We had an arrangement between the two of us that I would press the doorbell of his flat when going to the mosque for prayers to remind him during his engagements that it was time for prayer.
After performing ablution and offering the Sunnah or nafl [voluntary] prayers, he would make it to the Fazl Mosque usually on time; in fact, a few minutes earlier. He used to sit on a chair at the right end of the first row and would occupy himself with the remembrance of Allah till the start of the congregational prayer. If the number of worshippers was small, he would move his chair to the end of the row and join the prayer.
Sometimes Chaudhry Sahibra was late, and we would wait for him before starting the prayer. One day, a close friend of Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra asked him, “Chaudhry Sahib, you are very punctual and are referred to as a model of punctuality. Why is it that you are late for prayer sometimes?” Chaudhry Sahibra was not offended, rather with his typical smile, he replied, “Allah does forgive, but men do not.”
Frugality and economising
I am now going to mention another unique feature of his life that I have observed myself very often and most of his friends would have witnessed. It is to do with his quality of frugality and economising.
It is a common observation that when a bar of soap used for washing is reduced to a very small size – known as “chipper” in Punjabi – it gets discarded as it remains of no further use. However, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra used to press this “chipper”, or sliver of soap,onto a new bar of soap using his two hands to fuse them together and get more use out of the remaining sliver of soap.
If anybody expressed their surprise about it, he would respond with a simple argument: “If this soap sliver was good enough to be used yesterday, then there is no reason why it can’t be used today!” I observed him, on some occasions, fusing together two different coloured bars of soap.
There is an interesting incident in that context. One day, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra came to the Fazl Mosque for Zuhr prayers wearing brand new shoes, which looked very nice. On leaving the mosque after prayers, when he was putting his shoes back on, a very close friend looked at those shoes with surprise and remarked in a curious manner, “Chaudhry Sahib! These shoes are new.” Chaudhry Sahibra understood his comments full well. He smiled and said, “Well, a new bar of soap can be fused with an old one, but an old shoe cannot be blended with a new one”.
Once, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra expressed his desire to have lunch at an average restaurant nearby. I found such a place on Garratt Lane, near the mosque.
One day, we set out on foot after the prayer and got there within a few minutes. This small restaurant was rather clean, and Chaudhry Sahibra liked it. When he took his seat, I went to the counter, briefed the restaurant owner about Chaudhry Sahibra and placed the order. Fried fish was Chaudhry Sahib’sra favourite dish. The owner fried the fish very carefully and served it with essential sundries very respectfully. Chaudhry Sahibra liked the food very much and ate it with pleasure.
As we were leaving, the owner thanked Chaudhry Sahibra and bade him farewell. Chaudhry Sahibra liked the whole arrangement and that reflected his simplicity and informality. We walked back and, on the way, Chaudhry Sahibra said, “By the Grace of Allah, the food was very delicious. We should come here again some time, if Allah provides the opportunity”. However, such an opportunity never arose.
Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra was not in the habit of slipping in English words here and there when conversing in Urdu. He made sure of that himself and advised others to do the same. I recall, a young man adopted the practice of mixing English and Urdu during a conversation with him. Chaudhry Sahibra counselled him most amicably. He said, “Look! I know both Urdu and English. Speak in whichever language you please, but do not intermingle the two.” I noticed that his advice did have the desired effect temporarily, however, the deep-rooted habit soon took over again. Undeterred, Chaudhry Sahibra persevered with this Jihad of reformation.
A memorable dinner
Once, an Ahmadi friend who resided in the suburbs of London, invited Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra to his place for dinner. Chaudhry Sahibra usually did not like late night dinners as it affected his routine of sleeping and getting up. However, on his sincere insistence, Chaudhry Sahibra agreed. During those days, the Jamaat was campaigning for inviting one or two tabligh contacts to such dinners to fulfil the obligation of tabligh. Accordingly, the host had invited a young English friend. He was seated next to Chaudhry Sahibra and throughout that time, the two were engaged in conversation centred around Islam Ahmadiyyat. Following the dua, when it was time to go after dinner, the host requested to have a group photograph with Chaudhry Sahibra.
Chaudhry Sahibra was not fond of being photographed. Whenever someone wished to have a photograph with him, he usually suggested, “You may photograph me as I am, seated or standing; I am not for formalities.”
That night it was getting quite late and we had to get back to London. Therefore, he wanted to leave as soon as possible. He agreed to the photograph on the insistence of the host but was in a hurry. Everyone gathered around Chaudhry Sahibra. Everyone except an English guest was wearing a cap.
After the photograph, the young English gentleman realised that he was the only one without the cap and wanted to have another photograph taken, this time wearing a cap. Chaudhry Sahibra could not refuse out of respect for the guest. Then the search for a suitable cap started. He tried one, looked in the mirror, asked the host if it was good. You can well imagine how the time would have appeared to drag on for Chaudhry Sahibra. Finally, when the young man got his cap sorted out and was ready for the photograph, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra advised him in one comprehensive sentence. Very affectionately he said, “Look young man! Don’t worry about your cap. It is what is under the cap that matters!” Everyone was amused by that spontaneous advice and the guest also took it well.
Hazrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan Sahibra was blessed with excellent language skills by Allah. He delivered powerful speeches in large chambers of the world, where he demonstrated his God-given intelligence, insight and reasoning. He had very good command over the English language. His style of speech-making was very effective and had an exceptional impact on the audience.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh had directed him during his stay in Holland that he should visit London monthly and devote some time for the tarbiyat of the Jamaat there. Accordingly, he used to visit London, take talim and tarbiyat classes and deliver one Friday sermon, usually in English. The members, especially the young Khuddam, benefitted greatly.
I remember that on one occasion when he stood up for the sermon, he said, “Usually, I deliver Friday sermon in English, but today it will be in Urdu because I will not be able to express a special message that I want to impress on the minds of the members in English.” That was just an example of his humility and modesty otherwise he was blessed by Allah with a good mastery of English.
The other reason was probably that vocabulary in English is not as vast as it is in Arabic or Urdu. Chaudhry Sahibra used to state in a lighter vein that English was not a language of spirituality and one cannot always find suitable words for many spiritual insights and subtleties.
Sittings with Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra used to be very beneficial and enjoyable. He would talk on scholarly points and insightful matters and, when appropriate, narrate light-hearted jokes and humorous anecdotes.
Once, he narrated that during his tour of East Africa, he happened to be in Nairobi. There he was invited to attend and address the meeting of the local Punjabi Literary Association. He added that when going there, he thought that though they were Punjabi, they would not be free of the imprint of English. Sure enough, every speaker there spoke in English.
When, at the end, his turn came, he said, “I started my speech in Punjabi and thereupon the eyes of the audience lit up. When Chaudhry Sahibra completed his speech in typical Punjabi, a Sikh blurted out, “Aj te swad aa gya” [I really enjoyed it today].
A humorous anecdote
An interesting anecdote narrated by Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra comes to my mind. When Chaudhry Sahibra went to Tashkent, the Muslims there invited him to a dinner. Among the guests was the Mufti of Tashkent who was quite huge.
When the dinner started, some of the participants realised that the Mufti was feasting at a galloping speed. Impressed by his swiftness, one of the diners asked him rather facetiously, as if seeking his ruling on the issue, “Mufti Sahib! At what point do you say that (so and so) is fully satiated,” or “How can you tell that he is really satiated?”
Mufti Sahib was a very experienced and seasoned person; he understood fully where he was coming from. He replied very confidently, “People may have their own experiences in this regard. However, in light of my prolonged experience, you can only pronounce someone ‘satiated’ when either the food before him is finished or he himself is finished.” Chaudhry Sahib used to narrate this anecdote in such an interesting manner that each time it was amusing in a new way.
One salient feature of Hazrat Chaudhry Sahib’s life was the regularity of his habits. He did everything in a methodical and precise manner. His style of putting his signature was also unique; he did it slowly and nicely; observing that one could guess that his life followed the same pattern.
Coming to London from Holland over the weekend, he used to give me a brief telephone call from his office in the International Court of Justice saying, “Rashed Sahib, I am about to set out, you should get going too.” Immediately, or a few minutes after the phone call, I would set out for the airport.
As I reached the airport, Chaudhry Sahibra would come out of the airport with his compact brief case. Sometimes, he would be waiting for me before my arrival. His favourite route to or from the airport was via Richmond Park, a beautiful park in the natural environment not too far from the Fazl Mosque. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra liked going through the park because of the fresh air and scene of thousands of deer and stags roaming freely in the park. “A leisurely walk to complete the journey”, he would say.
Informal, free and easy manner of conversation
Informal sittings with Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra were wonderful experiences. He used to converse with loving kindness. He talked about religious and spiritual matters, intellectual and scholarly topics and narrated his personal anecdotes that were both very enlightening and light-hearted.
When narrating incidents, he gave full details with remarkable clarity – date, day, location, atmosphere and the weather. How he managed to remember all such details boggles my mind even to this day. Some narratives he repeated in different meetings but with remarkable consistency of details with no contradictions.
Another good quality of his was that he was never offended by any question and happily gave a brief or detailed reply as the situation demanded.
One day, while we were both seated at the dining table, a strange question sprang up in my mind out of the blue. I asked him, “Chaudhry Sahib! Allah has blessed you abundantly. He has granted you knowledge of many sciences. I would like to find out what it is that you do not know about.” He smiled and said, “You have asked a very good question. Nobody has ever asked me such question before.”
After a brief pause, he said:
“You are right. By His Grace, Allah has indeed blessed this humble one abundantly. Every bit of my being is always in obeisance to Him with gratitude. However, there are a few things that I do not know about. One is driving, and the other is typing.” He immediately added, “It is my Lord’s benevolence towards me that the lack of these skills has never caused any difficulty or hindrance in my work in my entire life.”
He elaborated further:
“I have spent my life in travels which are ongoing. Whenever I have had to go anywhere, my Lord provided me not only with a car, but also a driver as well. I have never had a problem because of not knowing how to drive.” He added, “Similarly, I have been occupied with writing throughout my life and that has been my most important engagement. It was my Lord’s Grace that whenever I had to get a letter or a composition typed, I had the services of a typist and very often, full office facilities were available and, by the Grace of Allah, all my needs were fulfilled without any problem. And such kind treatment of Allah the Exalted for me is continuing.”
I realised that while uttering these words, he was overcome with emotions time and again, and tears welled up in his eyes as he was overcome by feelings of gratitude.
Hidden aspects of his character
Now, I shall state an aspect of Hazrat Chaudhry Sahib’sra character known to very few. I am an eyewitness to these. These incidents relate to the 1971 and 1972.
As already mentioned, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra used to stay in a very small flat. I was staying in the adjoining flat while my family was in Pakistan. We had agreed on a schedule in which Chaudhry Sahib would enter through the middle door at an appointed time and we would have breakfast together at the same table. I used to open the middle door shortly prior to that time and Chaudhry Sahibra used to come dressed in his dressing gown at the exact time; I was also dressed in a gown. We both used to go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
Let me mention here that the very first day I had respectfully and firmly requested that I be granted the service to prepare breakfast saying that it would be a great source of blessings for me: “You take your seat; I shall prepare the breakfast and serve you.” However, Chaudhry Sahibra emphatically replied, “No, I will fully participate in preparing the breakfast.” I had no choice but to comply with his directive.
Accordingly, Chaudhry Sahibra participated fully in preparing the breakfast. Then he would take the cups and plates to the next room where we both had breakfast. Afterwards, despite my insistence, he joined me in washing up. That was very hard for me, but as the saying goes:
اَلْاَمْرُ فَوْقَ الْاَدَب
“Obedience to an order gets preference over respect.” I had no choice.
The tale of an orange
A very interesting incident took place one day. I went to the shops and saw noticed ripe, big oranges. I purchased some and placed them on the breakfast table.
The next day, when Chaudhry Sahibra arrived and before starting breakfast, he picked up one orange and asked me, “Rashed Sahib, will you have half of the orange?” In my naivety and informality, I replied, “No.”
“Then I will not have it either, as the remaining half will go to waste” Chaudhry Sahibra replied before placing the orange back. Chaudhry Sahibra suffered from diabetes and was on medical advice. He could have one small orange or half of a large one in the morning. I was unaware of that and therefore made the mistake that day.
The following morning at breakfast, Chaudhry Sahibra again took an orange and asked me the same question. I replied immediately, “Yes, indeed.” Then he cut the orange and had half of it himself and gave me the other half. Thus, I got half of an orange from him and an excellent lesson as well.
Compliance with medical advice
During the period I saw Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra, his diet was rather small and selective. He had suffered from diabetes for about 40 years. He followed medical advice very strictly and scrupulously and never took anything against the advice of doctors, even if someone insisted. That was the secret of his good health. Allah blessed him with a long and active life.
Looking at his discipline and strict compliance with medical advice, some of his close friends commented that “Chaudhry Sahib is not suffering from diabetes, rather diabetes is suffering from Chaudhry Sahib.” Sometimes Chaudhry Sahibra happened to hear these comments and it led to a dignified smile on his face, but it did not affect his routine.
Advice by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira
Cocoa powder in hot milk was his favourite drink. The reason for that, as he put it, was that when he was about to leave for Europe for the first time, he visited Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira for prayers and guidance. One advice he received from Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Nuruddinra was about the use of cocoa. He said:
“You are going to England which is a cold country. People think that they need to drink alcohol to protect themselves from the cold. I am a physician and know very well that this is incorrect. If you feel like protecting yourself from the cold, use cocoa. It is nourishing and protects from the ill effects of cold.” He remembered that advice always and benefited from it a great deal.
Preparing breakfast himself
One day, when he came for breakfast, he said that he wanted to prepare the whole breakfast himself. I said, “Okay, go ahead, if that is your wish.”
Chaudhry Sahibra poured milk in the saucepan, then he broke a bread into small pieces and added to the milk, next he cracked two eggs and put in the saucepan and finally some honey according to his taste. He cooked all that thoroughly.
Even today as I write this, I can visualise Chaudhry Sahibra holding a spoon in his hand stirring the mixture slowly to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the saucepan and getting burnt. In a few minutes, the halwa-like food was ready. We both ate the delicious breakfast from one dish.
Breakfast out of one pan
A very interesting incident took place one day. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra and I were preparing breakfast in the kitchen. Having fried the eggs, I was going to put them in a plate. Chaudhry Sahibra, who was standing next to me on the left, caught hold of my upper arm and asked, “Rashed Sahib, what are you going to do?” I replied, “These eggs are ready. I am going to put them in the plate and take them to the next room for our breakfast.”
“Who is going to wash the plate?” he asked. “I myself will”, I replied. He said, “Rather than wash the plate, why not eat out of the frying pan.” “As you like”, I replied.
I took the frying pan to the dining room and once again had the good fortune of eating breakfast from the same pan with a respectable companion of the Promised Messiahas.
A full life
By the grace of Allah, Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra had a successful, full and busy life under divine mercy. Even during his temporal and political engagements, he always gave preference to his religion.
He managed to observe prayers on time with extraordinary commitment. He made full use of time. He adorned his time with the remembrance of Allah. He carried out Jihad of the pen and tongue throughout his life. He translated the Holy Quran into English, which was very popular. He authored many books. He wrote inspiring books about Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira and his own mother. He wrote his autobiography in great detail and in a very humble style. He also translated writings of the Promised Messiahas in English.
During the last few years of his life, he excused himself from worldly commitments and devoted himself completely to the service of faith till his last breath. These services by him fall in the category of ongoing charity. The days when he was busy with composition, writing and translation work, spending most of his time on that, he would say:
“I am busy the whole day and this continues late into the night. At last when I get tired and plan to sleep, I put my pen down and tell myself, ‘Zafrulla Khan! You are very tired, rest a while. You have worked today according to your God-given capacity. Go to sleep now. If Allah grants you more time, do the rest tomorrow.’ Saying that, I lie down on my bed.”
What a mystical and inspiring style of going to sleep!
He frequently used a Persian verse in his conversation:
کارِ دنیا کسے تمام نکرد
That is to say, “Nobody has ever accomplished all the tasks of this world.” That is true indeed. However, this too is a reality that in using the time to full effect and using it for beneficent works, Chaudhry Sahibra set an example worth following. He regarded each day and every moment to be Allah’s blessing and tried to spend it in the best possible way.
Talking about this subject, he frequently used the word “respite” that was most appropriate in this sagacious statement. In his conversations, the subject of gratitude for divine favours came up frequently. With reference to sleep, he used to mention very often that of the innumerable favours that Allah had bestowed on him, one was that he fell asleep as soon as he put his head on the pillow.
Thus, none of his time was wasted. He stated many times that when travelling by road, as his car stopped at traffic lights for a short while, he would fall asleep and wake up when it restarted.
The final journey
To conclude, I would like to mention about two of my last meetings with Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra – one during his lifetime and the other after his demise.
When I came to London for the second time in 1983, he was staying in London but had decided to spend the last days of his life in Pakistan. He used to say that he wanted to go to Pakistan while fully mobile on his feet, not enclosed in a coffin.
A few days after my arrival in London, he was scheduled to leave for Pakistan on 19 November 1983 and farewell meetings were ongoing. Chaudhry Sahibra generally treated everyone with love and affection that was more noticeable during the farewell meetings.
Besides the elderly and young members of the Jamaat, he also treated children with affection. However, I never saw him holding any child in his lap. Our son, Ataul Munem Rashed was 11 months old then. I carried him to meet Chaudhry Sahibra thinking that he might or might not get this chance ever again. Chaudhry Sahibra took him in his lap and luckily, he benefitted from his love and prayers. Someone photographed this unique moment but regrettably I do not know who he was and where that photo is now.
On 19 November 1983, he travelled to Lahore via a PIA flight from London Heathrow. This humble one was among those who went to bid him farewell. I had the blessing of embracing him on that occasion which turned out to be the farewell embrace. Fortunately, the photograph taken on that occasion is still there.
He passed away on 1 September 1985 in Lahore. The UK Ahmadiyya Jamaat, greatly indebted to the late Chaudhry Sahibra for his favours, sent a 3-man delegation to Pakistan for participation in the funeral prayerwith approval from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh. This humble one was also included in this delegation.
His body lay in the house of Chaudhry Hameed Nasrullah Khan Sahib’s house, where he had passed away. There was a steady stream of Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis visiting for condolences. We entered the room where his body was laid. Dressed in white sheets, the pious saint rested with amazing splendour. Even at that time, the badge bearing the kalima
لَا اِلٰهَ اِلَّا اللّٰهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰهِ
which he had dedicated all his faculties for throughout his life, was shining on his chest.
After seeing the luminous face of the soul-at-rest, we participated twice in the funeral prayers for him at Lahore and Rabwah.
Later, when he was being buried in the special enclosure of Bahishti Maqbara, Rabwah with the permission of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, this humble one also had the good fortune of taking part in his burial and joining in the final prayer.
Hazrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan Sahibra departed from this world having lived a very blessed and successful life.
May Allah the Exalted grant him a worthy station close to Him. He has departed, but his memories live on and will always be remembered affectionately.