Lessons from four cats and a bird

Jazib Mehmood, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana

It was a Sunday afternoon and Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiahas was at home, albeit worried, as his friend and companion, Hazrat Seth Allah Rakhkha Abdul Rahmanra of Madras, was faced with a difficult problem.

That day, on 29 June 1902, an interesting incident unfolded before the Promised Messiahas at his house. It was so interesting, in fact, that the next day, Huzooras narrated the whole story in a letter to his friend. Huzooras wrote:

“I have four [free-roaming] cats in my house; a mother and three daughters, that are also young and strong. Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting alone in the hallway when a bird came and sat in front of my door. The big cat immediately pounced on the bird and seized the bird’s head in its mouth.

“Then another cat came, snatched the bird from the first one and took its head in its mouth and dragged it on the ground so hard that I could not watch out of pity [for the bird] and turned the other way.

“Then I saw the third cat take the bird’s head in its mouth and at that time I thought that [its] head had probably been devoured. Meanwhile, the fourth cat took the bird and dragged it to the ground.

“At this point, I was sure that the bird was dead and its head had been eaten. The bird fell several times while it was being dragged. Then one of the cats, wishing to partake of the bird’s flesh, pulled it towards itself, perhaps so that half [of the bird] might go to the other cat and a half to it.

“But for some reason, the bird escaped from the mouths of both of them and fell to the ground. As soon as it fell, it fluttered to life and flew away. All four cats gave chase, but what could be done? [The bird] went and sat on a tree, and the cats came back disappointed and beaten.

“My heart was thrilled to see this incident — that this is the way how God Almighty also saves [one] from the hands of their enemies.

“Then, thinking that this was a time for the acceptance of prayer, I prayed for you for a long time, ‘O Almighty God! Just as you saved this helpless bird from the bloodlust of its enemies, so save the life of your helpless servant Abdul Rahman. Amin.’ I hope that this prayer will not be in vain.” (Maktubat-e-Ahmad, 2008, Vol. 2, pp. 404–405)

I started pondering over this incident and noted that there were several lessons to learn from the anecdote about the Promised Messiahas. Here are a few that sprang to my mind:

1. It was a habit of the Promised Messiahas to carefully observe the world around him. 

This might seem irrelevant, but this is a dying habit. However, Huzooras not only observed the natural world around him but also drew conclusions from it. The Holy Quran also teaches us to observe the natural world around us and learn from our surroundings, for example, by presenting the incident of Cain, the son of Hazrat Adamas. He had killed his brother in a moment of anger, and at that time, Allah the Almighty states:

فَبَعَثَ اللّٰهُ غُرَابًا يَّبۡحَثُ فِي الۡاَرۡضِ لِيُرِيَهٗ كَيۡفَ يُوَارِيۡ سَوۡءَةَ اَخِيۡهِ ؕ قَالَ يٰوَيۡلَتٰۤي اَعَجَزۡتُ اَنۡ اَكُوۡنَ مِثۡلَ هٰذَا الۡغُرَابِ فَاُوَارِيَ سَوۡءَةَ اَخِيۡ

“Then Allah sent a raven, which scratched in the ground, that He might show him how to hide the corpse of his brother. He said, ‘Woe is me! Am I not able to be even like this raven so that I may hide the corpse of my brother?’” (Surah al-Maidah Ch.5: V.32)

2. Huzooras was a true friend, who cared for his companions.

In 1902, the plague was raging in India and Huzooras was busy writing books, and warning people, not to mention that The Review of Religions and Badr had just been launched. And yet, perhaps at a moment of rest, or quiet reflection and prayer, Huzoor’s mind was occupied with his friend’s hardships, full of empathy at the challenges the companion was facing in his life. Hence, when he was reminded of Allah’s marvellous help for his servants, he prayed for his friend. 

3. Huzooras kept in touch with his friends through frequent letters. 

We often do not bother to keep in touch, citing excuses, but our Imam, the Promised Messiahas, kept in touch with his friends, listening to their problems and praying for them. The aforementioned story is taken from a four-volume collection of the Promised Messiah’sas letters to his friends, acquaintances, and colleagues titled Maktubat-e-Ahmad. It contains thousands of letters in which he inquires about his friends and lets them know how things are with him.

4. Huzooras had a soft heart, full of sympathy for all of God’s creations. 

Seeing the bird dragged across the floor was so painful that he could not watch. This is not to say that the Promised Messiahas was faint-hearted. Rather, as is apparent from other incidents in Huzoor’s life, Huzooras was extremely kind-hearted and could not bear to see the innocent in pain.

5. The Promised Messiahas was the embodiment of ‘the mind being set on the Beloved, even when busy performing worldly duties’ [dil ba yar, dast ba kar].

The Promised Messiahas saw the manifestation of God’s attributes everywhere and even ordinary occurrences of life reminded him in his Beloved. In his book Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat (p. 4), Huzooras states: 

هے‭ ‬عجب‭ ‬جلوه‭ ‬تِری ‬قدرت‭ ‬كا‭ ‬پيارے‭ ‬هر‭ ‬طرف

جس‭ ‬طرف‭ ‬ديكهيں‭ ‬وهی ‬ره‭ ‬هے‭ ‬تِرے‭ ‬ديدار‭ ‬كا

What show of Thy splendour is all around, My Dear, 

Wherever we look, that way leads to Thy View!

6. The Promised Messiahas was extremely humble and hopeful of the help of Allah. 

Here is a prophet of Allah the Almighty, whom Allah had promised on multiple occasions that all his prayers would be accepted. And yet he remains humble and prays long and hard for his friend.

In conclusion, a small event in the life of the Promised Messiahas can shed light on his beautiful character and personality. In this particular incident, we learn, from many small details, some of these characteristics.

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