To build a picture of the elementary days of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya in the UK, we spoke to Rafiq Ahmad Hayat Sahib, now Amir Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya UK, who served as the first Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya UK from 1988 to 1992. (Before Sadrs, national Qaids were assigned duties as heads of Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya for countries.) His recollections are published below.
Rafiq Ahmad Hayat
Amir Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya UK
I came to this country in the late 1960s. I was a tifl and there was a very small Jamaat here. Bashir Ahmad Rafiq Sahib was the Imam and Laiq Ahmad Tahir Sahib was the deputy Imam. I remember that Laiq Tahir Sahib appointed me as secretary Atfal. That is my earliest memory [of work in Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya]; I was probably the first secretary Atfal appointed in the UK.
At that stage, we used to have most of our activities around Fazl Mosque. There was no Mahmood Hall and we only had two buildings – 61 and 63 Melrose Road. There used to be a basement where we used to congregate, both Khuddam and Atfal. There used to be old plank tables which were used for food as well as games and we used to play table tennis which we became very good at.
I remember some activities used to be held in the gardens of 63 Melrose Road. At that time, Sir Chaudhry Zafrulla Khan Sahibra used to visit the UK regularly and therefore, our tarbiyat was being undertaken by him. I remember when Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh visited, he instructed the then Amir, Bashir Rafiq Sahib that we should start Quran classes for the young Khuddam and Atfal. So, Bashir Rafiq Sahib started the classes and then Chaudhry Zafrulla Khan Sahibra took over and he converted it into a study circle; that was basically our tarbiyat which was carried out in the form of a study circle. These are early memories of how the Khuddam and Atfal activities used to take place in the early days.
As regards Khuddam Ijtema, we probably had our first Ijtema in the late 60s, maybe early 70s, at Wimbledon Common. It was an open-air event and we only had sports. We had races; I remember people running on the grass. We had some events and Hazrat Sir Zafrulla Khan Sahibra came and distributed prizes. That was one of the first Ijtemas that I can remember that took place in the UK.
Then we continued having small Ijtemas. When Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh came to this country, the first Jalsa Salana that we had was in Mahmood Hall which only takes about 300-350 people. Then, the following year, under the instructions of Huzoorrh, we acquired Islamabad, and from then on, that became the base for the activities. Before that, I remember some of the Ijtemas taking place in Hounslow at Heathfield School. I remember we used to play hockey there too and it was a bit more organised at that stage.
After we acquired Islamabad, from what I can recall, the first ever Ijtema was a regional Ijtema that took place there and London region and Middlesex region held a combined Ijtema there. The big attraction, then, was that at the bicycle sheds we arranged to do a big barbeque and that was a great feature of the event. Then we started organising various sports events and we had cricket and football tournaments. And we also held our Ijtemas at Islamabad.
When Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh came to this country, although we were very good Ahmadis, but we were not well-acquainted with the nizam (system of the Jamaat). So, Huzoorrh taught us this from zero.
The first Ijtema I remember is when Huzoorrh appointed me as the National Qaid. I was secretary Tabligh, UK and suddenly I got instructions from Amir Sahib that Huzoorrh had instructed that I should take the responsibility of National Qaid.
It was at that time that Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya had organised a European Ijtema. I remember that once, at night, Huzoorrh came for Salat and it was raining outside. After the prayer, Huzoorrh came off the stage, put on his shoes and began walking out. As he did this, Huzoorrh noticed a car throwing light onto the field. Huzoorrh asked, “Who is that?” I replied that I didn’t know. Then, when we reached his residence, there were various Khuddam on duty and Huzoorrh asked me introduce the Khuddam. My training started then as National Qaid, in that you should know exactly what is going on. Everything should be within your knowledge. So, Huzoorrh started with very basic lessons which we needed.
Part of the training was that Huzoorrh wanted to engage with the youth and that anything we wanted to do, Huzoorrh would be a part of it. If we were having a cricket match, I would request Huzoorrh saying, “We are having a cricket match and afterwards, we are going to have a barbeque. Would you please join us?” And so, Huzoorrh would come and he would stay for a long time; this was part of our training that he was undertaking. Then we started having Ijtemas and European Ijtemas as well.
Then, later on, with Huzoor’s permission we started the Atfal Rally as a separate event for Atfal. I once said to Huzoorrh, “This weekend we are holding the first ever Atfal Rally and we would like to invite you to the final session.” Huzoorrh replied, “I’m sorry Sadr Sahib, but I have already made plans to go to Devon and Cornwall with my family.” Huzoorrh left and went upstairs, while Malik Ashfaq Sahib, Major Sahib and I stood outside. I remarked, “Let’s pray, maybe he will come back.” This was just something from my heart that came out.
Huzoorrh left on Saturday morning, and in the early hours of Sunday at 1am, I was sitting in my cabin and I received the message that Huzoorrh had come back.
The next day, Huzoorrh graced the final session. Huzoorrh himself related the story that he was ready to depart when I (Sadr Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya) asked him but was told that he could not come and so, he left on Saturday morning after Fajr and got to Devon and Cornwall. Huzoorrh said that he asked Major Sahib to start looking for some accommodation. The first hotel they went to was fully booked and so was the second one. He said that he had travelled throughout the UK so many times and never had that happened before. He said that he went to three or four hotels and all of them were booked. It was getting a bit dark, and so Huzoorrh said that it would be better to get back as they could not find any accommodation. Huzoorrh arrived back at 1am in the morning. Huzoorrh said that at night, he thought to himself that that had never happened before. Later, Major Sahib then revealed what actually happened, saying that the real reason was that there was a prayer duel between Malik Ashfaq Sahib and Sadr Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya, and it seemed as if Sadr Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya had won. It was after this that Huzoorrh started attending Atfal Rallies and held question and answer sessions too. So that was the Atfal side that was very important.
During the time of the Jamaat Centenary, Huzoorrh allowed us to do a proper parade in Islamabad. I requested Huzoorrh that we wanted to do a march-past. Huzoorrh even allowed us to use a drum. Huzoorrh stood on a stage with a garland around his neck as we did a march-past and Lajna also did a march-past.
As part of the centenary celebrations, one of the other events that happened was that from Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya, we decided to do a cycle marathon from Bradford to London. We started in Bradford where there were hundreds of people, and the idea was that we would go from city to city and everywhere we would go, we would have dignitaries, politicians and mayors receiving us as the media also gave us coverage. Thus, we would be able to show the positive side of Islam whilst raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital.
First, we arrived at Huddersfield, then to Sheffield and I remember when we reached Birmingham, we came to the BBC studios and they said that on the one hand, there were Muslims burning books and on the other, we were raising money for charity. When we came into London, there was a beautiful reception and Huzoorrh was there along with a number of other people. Great Ormond Street Hospital dedicated a place in their Hospital to Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya UK.
Now that we have reached maturity, the expectations are much, much higher. In this country in particular, we are absolutely blessed that Huzooraa knows a lot of the people in the country and it would be a great loss not to take advantage of that. The UK Khuddam and Atfal have a responsibility to shine above everyone else because we have to be the example for everyone. After all, this is where Khilafat is.