The author of this essay is the grandson of Maulana Abdul Hakim Akmal Sahib. This article is based mainly on the author’s personal research, and much of the information presented here has been gleaned from personal memories rather than Jamaat’s literature. –The Editor
Suhaib Akmal, The Netherlands
Early contact of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya with the Netherlands
One of the early contacts of the Jamaat with the Netherlands was when Hazrat Chaudhry Zafrulla Khanra visited the Netherlands in 1914 in a personal capacity. Another contact recorded in literature is when a Dutch lady named Mrs Budd, who was inspired by reading an article by Hazrat Maulvi Muhammad-ud-Dinra, performed written bai‘at in 1924. More recent research indicates that there were possibly even earlier contacts and converts before Mrs Budd. Nevertheless, the first missionary to be officially posted to the Netherlands was Hafiz Qudratullah Sahib, who reached the Netherlands on 2 July 1947. (History of Jamaat Netherlands, pp. 27-40)
After having served the Jamaat for three years, Hafiz Qudratullah Sahib was called back to Pakistan in 1950. (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, p. 183) At the time, there were two other missionaries in the Netherlands, one being Maulana Ghulam Ahmad Bashir, who was posted in 1947, and Maulana Abu Bakr Ayub, who was posted in 1950.
Maulana Abdul Hakim Akmal Sahib, together with Maulana Hafiz Qudratullah Sahib, Maulana Ghulam Ahmad Bashir Sahib, and Abu Bakr Ayub Sahib, was one of the pioneer missionaries in the Netherlands. Akmal Sahib reached the Netherlands on 6 December 1957. He served the Jamaat for various periods in the Netherlands. First from 1957 to 1961, then from 1964 to 1970, then from 1972 to 1977, and at last, from 1981 to 1994. (Ibid., p. 108)
From 1964 to 1994, he had the honour of serving as the missionary in-charge of the Netherlands. He also served the Jamaat in Belgium in 1987 and had the honour of establishing the Jamaat in Luxembourg in 1989. In total, he served the Community for a period of approximately 32 years. (In Memory of Abdul Hakim Akmal, a biography by Shoaib Akmal, 9 December 2005)
Early life and education
Maulana Abdul Hakim Akmal was born on 4 December 1931 in Qadian. He was the eldest child of Mian Abdur Rahim Sahib and Khadija Begum Sahiba. His ancestors originated in Kashmir. Akmal Sahib’s family was fortunate to have his grandfather, Mian Khair Din Sahib, work in the service of Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra and it played a significant role in his family’s spiritual upbringing.
He successfully completed his intermediate education and did Maulvi Fazil at the Punjab University in Lahore. In 1947, the family migrated from India to Pakistan. Through Lahore and Chiniot, they eventually arrived in Rabwah. On 8 November 1950, Akmal Sahib decided to dedicate his life to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He completed his studies at Jamia Ahmadiyya Rabwah in 1956.
On 10 January 1957, Akmal Sahib married Masooda Begum Sahiba. They had six children together, two of whom passed away in infancy. (Ibid.)
Posting to the Netherlands
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra decided to send Akmal Sahib as a missionary to the Netherlands in 1957. Once Akmal Sahib was informed about his posting, he was quite worried because he could not speak a word of Dutch and thought to himself how he would ever be able to spread the message of the Promised Messiahas without knowing the language of its citizens. When Akmal Sahib met Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, he expressed his concerns. When Huzoorra heard of this, he said, “You will learn the language; I shall pray for you.” (Ibid.)
After hearing these words, Akmal Sahib’s worries instantly vanished. Akmal Sahib had, during his time in the Netherlands, never studied the Dutch language at a university. However, because of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud’sra special prayers, he became fluent in the language.
Akmal Sahib left Pakistan by ship in September 1957 and arrived in Italy after a couple of days’ journey. From there, he took a train, which took him through France and Belgium to the Netherlands. When he arrived in the Netherlands, he was welcomed at the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague by Hafiz Qudratullah Sahib and his family.
A great difficulty Akmal Sahib endured was that he had to live away from his family for a very long period of time. His wife and children had to stay back in Pakistan, as it was not affordable to bring them along. Although there were occasional visits in between, Akmal Sahib had to live away from his family for more than fifteen years. He would always be fervent in his prayers and had put all his trust in Allah, who eventually instilled in him a strong feeling of comfort and relief from his worries through a dream.
Some of his tabligh efforts
Most of his time was spent in the Netherlands. Hibbatun-Nur Verhagen Sahib, who is currently serving as Amir Jamaat, mentions that Akmal Sahib was one of the first people to do tabligh to him and that on one occasion they sat down in the mosque and he preached to him for two hours. He also used to go for walks in the park near the Mobarak Mosque. Sometimes during his walks, when he used to sit down on a bench, he would preach to the person sitting next to him on the same bench. He used to avail himself of every possibility to do tabligh. (Interview, Hibattun-Nur Verhagen, Life of Abdul Hakim Akmal, 12 May 2019)
Another interesting incident where Akmal Sahib had the opportunity to do tabligh was in a church in Amersfoort. Some priests were gathering and holding an event in a church in Amersfoort. They also wanted to invite someone from the Muslim community who could share his views from an Islamic perspective. The priests were certain that it was highly unlikely for someone to show up from among the Muslims who might be capable enough, and their intention was, in fact, to defame Islam. They knew that many people would come, including Muslims, so they thought that this was a good opportunity for them. The invitation reached a non-Ahmadi imam in Utrecht. He was concerned about the situation and did not know what to do. However, he was informed by someone that there is an imam in The Hague who is very knowledgeable. The imam contacted Akmal Sahib, who was prepared to come to the event and present Islamic teachings. He delivered a very powerful speech on Islam, and afterwards, he also answered the questions people had raised about Islam. Because of Akmal Sahib’s efforts, the priests miserably failed in their objective, and Islam won their hearts. After the session concluded, the Muslims who were present at the church were full of joy and happiness – so much so that they grabbed Akmal Sahib and lifted him into the air! (Audio recording, Shoaib Akmal, Life of Abdul Hakim Akmal, 18 April 2019) Many natives in the Netherlands were converted to Islam through him.
Character and personality
Akmal Sahib used to live a very simple life. It was his routine to go to the market at 4 pm, as this was near the closing time of the market. The sellers used to reduce their prices, and this way he used to save money. However, he was also keen on having nice food and loved to have omelettes for breakfast. Once Abdul Ghany Jahangir Khan Sahib said to Akmal Sahib: “Maulana Sahib, your doctor has forbidden eggs; you shouldn’t eat them.” He replied: “I know, but I can’t help it; I like eggs too much!”. Jahangir Khan Sahib also mentioned that “Akmal Sahib was a gentle, kind, and soft-spoken man. He was very loving towards me. May Allah rest his soul in the highest stations in Paradise.” (Interview, Abdul Ghany Jahangir Khan, Life of Abdul Hakim Akmal, 16 April 2019)
Akmal Sahib was also a poet and wrote a number of poems in Urdu.
Abdul Basit Shahid Sahib wrote that Akmal Sahib was simple in personality and was a contented man in all situations. He had a special character that gave the impression of a serious personality, but his sense of humour was so striking that people were left laughing for a long time afterwards.
He was humble in character and was able to convincingly pursue the defence of Islam by presenting irrefutable arguments. He made a major contribution to the defence of Islam against the attacks of various Christian groups in the Netherlands. Akmal Sahib also played an important role in the publication of the monthly magazine Al Islam and the translation of several books. In addition, he also published a lot of articles in various newspapers and magazines and wrote a book titled What is Islam?.
In the 1970s, Akmal Sahib was blessed to spend a lot of time in the company of Hazrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khanra, who used to visit the Jamaat during his tenure as the president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Special bond with Khilafat
Aslam Javaid Sahib relates that “If there is one thing that I saw in Akmal Sahib’s life, it is that he had much love for Khilafat.” (Interview, Aslam Javaid, Life of Abdul Hakim Akmal, 28 April 2019)
Akmal Sahib was blessed that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh and Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh visited the Netherlands during his service there. Akmal Sahib had the honour of being the private secretary of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh from 1971 to 1972. (History of Jamaat Netherlands, p. 108)
One incident is that when the Jamaat was informed about the migration of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh from Pakistan to the United Kingdom, Ataul Mujeeb Rashed Sahib telephoned Akmal Sahib, then missionary in-charge, Holland, and gave detailed instructions as to how Huzoorrh was to be received in the Netherlands and that the information of his arrival was to be communicated immediately to London. (The Review of Religions, Migration of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, May 2007, p. 33)
Akmal Sahib had the blessed opportunity to be the first person to receive Huzoorrh for his temporary stay at the airport and spend some time with him. Later, when Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh visited the Netherlands, he always showed his love to Akmal Sahib. Huzoorrh would also often have informal sessions with the Jamaat members, whereby they would go for bicycle rides and share stories in a very friendly manner, sitting in a park, like family members.
Akmal Sahib passed away on 10 May 2000. When Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh was informed of the demise of Akmal Sahib, he wrote the following to Masooda Begum Sahiba, the wife of Akmal Sahib:
“The news regarding the demise of dear Abdul Hakim Akmal is very sorrowful, inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji‘un. May Allah descend His mercy upon him and grant him a place among the most esteemed people. The deceased was very just and a sincere life-devotee. He has served for a long time in the Jamaat Netherlands. He has also brought up his children in a just manner. On this occasion, I would like to convey my condolences to the children. It is my prayer that they may be able to keep alive the work of their father, and may Allah grant them patience.” (In the memory of Abdul Hakim Akmal, a biography by Shoaib Akmal, 9 December 2005)
On 12 May, his funeral prayer was offered at the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague, where many Jamaat members expressed their love for Akmal Sahib. Then, on 13 May, his funeral prayer was led by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, who later was elected as Khalifatul Masih Vaa. On 16 June 2000, his funeral prayer in absentia was also led by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh in London. The body of Akmal Sahib was transported to Rabwah, Pakistan, where he was buried in Bahishti Maqbarah. (In the memory of Abdul Hakim Akmal, a biography by Shoaib Akmal, 9 December 2005)