25 September 2020
Men of Excellence: Hazrat Bilalra
After reciting the Tashahud, Ta‘awuz, and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa said:
Previously, I was relating the accounts from the life of Hazrat Bilalra. In one of the narrations it states that Abdullah bin Buraidah narrated on the authority of his father:
“One morning, the Messengersa of Allah called for Hazrat Bilalra and asked, ‘O Bilal! What is the reason for you being in front of me in Paradise? I entered Paradise last night and I heard your footsteps before me.’ Hazrat Bilalra replied, ‘Whenever I call the Azan, I offer two rak‘aat [units] of prayer and whenever my ablution [wuzu] breaks, I perform ablution again. And I consider this incumbent upon me from Allah to offer the two rak‘aat.’ Upon that, the Messenger of Allahsa said, ‘This is the reason.’” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Abwab al-Manaqib, Hadith 3689)
In another narration, it is stated that Hazrat Abu Hurairahra narrates:
“The Holy Prophetsa said to Hazrat Bilalra at the morning prayer, ‘Bilal, tell me about the most hopeful act you have done since your acceptance of Islam [i.e. one for which you hope for the most reward from God] because I heard the sound of your footsteps in front of me in Paradise?’ Hazrat Bilalra replied, ‘I do not consider any act more hopeful [for reward] other than whenever I have performed the ablution during the day or the night, I would immediately perform prayer with that wuzu for as long as was destined for me to perform it.’” This narration is from Bukhari. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tahajud, Bab Fazl al-Tuhur bi al-Lail wa al-Nahar, Hadith 1149)
This does not mean that Hazrat Bilalra surpassed the Holy Prophetsa in any way, rather it only means that Allah the Almighty granted him this status – due to his purity and cleanliness and due to his [voluntary] prayers in seclusion – thus he was with the Holy Prophetsa in Paradise like he used to be in this world.
It was previously mentioned in one of the narrations that on the day of Eid, Hazrat Bilalra would walk in front of the Holy Prophetsa while holding a spear and would then plant the spear into the ground to indicate the direction of the Ka‘bah and the Holy Prophetsa would lead the Eid prayer. Thus, Allah the Almighty continued to grant him that honour even in Paradise due to his purity and worship just as the Holy Prophetsa saw in one of his visions.
It is mentioned in another narration, “The Messengersa of Allah said, ‘When I was being taken towards Paradise at night, I heard the sound of someone’s footsteps. I asked, “O Gabriel, whose footsteps are those?” Gabriel replied, “It is Bilalra.”’ Hazrat Abu Bakrra said, ‘I wish I was born from the mother of Bilalra. I wish the father of Bilalra was my father and I was like Bilalra.’” (Majma al-Zawa‘id wa Manba al-Fawa‘id, Vol. 9, p. 363, Kitab al-Manaqib, Bab Fadl Bilal al-Mu’adhin, Hadith 15635)
What a lofty status is that of Bilalra, who once used to be considered worthless and dragged across rocks, and then came a time when Hazrat Abu Bakrra stated that he wished he had been Bilalra.
Whilst mentioning the early companions, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahibra writes:
“Then was Bilalra bin Rabah … the Abyssinian slave of Umaiyyah bin Khalaf. After he migrated, the duty of calling the Azan in Medina was entrusted to him. However, after the demise of the Holy Prophetsa he stopped calling the Azan but in the Khilafat of Hazrat Umarra, when Syria was conquered, upon the persistence of Hazrat Umarra, he called the Azan. This reminded everyone of the Holy Prophet’ssa time and Hazrat Umarra and the companions who were present at the time, as well as himself wept profusely. Hazrat Umarra loved Bilalra to the extent that when he died, Hazrat Umarra said, ‘This day a leader of the Muslims has passed away.’ These were the words of the king of that time for a poor Abyssinian [former] slave.” (Sirat Khatamun-Nabiyyin, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra, pp. 124-125)
On one occasion, addressing Ahmadi women, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra quoted the following verse of the Holy Quran:
اَلۡمَالُ وَالۡبَنُوۡنَ زِيۡنَةُ الۡحَيٰوةِ الدُّنۡيَا ۚ وَالۡبٰقِيٰتُ الصّٰلِحٰتُ خَيۡرٌ عِنۡدَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَّخَيۡرٌاَمَلًا
“Wealth and children are an ornament of the life of this world. But enduring good works are better in the sight of thy Lord in respect of immediate reward, and better in respect of future hope.” (Surah al-Kahf, Ch.18: V.47)
Whilst expounding upon this verse and also mentioning Hazrat Bilalra, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra stated that there is only one thing that shall remain and that is وَالۡبٰقِيٰتُ الصّٰلِحٰتُ[enduring good works]. Whatever deeds one carries out for the sake of God will remain. Following this, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra stated:
“Where is Abu Hurairah’sra progeny and property today? We have no knowledge of any property he had or his children. We do not know whether he even had any children. However, despite not having seen his children, his house or property, when we mention his name we say ‘Hazrat Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him.’”
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra further states:
“A few days ago, an Arab visited me and said that he was from the progeny of Bilalra. I am not certain whether he spoke the truth or not; however, at that time, I had a heartfelt desire to embrace him, as he was the offspring of that individual, who called the Azan in the mosque of the Holy Prophetsa. Where is the progeny of Bilalra today? We do not whether he even had any progeny. And even if he did, we do not know where they are, nor do we have any knowledge of his wealth or properties. However, the fact that he called the Azan in the mosque of the Holy Prophetsa remains and will continue to remain in the future as well.” (Masturat sey Khitab, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 16, pp. 457-458)
Therefore, it is only the pious deeds that shall remain.
Hazrat Bilalra narrated 44 ahadith [sayings of the Holy Prophetsa] and four narrations have been included in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. (Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala li Imam al-Dhahabi, Vol. 1, p. 360, ‘Bilal bin Rabah’, Mu‘assisat al-Risalah, 2014)
In one narration, it is mentioned that the Holy Prophetsa said that heaven is eagerly awaiting three individuals; Alira, Ammarra and Bilalra. (Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala li Imam al-Dhahabi, Vol. 1, p. 355, ‘Bilal bin Rabah’, Mu‘assisat al-Risalah, 2014)
Once, Hazrat Umarra was narrating the excellences of Hazrat Abu Bakrra. Whilst doing so, he pointed towards Hazrat Bilalra and said, “This is Bilalra, our leader.” He was mentioning the qualities of Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Bilalra was also seated [in the gathering]. Hazrat Umarra pointed towards him and said, “This is Bilalra, our leader and he is an example of one of the pious deeds of Hazrat Abu Bakrra.” This is because he purchased Hazrat Bilalra and freed him from captivity. (Tarikh Dimashq al-Kabir li Ibn Asakir, Vol. 10, p. 363, Dhikr man Ismuh Bilal bin Rabah, Dar Ihya al-Turah al-Arabi, Beirut, 2001)
A‘idh bin Amr relates that Abu Sufyan once walked by Hazrat Salmanra, Hazrat Suhaibra and Hazrat Bilalra in a gathering. Upon this, these individuals said, “By God! The swords of Allah did not strike the necks of the enemies of Allah on their appropriate places.” The narrator says that upon this Hazrat Abu Bakrra responded, “Do you say this about an honourable man of the Quraish and their chief?” Thereafter, Hazrat Abu Bakrra went to the Holy Prophetsa. (In other words, Hazrat Abu Bakrra disapproved of what they said regarding the chief of the Quraish in that they did not take appropriate revenge against him.) Following this, Hazrat Abu Bakrra went to the Holy Prophetsa and informed him of this incident.
The Holy Prophetsa stated, “O Abu Bakr! Perhaps you have upset them. If you have upset them, then you have displeased your Lord.” Hazrat Abu Bakrra went to them and said, “O my dear brothers, have I upset you?” Hazrat Abu Bakrra presented the incident before the Holy Prophetsa so that may admonish them; however, instead, the Holy Prophetsa stated that perhaps they had been upset by his words.
However, how great was the character of Hazrat Abu Bakrra that he immediately returned to them and said, “My dear brothers! Did I upset you?” To this, they replied, “No, dear brother, may Allah grant you forgiveness. You did nothing of the sort; we are not upset with you.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab Faza‘il al-Sahabah, Bab min Faza‘il Salman wa Suhaib wa Bilal, Hadith 2504)
Hazrat Abu Musara narrates:
“I was with the Holy Prophetsa when he was passing through Jir‘anah, (a place between Mecca and Medina). Hazrat Bilalra was also with us. A Bedouin came to see the Holy Prophetsa and said, ‘O Muhammad[sa]! Will you not fulfil the promise you have made with me?’ The Holy Prophetsa replied, ‘I give you glad tidings.’ The Bedouin then said, ‘You have said أَبْشِرْ i.e. “I give you glad tidings” many times to me before.’ The Holy Prophetsa turned away from the Bedouin as if in a state of displeasure and looked towards Hazrat Abu Musara and Hazrat Bilalra and did not look towards the Bedouin again.
“Turning to them the Holy Prophetsa said, ‘I was giving him glad tidings, but he has rejected it. You both can accept this glad tiding.’ They both replied, ‘O Messengersa of Allah, we accept it.’ The Holy Prophetsa then requested for a bowl of water to be brought and using this, he washed his hands and his face and also rinsed out his mouth. He then said, ‘Both of you pour this over you face and chest and be content.’ Thus, they both took the bowl and did as the Holy Prophetsa had ordered them. From behind the curtain, Hazrat Umm-e-Salamahra said, ‘Whatever is left in the bowl that you two have with you, save some for your mother,’ i.e. for Hazrat Umm-e-Salamahra, the mother of the believers. Thus they left some in the bowl for her.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab Faza‘il al-Sahabah, Bab min Faza‘il Abi Musa wa Abi Amir al-Ash‘ariyyin, Hadith 2497)
Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talibra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa stated:
“Each prophet is granted seven leaders, but I have been granted 14” i.e. double the number. They asked Hazrat Alira who were those 14 leaders. Hazrat Alira stated: “Me, both my sons, Jafarra, Hamzahra, Abu Bakrra, Umarra, Musabra bin Umair, Bilalra, Salmanra, Miqdadra, Abu Dharrra, Ammarra and Abdullah bin Masudra.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Abwab al-Manaqib, Hadith 3785)
Hazrat Zaid bin Arqamra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa said, “How excellent is Bilalra, he is the chief of all the muazzins [those who call the Azan]. Only those who are muazzins will follow after him and on the Day of Resurrection, the people with the longest necks will be the muazzins.” (Al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihain li al-Hakim, Dhikr Bilal bin Rabah, Vol. 3, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2002, p. 322)
Hazrat Zaid bin Arqamra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa said, “How excellent is Bilal, he is the leader of the martyrs and the muazzins and on the Day of Resurrection, Hazrat Bilalra will have the longest neck”, meaning that Hazrat Bilalra will have a lofty and prominent rank. (Majma al-Zawa‘id wa Manba al-Fawa‘id, Vol. 9, p. 363, Kitab al-Manaqib, Bab Fadl Bilal al-Muazzin, Hadith 15636, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2002)
In one narration it is mentioned that the Holy Prophetsa stated, “Bilal will be granted one of the camels of paradise which he will be seated upon.” (Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala li Imam al-Dhahabi, Vol. 1, p. 355, ‘Bilal bin Rabah’, Mu‘assisat al-Risalah, 2014)
The wife of Hazrat Bilalra states, “Once the Holy Prophetsa came to our home and enquired if Bilalra was at home. I said that he had not yet returned home. The Holy Prophetsa then said, ‘It seems that you are upset with Bilal?’ I replied that he loved me a lot. Every time he spoke, he would say he heard such and such from the Messengersa of Allah.’ Upon this the Holy Prophetsa said to Hazrat Bilal’sra wife, ‘Whatever Bilal relates to you from me, that is indeed the truth. Bilal would never lie to you. Thus, you should never remain upset with Bilal and none of your deeds will be accepted if Bilal is upset with you.’” (Tarikh Dimashq al-Kabir li Ibn Asakir, Vol. 10, p. 356, Dhikr man Ismuh Bilal bin Rabah, Dar Ihya al-Turah al-Arabi, Beirut, 2001)
Hazrat Abu Hurairahra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa stated, “The example of Bilal is like that of a honey bee, who sucks the nectar from sweet fruit as well as bitter shrubs, but when honey is produced, all of it is sweet.” (Majma al-Zawa‘id wa manba al-Fawa‘id, Vol. 9, p. 364, Kitab al-Manaqib, Bab Fadl Bilal al-Muazzin, Hadith 15639, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2002)
Hazrat Bilal’sra wife narrates, “Before Hazrat Bilalra would go to bed, he would recite the following prayer:
اللّٰهُمَّ تَجَاوَزْعَنْ سَيِّئَاتِیْ وَاعْذُرْنِیْ بِعِلَّاتِیْ
‘O Allah! Overlook my mistakes and forgive me for my errors, deeming them to be a weakness on my part.’” (Al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir li al-Tabarani, Vol. 1, p. 337, Bab Bilal bin Rabah, Hadith 1009, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, Beirut, 2002)
Hazrat Bilalra narrates:
“The Holy Prophetsa said to me, ‘O Bilal! Ensure that you pass away in a state of poverty and not in a state of affluence!’ I submitted, ‘O Messengersa of Allah! I did not understand this statement’”, i.e. to pass away in a state of poverty and not in a state of affluence. “‘How can this be?’ The Holy Prophetsa then stated, ‘Whatever provision is granted to you, do not hoard it and do not withhold that what is asked from you.’ I asked, ‘O Messengersa of Allah! If I am unable to do this, then what will happen?’ The Holy Prophetsa stated, ‘This must be adhered to, otherwise hell will await such a person.’” (Al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir li al-Tabarani, Vol. 1, p. 341, Bab Bilal bin Rabah, Hadith 1021, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, 2002)
Thus, one should never allow someone who is in need to go away empty-handed and also it should not be the case that one simply hoards and accumulates wealth, rather it is important to spend the wealth as well.
Hazrat Bilalra passed away in 20 AH in Damascus, during the Khilafat of Hazrat Umarra. According to some narrations, he passed away in Aleppo. At the time, Hazrat Bilalra was over 60 years old. According to some narrations, Hazrat Bilalra passed away in 18 AH. He was buried in a graveyard in Damascus near Bab as-Saghir. (Tarikh Dimashq al-Kabir li Ibn Asakir, Vol. 10, p. 363, Dhikr man Ismuh Bilal bin Rabah, Dar Ihya al-Turah al-Arabi, Beirut, 2001) (Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra Li ibn Saad, Vol. 3, p. 180)
With regard to Hazrat Bilal’s rank and status, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra states (some of these narrations I have already related previously, but keeping in view the order and sequence of the accounts, one or two of the earlier accounts will be repeated):
“Hazrat Bilalra was an Abyssinian and was not fluent in Arabic. Whilst speaking Arabic, he would make a number of mistakes [in pronunciation]. For example, the natives of Abyssinia would pronounce the Arabic letter ‘sheen’ as ‘seen’. Thus during the Azan, instead of ‘Ash-hadu’, Hazrat Bilalra would say ‘As-hadu’ and the Arabs would laugh at this because they still felt that their own race was superior, even though the Arabs themselves are unable to correctly pronounce certain words of other languages. For example, they are unable to correctly pronounce the word ‘roti’ [flat bread in Urdu] as they would be unable to pronounce the letter ‘ta’ [a letter of the Urdu alphabet which has a strong ‘T’ sound, similar to that in the word ‘tent’]. Similarly, they would be unable to pronounce the ‘ch’ in ‘churi’ [form of bread] and instead would pronounce it as ‘juri’.”
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:
“Just as certain non-Arab people are unable to correctly pronounce letters of the Arabic language, similarly, the Arabs themselves are unable to correctly pronounce certain letters of other languages. Yet they were so consumed within themselves by the sense of Arab supremacy that they failed to understand that they themselves were unable to pronounce certain letters of other languages. Seeing the Arabs laugh at Hazrat Bilalra for pronouncing ‘Ash-hadu’ as ‘As-hadu’ [in the Azan], the Holy Prophetsa said, ‘You mock the Azan of Bilal, whereas Allah the Almighty, on His Throne, is pleased with him when he calls the Azan. God Almighty is more delighted by his “As-hadu” than your “Ash-hadu”.’
“Bilalra was an Abyssinian and in those times, Abyssinians were taken as slaves.” In fact, they [natives of Africa] were made slaves in the recent past as well and are even made slaves today. “However, the Holy Prophetsa was not from among those people who would subdue or humiliate another nation. According to the Holy Prophetsa, every nation was equally the creation of God. He loved the Greeks and Abyssinians just as much as he loved the Arabs and would not make any distinction.” He loved Arabs just as he loved Africans and Greeks. “It was this very love shown by him that instilled a deep love for the Holy Prophetsa in the hearts of foreign nations; a love that many Arabs were unable to comprehend. These nations developed a deep love for the Holy Prophetsa, yet those who were unable to comprehend this love and were devoid of wisdom and insight and any sense of loyalty, were unable to fathom what was happening around them.
“The Holy Prophetsa was born in Mecca to an Arab tribe and that too the tribe of Quraish – which was considered as the best of all the Arab tribes, and the people of the Quraish would look down upon other Arab tribes and consider them inferior. What relation could there possibly be between the Holy Prophetsa and the Abyssinians? If there was a tribe or people that ought to have love for the Holy Prophetsa, it was the Banu Hashim. If someone ought to have love for him, it ought to be the Quraish or the Arab people as they were his kith and kin. How was it ever possible that a deep love for the Holy Prophetsa was engrained amongst non-Arabs, those nations who suffered defeat at the hands of the Holy Prophet’ssa army, or were overthrown by the Islamic Empire?”
There were wars against other nations who were subsequently defeated and their reign was destroyed, but despite this, how did they manage to develop love for the Holy Prophetsa?
“They ought to have developed enmity against him. Before we delve into this, let us analyse the love Prophet Jesus’as people had for him. When Prophet Jesusas was arrested, the soldiers enquired from Peter – a close disciple of Jesusas and whom Jesusas appointed as his successor after him – as to why he was following after Jesusas and that it seemed as if he was a follower of Jesusas.” The soldiers became suspicious as he was following after them and suspected that he was a follower of Jesusas, “to which Peter immediately responded out of fear, ‘I am not one of his followers’ and said, ‘I curse him.’
“Not only did he deny knowing him but he also cursed him. There is no doubt that the disciples of Jesusas loved him also. Later on, Peter was hanged on the cross in Rome and on this occasion, courageously embraced death and did not hide his love or his obedience to Prophet Jesusas. However, when Jesusas was hanged on the cross, Peter’s faith had not yet strengthened at the time. At that time, he became afraid of facing a small beating, but later he bravely faced being hung on the cross.
“Nevertheless, this was a glimpse of how much love Jesus’as followers had for him. In comparison, we now turn to those slaves who professed belief in the Holy Prophetsa and then sacrificed everything for his sake.
“Bilalra was an Abyssinian [former] slave and his love for the Holy Prophetsa was such that it had a profound impact upon him. Some people have great love for their beloved but it is only superficial and confined within certain parameters. Thus, we have to see whether the Holy Prophet’ssa love for Bilal – who was not only loathed by the Quriash, but in fact, by all the Arabs owing to him being an Abyssinian slave – was simply to make him feel better or did it demonstrate true love?” Was the Holy Prophet’ssa expression of love merely as pretence or was it true love? “This can only be determined by Bilalra himself. We cannot make this assessment, rather we have to seek the answer from Bilalra himself because he alone could have truly ascertained this. This incident took place over 1,300 years ago; how could we possibly determine this ourselves? Thus, if we want to seek the answer to this we would have to ascertain this from Bilalra himself whether he perceived this to be a demonstration of true love from the Holy Prophetsa.
“It is not a question of how I perceive this, or how it was perceived by those who lived a century ago before us, or by those who lived a hundred years before them, nor is it a question of how the companions themselves perceived it.” It is not for others to decide this; not even those who lived in the era of the Holy Prophetsa, i.e. the companions. “Rather, we have to see how Bilalra himself perceived this and this is reflected by a very concise statement of the Holy Prophetsa”, which has previously been mentioned as well, “when he addressed the people and said, ‘You laugh at him saying “As-hadu”, but God Almighty expresses His pleasure upon this in the heavens. His saying “As-hadu” is dearer to Him than your “Ash-hadu”.’ Were these words of the Holy Prophetsa – that his ‘As-hadu’ was dearer to Allah than ‘Ash-hadu’ – uttered merely to make him happy and for that occasion alone in order to diffuse the situation or owing to his deep love for him? What we want to know, however, is how did Bilalra perceive this statement? The conclusion that Bilalra drew from this statement was that despite him being a non-Arab and belonging to a people who were perceived inferior to humans and would be enslaved, the Holy Prophetsa had a bond of deep love and affection for him. If we look a little further on in history, the one who proclaimed:
مَمَاتِيْ لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن
‘My death is for Allah, the Lord of all the worlds’ [Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.163] eventually passed away [i.e. the Holy Prophetsa]. (Allah the Almighty revealed this verse in relation to the Holy Prophetsa). After the passing of the Holy Prophetsa, new governments were established, many new people entered the fold of Islam and many new changes came about. As time passed on, new governments were formed and many other changes occurred and some of the companions migrated hundreds of miles away from the Arab land. All of these changes came about after the demise of the Holy Prophetsa. Among these companions who migrated was also Bilalra, who had migrated to Syria after the Holy Prophet’ssa demise and settled in Damascus.
“One day, some people were gathered in Damascus where Hazrat Bilalra resided and stated that during the time of the Holy Prophetsa, Bilalra would call the Azan and they also desired for Bilalra to call the Azan once again. They asked Hazrat Bilalra; however, he refused to call the Azan. Bilalra stated that he would not call the Azan after the Holy Prophet’ssa demise because as soon as he would think of calling the Azan, he would be reminded of the blessed era of the Holy Prophetsa and he would become extremely emotional and could not contain himself, therefore he would not call the Azan.
Hazrat Umarra was on an official tour and happened to be in Damascus at the time. The people requested Hazrat Umarra if he could ask Bilalra to call the Azan. They stated that among them were those who had seen the Holy Prophetsa and their ears were longing to hear the Azan of Bilalra once again and thereby be able to experience the era of the Holy Prophetsa.” Whenever they would reminisce about the era of the Holy Prophetsa, they would also recall the Azan of Hazrat Bilalra, thus they wished to hear the actual Azan once again so that they could relive those memories again. “They also stated that there were others among them who had not witnessed the era of the Holy Prophetsa and had only heard about it, therefore their hearts also desired to hear the Azan of the individual whose Azan was also heard by the Holy Prophetsa and he pleased him greatly.
“Hazrat Umarra called for Bilalra and stated, ‘The people desire to hear your Azan.’ Hazrat Bilalra replied, ‘You are the Khalifa of the time; if this is your wish, then I shall call the Azan, but let me tell you that my heart will not be able to withstand the emotions.’ Hazrat Bilalra then stood up and in a loud voice began to call the Azan in exactly the same manner as he would call the Azan during the time of the Holy Prophetsa. Whilst recalling the era of the Holy Prophetsa, tears began to flow from the eyes of the companions who were the Arab natives and some even let out a loud cry. Hazrat Bilalra would continue reciting the Azan and people would remember the era of the Holy Prophetsa and would be overcome with a state of deep emotion. However, Hazrat Bilalra, who was an Abyssinian, who the Arabs used for their own services, and who did not have any blood relation with them nor any brotherly ties with them, what impact did the calling of the Azan have upon his heart?”
The impact it had on the Arabs was that those who had witnessed the era of the Holy Prophetsa were once again able to relive those memories, while those Arabs who did not witness that era also became extremely emotional upon recalling the accounts they had heard of that era, or they were deeply moved due to observing the state of the emotions of others at the time. However, what impact did this Azan have upon Hazrat Bilalra, who was not an Arab and was a [former] slave?
“It is said that upon concluding the Azan, Hazrat Bilalra fainted – such was the impact it had on him – and after just a few minutes, he passed away. This was the testimony given by those non-Arabs themselves to the claim of the Holy Prophetsa that he held no distinction between an Arab and a non-Arab. This indeed was the greatest testimony by the non-Arabs themselves of the immense love and affection they had for the Holy Prophetsa. The demonstration of this deep love was a true and practical testimony of the Holy Prophetsa saying that an Arab and a non-Arab were of an equal status. This was the testimony given by the non-Arabs who heard the loving call of the Holy Prophetsa and the profound impact of what they had witnessed had convinced them that even their own people could not give them as much love as the Holy Prophetsa had for them.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 30, pp. 263-267, Friday Sermon, 26 August 1949)
This was our leader Bilalra who established such lofty standards of one’s love and loyalty for the Holy Prophetsa and instilling the oneness of Allah the Almighty in the heart and its practical demonstration that these have become a pure and holy model for us to emulate. Likewise, the accounts of the Holy Prophet’ssa love and affection for this devotee of his are such that not a single example of it can be found anywhere in the world. It is this very example that can establish a spirit of love, harmony and brotherhood in our society and break the shackles of slavery.
Even today, our salvation can only be found by establishing the oneness of God and by demonstrating those examples of love for the Holy Prophetsa. May Allah the Almighty enable us to do so. The accounts of Hazrat Bilalra come to an end.
I will now also mention details of some of those members who have recently passed away and will also lead their funeral prayers [in absentia].
The first mention is of Maulana Talib Yaqub Sahib, son of respected Tayyab Yaqub Sahib, who was a missionary in Trinidad and Tobago. He passed away on 8 September at the age of 63:
إِنَّا لِلّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيۡهِ رَاجِعُوْنَ
[Verily, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.]
He was inclined towards religion right from his childhood years. He was a native of Trinidad and from an early age, he would offer the five daily prayers, recite the Holy Quran and had an interest in reading Islamic literature. After completing his early education, he got a job in British Insurance. However, after completing his O-Levels, he dedicated his life on 13 January 1979 and enrolled in Jamia Ahmadiyya Rabwah.
He graduated from Jamia Ahmadiyya with a Shahid degree in 1989. His marriage took place in 1987 with respected Sajidah Shaheen Sahiba, daughter of Mirza Munawar Ahmad Sahib Darwaish and former nazir-e-ala Qadian. His wife is the granddaughter of Hazrat Bhai Mirza Barkat Ali Sahibra, a companion of the Promised Messiahas.
The deceased’s first appointment after completing Jamia was in Zaire [now the Democratic Republic of the Congo], Africa and he had the opportunity to serve for approximately three years, from 1989 to 1992. He then had the opportunity to serve as a missionary in Guyana from 1993 to 1997 and thereafter, he was posted to Ghana where he served from 1997 to 2004 in the Koforidua and Kumasi Region. Whilst serving in Ghana, he became extremely ill and after he recovered, he was transferred to Trinidad and was appointed in the Freeport Jamaat where he continued to serve till his last breath.
He served with utmost sincerity in various countries of the world and through his knowledge and experience, he would convey the teachings of Islam to others. Wherever he went, he had established a personal connection with every member of the Jamaat. He had a bond of great love for the members of the Jamaat, and the members of the Jamaat also loved him dearly.
For the last few years, he had been suffering from kidney problems and had to go to hospital three times a week for dialysis treatment, but he never let this be a hindrance in any Jamaat programme. He was extremely righteous, humble, softly spoken, patient, obedient, caring and would always greet everyone with a smile. Apart from his obligatory prayers, he would regularly offer the Tahajud prayer and recite the Holy Quran. It was also his habit to offer eight rak‘aat of nawafil before going to sleep every night.
He would always ensure that the traditions of the Jamaat were strictly adhered to. He would also encourage his family members to adopt these virtues as well and his family members looked up him and held him in high regard.
He is survived by his wife, a son, Nasir Yaqub and two daughters, Amina Yaqub and Adeela Yaqub. He also had two brothers and three sisters. Some of them are in Trinidad and others reside in Australia.
One of his sisters-in-law, Helen Yaqub writes:
“I did the Bai‘at 30 years ago and when Maulana Sahib came to Trinidad, he would always teach me new things about my faith in a very loving manner. As a result, my passion to learn about my faith further increased and he would be extremely pleased at this. Due to the conduct of Talib Yaqub Sahib, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, my son, Tayyab Yaqub has decided to become a missionary and is currently studying in the second year of Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada.”
Whilst mentioning the period of his illness, an Ahmadi doctor who serves in Trinidad says:
“The deceased possessed great morals; every single doctor or nurse who took care of him was greatly impressed by his morals. Although he was a patient himself, but if there was shortage of space in the hospital, he would stand up himself if anyone came and offer them space. He was an example for all the other patients and doctors and for everyone.”
The missionary-in-charge of Trinidad and Tobago writes:
“He had truly adopted the distinctive features and qualities of being a missionary. He was always at the forefront when it came to obedience to Khilafat. He obeyed all the instructions of those in-charge and he would make every effort to fulfil whatever task was assigned to him. He had boundless love for Allah, the Holy Prophetsa and the Promised Messiahas. He was regular in reciting the Holy Quran and offering the Tahajud [pre-dawn] prayers.”
Qasid Warraich, the missionary in Trinidad, writes:
“When I was posted in Trinidad, Maulana Sahib’s health was quite poorly and he was also elderly.” [Qasid Sahib] is a young missionary and after recently graduating from Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada, was posted there two or three years ago.
“After a few days, Maulana Sahib travelled for 50 minutes with his wife and son to meet me and treated me with great kindness. Then, every two or three days, he would message or call to ask about me and my needs because I had newly arrived.” He would have given advice and information as well, no doubt. “He would meet the young and old alike with love and affection. He always encouraged others to form a bond with Khilafat and to pray for the Khalifa of the time.”
Maulana Sahib’s daughter writes:
“He would constantly tell me that I should always write to the Khalifa for prayers before any exam or before any other task.”
Munir Ibrahim Sahib, an Ahmadi, there writes:
“Whenever we would go somewhere for tabligh [propagate the message of Islam], Mualana Sahib would always turn up and distribute the work saying that I should go to the north and he would go to the south so that the message of Ahmadiyyat could be conveyed to as many people as possible and he would always have a smile on his face.”
The young missionaries and other people who worked with him have also written that even when someone carried out a small task towards the progress of the Community or in conveying the message, he would become so jubilant and praise them greatly.
Everyone who has written [to me] has mentioned that Maulana Sahib was always smiling. During his years as a student, if there had been any altercation between friends, he would always reconcile and make peace between them saying that we are Ahmadis and we should not harbour any resentment in our hearts for our brothers.
I also witnessed that he always had a smile on his face. He had boundless devotion to Khilafat and just as I have said, his children have mentioned that Maulana Sahib would always encourage them to establish a connection with Khilafat and to write letters [to the Khalifa].
Nareesh Sahib, a new Ahmadi, writes:
“I would go to different non-Ahmadi mosques in search of the true Islam. When I met Maulana Talib Sahib, I began to have a really good impression, even before listening to any argument.” This is the reason why he then pledged his allegiance.
Talib Yaqub Sahib fulfilled his oath with perfect conviction and never presented any excuse. He always said that he should work wherever the Khalifa appointed him. He was always prepared even if he was told to remain in Pakistan and be posted there and not to return to his country. Furthermore, whilst he was in Pakistan he made practical efforts to prepare himself by learning Punjabi, in case he was posted in Pakistan and therefore he would have to deal with people who spoke Punjabi. So this is why he continued to learn Punjabi.
May Allah have mercy on him and elevate him in status. May Allah keep his wife and children under His protection and enable them to continue his good works.
The next funeral is of Iftikhar Ali Qureshi Sahib who was an engineer and the former wakil-ul-mal thalith and deputy head of Majlis Tahrik-e-Jadid. Allah the Almighty granted him a very long life and he passed away at the age of 99 on 3 June.
إِنَّا لِلّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيۡهِ رَاجِعُوْنَ
[Verily, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.]
Iftikhar Ali Sahib’s father was Mumtaz Ali Qureshi Sahib. He was a veterinary doctor by profession.
Iftikhar Ali Sahib was born in Meerut, India where he also obtained his primary and higher education. He then joined the Thompson Engineering College Rurkee and completed his graduation in Civil Engineering in 1944. It was during his time as a student that he joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
At the time, his father was not an Ahmadi, so Iftikhar Ali Sahib himself studied the books of the Promised Messiahas and it was after this research that he accepted Ahmadiyyat. He received the message of Ahmadiyyat through his uncle Mukhtar Qureshi Sahib and his father Munshi Fiaz Ali Sahib. Iftikhar Qureshi Sahib lived with his uncle Turab Ali Sahib, mainly due to his education. Turab Ali Sahib was also not an Ahmadi, but Mukhtar Ali Sahib and his father would often visit Turab Ali Sahib in the town of Saraba, Meerut.
Iftikhar Ali Qureshi Sahib would receive Ahmadiyya literature from these pious people. The community in Delhi would also publish small pamphlets, which Iftikhar Ali Sahib would also take and read. He would read all this literature whilst travelling and then hand them to his father.
When Iftikhar Ali Sahib gained admission to Thompson College, his uncle Mukhtar Qureshi Sahib began regularly sending him detailed letters regarding the message of Ahmadiyyat. Iftikhar Ali Sahib would also reply to these letters in detail. In that time, he also had the opportunity to offer the Tahajud prayers and supplicate extensively, yet his heart was still at unease and full of worry.
He expressed this once to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra and posed a few questions. Huzoorra wrote the answers in reply to him, saying, “Your questions are short but comprehensive, so to reply by mail is difficult. You should study this book of mine.”
Iftikhar Ali Sahib obtained that book from his uncle, Mukhtar Ali Sahib, and began to read it. As he continued studying the book, he received the answers to his questions. In November 1941, he pledged his allegiance in writing through a letter.
In 1942 he attended the Jalsa in Qadian and was very moved by the atmosphere in Qadian. He listened to the speeches of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra very attentively and pledged his allegiance there once more. In this way, he had the opportunity to perform the Bai‘at in person. Thereafter, he attended the Jalsa in Qadian every year. He also had the blessed opportunity to meet Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra. He would ask Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra whatever questions he had and would return full of faith and certainty having received the answers.
He began his government service in India and continued to work there up until the establishment of Pakistan. In 1951, he migrated and then began working in the department of water and power in Pakistan. In the course of his service, he was transferred to many cities and he worked with great sincerity. He progressed from a junior engineer to chief engineer and in fact, for some time, he was appointed as the secretary of water and power for the government of Punjab. He advanced to the stage of being the secretary.
He was able to serve his country of Pakistan in very honourable and significant capacities. He retired in 1983, after which he dedicated his life [for the service of Islam].
Before this, in 1980, upon returning from his trip to Spain, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh established the International Association of Ahmadi Architects and Engineers [IAAAE] and appointed Iftikhar Ali Qureshi Sahib as its first chairman – he was serving as chief engineer at the time. Then, after his retirement, he applied to dedicate his life, which Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh approved. Thus, in 1983, he was appointed as wakil-ul-mal thalith in Tahrik-e-Jadid. Also, from 1980, when he was appointed to the position, he would continually be elected and served as the central chairman of this association [IAAAE] for about 25 years. He was also able to render many services during the Khilafat of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh.
He built the Buyut-ul-Hamd Quarters and other Jamaat buildings in Rabwah. He was also in-charge of the department that oversaw new developments. He was made to oversee various projects, such as the Fazl-e-Umar Hospital, Jamia Ahmadiyya, Khilafat Library etc. and was also appointed as the chairmen for the IAAAE. Similarly, he had the opportunity of serving as one of the directors of the Fazl-e-Umar foundation.
In 2007, I appointed him as the vice-president of Majlis Tahrik-e-Jadid. He served with great integrity, diligence and effort. He saw the era of four Khulafa and always proved to be obedient and full of love. He spoke very little and would concentrate on his own work. He was able to serve as a life-devotee for 37 years.
He was very selfless in his work; I have also worked with him. Allah the Almighty granted him two sons and three daughters. One of his sons is an architect and one of his daughters is a doctor. May Allah Almighty grant him His mercy and forgiveness and enable his progeny to continue his good deeds.
The third funeral is of Raziyya Sultana Sahiba, who was the wife of Maulvi Hakim Khurshid Sahib. She passed away at the age of 81. She was the daughter of Sheikh Allah Bakhsh Sahibra, a companion of the Promised Messiahas.
From a young age, she was very observant of her prayers and keeping fasts. She lived her entire life with simplicity and humility and was very hospitable. Her husband, respected Hakim Maulvi Khurshid Ahmad Sahib, was serving as sadr umumi. During this time, various meetings would be held in their home and she would tend to all the guests.
In 1984, respected Maulvi Sahib was honoured to be an aseer rah-e-Maula [prisoner in the way of Allah]. She endured this time away from her husband with great patience and fortitude. In fact she would prepare food for many people and send it to the jail every day. She kept her virtuous deeds discreet; she helped many poor children get married and helped raise many poor children as well. All those close to her say that she was a very loving person. She was a musia [part of the Wasiyyat scheme]. She is survived by one daughter. May Allah Almighty grant the deceased His mercy and forgiveness.
The next funeral is of respected Tahir Ahmad Sahib, son of Muhammad Mansoor Ahmad Sahib, who was serving as naib nazir bait-ul-mal Qadian. He passed away on 28 May owing to liver cancer at the age of 57 at Noor Hospital in Qadian:
إِنَّا لِلّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيۡهِ رَاجِعُوْنَ
[Surely to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return].
He was originally from Hyderabad. After graduating from Jamia Ahmadiyya Qadian, he served for a period of 31 years from September 1989 until his demise in May 2020, in various capacities. The entirety of his time in service was in offices of finance; bait-ul-mal Aamad for seven years, nizamat mal Waqf-e-Jadid for nine years, then as inspector bait-ul-mal, naib nazim mal Waqf-e-Jadid for three years, nazim mal Waqf-e-Jadid for eight years and then served as naib nazir bait-ul-mal for two years.
He was a very sincere, simple, sociable and compassionate servant of the Community. He travelled far and wide in India and introduced people to the financial system [of the Jamaat] and helped them be a part of it. By the grace of Allah the Almighty, as a result of these trips and his efforts, there was a significant increase in the budget of Waqf-e-Jadid. He was a musi.
He is survived by his elderly parents, his wife and two sons. He was the eldest son-in-law of Maulana Muhammad Kareem Shahid Sahib, Sadr Qaza Board Qadian and the cousin of Inaam Ghuari Sahib, Nazir-e-Ala Qadian. One of his brothers is serving as a missionary in Qadian. May Allah Almighty grant him His mercy and forgiveness and protect his children.
The next funeral is of Aqeel Ahmad, son of Mirza Khaleel Ahmad Baig Sahib, who is serving as a teacher at the International Jamia in Ghana. Aqeel Ahmad was visiting Pakistan, where he was diagnosed with a yolk sac tumour and by Divine decree, passed away after a short bout of illness at the age of 13:
إِنَّا لِلّٰهِ وَإِنَّاإِلَيۡهِ رَاجِعُوْنَ
[To Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.]
Even during his childhood, he was regular in offering Salat in congregation and took care of children younger than him. He was a very pious and obedient child. He was able to memorise six parts of the Holy Quran from Madrasatul-Hifz in Ghana.
He is survived by his parents and two sisters, Adeela and Shakila, who are both Waqifat-e-Nau. His father, Mirza Khaleel Baig is serving at the International Jamia in Ghana.
Another teacher at Jamia, Naseer Ahmad Sahib writes from Ghana:
“Aqeel Ahmad possessed a very loving, and charming personality. His smiling face will always be remembered. He was a very innocent and obedient child. He was regular in offering Salat in congregation and was very attached to the Holy Quran. For the past few years, aside from his routine studies, he was memorising the Holy Quran. Every day after the Maghrib prayer, he would eat and then go to the mosque and revise his lessons. After completing his school-work, he would always memorise a portion of the Holy Quran before going to sleep. He would say that he wanted to serve the Jamaat as a missionary when he grew up.”
May Allah Almighty elevate his station, and enable his parents and sisters to bear this loss.
These days, funerals cannot be held here; many people write to me requesting me to lead funeral prayers; however, these funerals cannot be offered during the Friday Sermon as it would require a lot of time. Even if just the names were read out it would take a very long time.
Thus I am only able to lead the funeral prayer [in absentia] of a few deceased members. I do receive the requests of others and I would like to tell them, without specifying their names, that whenever I lead funeral prayers [in absentia] here, they are included as well.
May Allah Almighty treat them all with mercy and forgiveness. Those who have written requests for me to lead funeral prayers [for their relatives and dear ones], may Allah grant them and their families patience and forbearance and enable them to keep alive the virtues of their deceased. Insha-Allah I will offer all of these funeral prayers in absentia after the Friday Prayer.
(Original Urdu transcript published in Al Fazl International, 16 October 2020, pp. 5-10. Translated by The Review of Religions.)