The reminiscences shared in this piece are rooted in the author’s personal experiences. While care has been taken to convey these events accurately, personal memories can naturally vary in detail or sequence. —The Editor
Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Naib Amir and Missionary-in-Charge, UK
Everyone has certain days in his or her life that can never be forgotten. The memory of such days does not fade with the passage of time, and their details are permanently etched on the mind. On reflection, among the unforgettable, historic days of my life, one is 30 April 1984. This is the day Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVra migrated from Pakistan and arrived in Britain. It was a Monday. It was indeed a historical and momentous day that had a profound influence on the future of Ahmadiyyat and shall always be remembered as a significant milestone in the history of the Jamaat.
My appointment as Amir UK and Missionary In-charge
Before I go into the details of the day, I will mention a few key matters. In compliance with the instructions of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, I arrived in Britain on 16 November 1983. On 26 November, I took over the charge from the late Maulana Sheikh Mubarak Sahib and began my services as Amir Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya UK, missionary-in-charge and imam of the Fazl Mosque. In accordance with Huzoor’srh instructions that he had given me in my farewell meeting at Rabwah, I began my task by studying the files of the mission, familiarising myself with other Jamaat-related tasks, and commencing visits to various local Jamaats. In the first week of January 1984, I suffered from deep vein thrombosis on my right leg, a condition that required immediate hospitalisation. My treatment in the hospital lasted 18 days, after which the doctors advised complete rest and to avoid travel. When Huzoorrh came to know, he prayed and counselled me to fully comply with the doctor’s advice. With Allah’s grace, when I felt better and the doctors allowed a little work, my first day back in the office after the illness was 1 April.
In those days, opposition against the Jamaat was at its height in Pakistan. There were reports of the possibility of some ordinance being issued against the Jamaat. Instructions were issued from the Markaz, and as a result, our office activities increased.
I remember that on 26 April, I gave a speech on Islam at Warwick University in the Midlands. It was followed by a question and answer session. In the evening, as we sat for dinner at the house of Rashid Ahmad Sahib, there was a call from London. Mubarak Ahmad Saqi Sahib, who was working as deputy imam with me at the time, informed me that Ordinance XX had been issued against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in Pakistan. Upon hearing this, I felt that instead of staying the night in the Midlands, I needed to return to London. I arrived back in London at midnight. The next morning, activities increased in response to the new ordinance. Although the sensitivity of the situation was apparent, it was difficult to predict what would happen next. Along with feeling anxious, fervent prayers were being offered, and the entire Jamaat was being counselled to remain steadfast and to pray.
Preparing for Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s IVrh arrival
On the night of 29 April, various engagements lasted late into the evening, and it was around midnight when I went to bed. At about 2:30 am, the phone rang. I was astonished as to who would be calling at such a late hour. Upon picking up the telephone, I heard Masood Ahmad Jhelumi Sahib’s voice on the other end, who was working as the Wakil-ut-Tabshir in those days.
He asked me whether I had recognised him, and upon my affirmative answer, he asked me to get ready. I replied that I was ready but asked for what purpose. He then informed me that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh was coming to London. Curious, I inquired about the arrival date, assuming it would be in the next few days. In response, he asked me for the current time in London. After providing the time, he explained that Huzoorrh had departed from Karachi four hours ago and would arrive in London at around 8 am local time, and he said to make all necessary arrangements accordingly. He also provided some specific instructions, and after that, the conversation ended. When the call concluded, my wife, Qanita Rashed, who had been awakened and was anxious due to the sudden telephone call, asked what the matter was. I simply stated that Huzoorrh was arriving in London in the next few hours. In reality, I was deeply anxious and worried because of the sudden news and the idea of the tremendous responsibilities it placed on my weak shoulders. This sudden news had completely stunned me. My wife was in a similar state. We both decided that, before doing anything else, we needed to submit to Allah and seek help from the Almighty God, asking Him to assist us at every step of the way and cover our weaknesses. So, first of all, we offered nawafil and in our acute anxiety, we recited whichever prayers came to mind. In Allah’s name, we began the task at hand.
The information received indicated that Huzoorrh would arrive via KLM, first in Amsterdam, Holland, and then, with a change of flight, take another KLM aeroplane to London, arriving at around 8 am. In accordance with the instructions received, I informed the missionary-in-charge of Holland, Abdul Hakeem Akmal Sahib, about Huzoor’srh arrival and requested him to make all the necessary arrangements to receive Huzoorrh at the airport. Additionally, I requested that a responsible person be on duty at the Mission House to promptly inform us in London of Huzoor’srh arrival in Holland.
After this, we became involved in various other arrangements. My wife promptly started gathering all the household items because that very house was to be Huzoor’srh residence. In those days, I lived in the flat on the first floor above the offices, and Naseem Ahmad Bajwa Sahib, who was working with me as the Naib Amir, resided in the flat on the second floor. It was decided that I would move with my family to the Jamaat guesthouse situated at 49 Gressenhall Road, and Bajwa Sahib would relocate to an empty house belonging to an Ahmadi friend at 11 Gressenhall Road. It was a coincidence that this empty house was located near the mosque at that time, and the Jamaat guesthouse was also vacant. My wife swiftly gathered all the household goods, creating large bundles using bed sheets. This was done in such a hurry that we could not remember what was packed in which bundle. For quite some time afterwards, we would open bundles based on guesswork and search for whatever was needed in the house. The house was gradually emptied, room by room.
While this was happening at the house, I promptly went to my office. The desk was cluttered with papers. I began to collect all the papers, documents, and other office materials because Huzoorrh was going to grace this very basic and small office in a few hours. Due to the situation at that time, some khuddam had been on duty at the Mission House. They assisted me with my tasks, packing all the official files into boxes or bundles. In this way, all the items in the house and the office were ready to be transferred within two hours. The office was also fully prepared for Huzoorrh.
In those days, the Fajr prayer was offered at 5 am. At 4 am, I informed Anwer Ahmad Kahlon Sahib about Huzoor’srh arrival and asked him to notify all the amila members that there would be an emergency meeting after Fajr prayer at the mosque, and that everyone should attend.
With the assistance of khuddam, all the items from the house and the office were transferred to the guest house. In the meantime, my wife contacted Amatul Hafiz Salam Sahiba, Sadr Lajna Imaillah UK, and a few other ladies, who provided significant help in cleaning and preparing the house for Huzoorrh. The entire house was organised neatly, and arrangements for food were made. Alhamdulillah, all these tasks had been completed by 8 am.
Soon after leading the Fajr prayer at the Fazl Mosque in London, I chaired the emergency amila meeting. After informing the members about the details of the situation, I requested special prayers. After consulting with all of them, I prepared a modus operandi. I assigned a range of duties to various members and sent them off to their tasks right away.
I provided important instructions regarding the departments of security, catering, transport, airport reception, etc., and, with the assistance of friends, prepared a duty chart. The meeting concluded at around 7 am with a silent prayer, and all the members began their assigned duties.
A matter that was brought to our attention during the meeting was that the two cars the London Mission had at that time were both old and were not in an appropriate or reliable condition to transport Huzoorrh from the airport to the Mission House. Somehow, this information reached some sincere people who, shortly after the meeting, offered their cars for Huzoor’srh service. Without any delay, more than one sincere member sent their cars to the London Mission with the offer to keep them available for as long as needed. With Allah’s grace, this concern was resolved effortlessly. Another concern was related to any potential issues or delays during Huzoor’srh entry into the country. Choudhry Anwer Ahmad Kahlon Sahib contacted certain authorities regarding this and had a satisfactory arrangement in place for their support if needed, ensuring there would be no problems in this regard.
It is worth mentioning here that, at the time of Huzoor’srh arrival, the immigration rules allowed Pakistani passport holders to enter the UK without a visa. They were issued a visa at the airport at the discretion of the immigration officer present. I believe that among the Divine blessings, this was an extraordinary gift. If the restriction on obtaining a visa prior to coming to the UK had been in place at that time, there would have been a real risk of facing many difficulties and obstacles. It was through Divine intervention that this restriction was not in place at the time of Huzoor’srh arrival and became effective only a few months later. This is indeed a sign of Divine assistance.
An additional phone line
By the morning, people had come to know about Huzoor’srh arrival through word of mouth, and this news had even reached abroad. Consequently, the London Mission was inundated with phone calls. In those days, the Mission had only two telephone lines, and they were both constantly receiving calls. The members of the telephone department were working very efficiently in handling this. All the other departments were also fully operational. This reminds me of another incident of Divine assistance.
Approximately two months before Huzoor’srh arrival, I realised that the two telephone lines at the mission would be completely inadequate in case of an emergency. If incoming calls were constant, there would be no way to make an external call. Therefore, I decided to have another phone line installed in the Mission, with its number kept somewhat private. We encountered some difficulties, but with Allah’s grace, a few days before Huzoor’srh arrival, the line was installed, with extensions in the office and the upstairs bedroom. At that time, there was no plan or even an inkling of Huzoorrh arriving in London in this manner. However, Allah had placed this idea in my mind, and with His grace, this facility was arranged. Once Huzoorrh had arrived, the situation was such that, with only the two existing lines, the volume of incoming calls was so high that making an outbound call became impossible. In this situation, the new line proved to be extremely useful. The greatest advantage was that this line was reserved for Huzoor’srh exclusive use. When Huzoorrh arrived in the office for the first time, and I mentioned the new phone line to him, providing him with the number, and explaining that it was not known to anyone else, Huzoorrh was delighted. In practical terms, the line proved to be very useful. It appeared to me that Allah had arranged all of this in advance for His beloved Khalifa.
A reassuring call from Huzoorrh
Huzoor’srh arrival in Holland was expected at 7 am, but the plane arrived an hour late. The reason for this, which we later came to know, was its delayed departure from Karachi. However, as we were unaware of this at the time, there was great anxiety. During this time, many calls were made to the Netherlands to enquire, but they had no information. I was becoming increasingly anxious by the minute, and it became very difficult for me to sit in the office under these circumstances. I left the office and went into the yard, pacing back and forth in anticipation of the news. I kept thinking that Masood Jhelumi Sahib had informed me on the phone the night before that outside of Pakistan, the first information regarding Huzoor’srh travel was given to me only after Huzoor’srh plane had crossed the border of Turkey and entered the European zone. Considering this, I was greatly concerned about the security aspect. In my state of concern, I engaged in prayers when news finally arrived from Holland that Huzoorrh had safely arrived there. This news gave me a new lease of life, and I thanked Allah that our beloved master had completed the first stage of his journey.
It was getting close to the time to go to the airport to receive Huzoorrh. I inspected all the arrangements in this regard. Khuddam had already been sent to the airport early in the morning for the reception. The cars that were to depart for the airport were being organised, and I was overseeing all the preparations outside the Mission House when a young man came running to me and informed me that Huzoorrh was on the telephone and wanted to speak with me. I hurried inside and discovered that when a colleague had answered Huzoor’srh call, Huzoorrh had asked for me. He then spoke to another colleague and again inquired about my whereabouts, not realising that I was inside at the time.
I greeted Huzoorrh with “assalamu alaikum.” After responding to my greeting, Huzoorrh inquired about my well-being. I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was an incredibly moving experience to hear the affectionate voice of my beloved master. With a voice filled with emotion, I assured Huzoorrh that I was fine and asked how he was. Huzoorrh replied in a calm manner, stating that, alhamdulillah, he was well. He then asked if all the preparations were complete, to which I replied in the affirmative. Huzoorrh informed me that they had changed the flight, and one of his companions provided me with the new flight details. I felt extremely relieved and delighted after this conversation.
I do not know the reason or the wisdom behind the change in the flight. However, it was advantageous for us as it provided some extra time for preparation. The extended stay in Holland also had its advantages. Although Huzoorrh did not have the opportunity to rest, it allowed him a break in the journey during which he could meet the Ahmadis living in Holland. In the VIP room, he had a detailed conversation in English with the members of the local Jamaat, explaining the background of his migration to them over a cup of tea. It is worth mentioning that the Holland Jamaat prepared a video of Huzoor’srh arrival, which includes all these details. I am briefly recounting a few points from my memory.
Receiving Huzoorrh at Heathrow
After his brief stay in Holland, Huzoorrh departed from Amsterdam and arrived at Heathrow at around 11 am local time. In this historic migration, Huzoorrh was accompanied by his wife, Syeda Asifa Begum Sahiba, and their two daughters, Brigadier Waqi-uz-Zaman Khan, and Choudhary Hameed Nasrullah Khan Sahib. The members of the Community were instructed to receive Huzoorrh at the London Mission House. Only a few members went to the airport where the khuddam were present, fulfilling their duties with great proficiency.
With the cooperation of KLM, special permission was granted to three members to proceed further to receive Huzoorrh. These individuals were Choudhary Hidayatullah Banghvi Sahib, Aslam Javed Sahib, and myself. Just as the ‘landed status’ of the flight appeared on the screen in the airport, there was a tremendous sense of gratitude to Allah. Now, the eagerness to set eyes on our beloved master became unbearable. The wait felt arduous as if time had stood still. A KLM representative was with us. As our eyes searched for Huzoorrh, our hearts were engaged in prayers, supplicating to Allah to assist us every step of the way and to enable us to fulfil the great responsibility that had been placed on these weak shoulders by Huzoor’srh arrival in Britain. Amidst this cycle of prayers, I suddenly caught sight of Huzoor’srh blessed face! Just as Huzoorrh emerged, I had the privilege of being the first person to embrace him, kiss his blessed hand, and shake his hand. The KLM representative came forward to greet Huzoorrh, and then my two colleagues met Huzoorrh. Next, this small entourage moved towards immigration. I vividly remember Huzoorrh conversing with the KLM representative in a relaxed manner. The first thing Huzoorrh asked was, ‘How is the weather?’ The weather was delightful that day. It was sunny with a clear blue sky. It was springtime, and for us, in particular, with Huzoor’srh safe arrival in London, it was truly a season of renewal!
Huzoor’srh resilient and radiant presence
I would like to mention here that when Huzoorrh arrived in London, the expression on his face was unforgettable. Indeed, there were signs of the long journey and lack of sleep on his face; however, he exuded a most amazing calm, glow, and resolve. I lack the words to adequately describe what I witnessed. Huzoorrh had a striking smile on his face that concealed all signs of tiredness. Despite the long journey and many sleepless nights, Huzoor’srh eyes were tired and had redness in them, but his countenance remained fresh and resolute. He appeared as a great leader who was prepared for a special expedition or mission and, despite facing various impediments, resolved to move forward and beyond. This fervour was most evident on Huzoor’srh face. Huzoor’srh turban, his achkan, and his clothes bore witness to his long travels. The signs of the long journey were also apparent to his companions. Yet, despite all the situations through which Huzoorrh had passed to arrive in London, his unwavering resolve and his determination to sacrifice everything in the way of God had bestowed upon him extraordinary strength. He walked with a swiftness that reflected his inner determination.
I would like to add here that Abdul Baqi Arshad Sahib was designated to go to Holland to receive Huzoorrh upon his arrival there. Ch. Mansoor Ahmad BT Sahib was also present at the airport to receive Huzoorrh when he arrived in London.
With Allah’s grace, no problems arose at immigration. The KLM representative presented all the passports at the counter, and the immigration officer allowed entry without asking any questions. These proceedings occurred so swiftly that Huzoorrh emerged from the airport earlier than expected. Khuddam rushed to retrieve the cars from the car park while Huzoorrh came out and met some friends of the Jamaat who were there to receive him. These individuals included Choudhry Anwer Kahlon Sahib and Mubarak Ahmad Saqi Sahib. Four ladies had the privilege of greeting Huzoorrh and Begum Sahiba at the airport. These included my wife, Qanita Shahida Rashed Sahiba, Amatul Hafiz Salam Sahiba, Sadr Lajna Imaillah UK, Majeeda Shahnawaz Sahiba, Sadr Lajna Imaillah London, and Amina Kahlon Sahiba. Huzoorrh conversed with the ladies for a short while, and some photographs were taken at this point, which are now in the Jamaat records. Huzoorrh carried very light luggage on this journey, which can be seen in one of the photographs.
Fazl Mosque graced with the presence of Khalifatul Masih IVrh
Huzoorrh waited for a while outside the terminal as the khuddam brought the cars, and then the convoy left the airport. Khalifa Falahuddin Ahmad Sahib had the privilege of driving the car in which Huzoorrh and Begum Sahiba sat in the back seat, and I had the privilege of sitting in the front. As soon as the car left the airport, Huzoorrh checked his watch, and I distinctly remember him asking how soon we would reach the mosque and what time Zuhr salat was. I replied that Zuhr was at 1 pm, and we would arrive about thirty minutes before that. To the best of my recollection, Huzoorrh arrived around 12:30 pm at the Fazl Mosque. Alhamdulillah.
By this time, the news of Huzoor’srh arrival had spread everywhere, and a large number of members of the Jamaat had gathered in the London Mosque enclosure to greet Huzoorrh. Monday is a working day, and despite the suddenness of the arrival, numerous members of the Jamaat stood in queues most lovingly, waiting for Huzoorrh. Huzoorrh emerged from the car and began shaking hands, starting with those who stood on the right-hand side. Huzoorrh adhered to a method of meeting that required everyone to stay in their place while Huzoorrh approached them. He would stop and have a brief chat as he moved along the line of people, often inquiring about the health of those who were not feeling well. After meeting everyone, Huzoorrh went upstairs to his residence.
The first salat: A heartfelt Zuhr prayer
After his migration to London, the first salat that Huzoorrh led in the Fazl Mosque was Zuhr. The mosque was filled with worshippers, while a large number offered their prayers outside. Huzoorrh had a sore throat brought on by the necessity of speaking loudly at public meetings and on the journey, so he could not speak very clearly. However, Huzoorrh led the salat in a most heart-rending and moving way. After the salat, Huzoorrh informed me that he wished to address the members in the evening, and I should inform everyone and make the necessary arrangements. Huzoorrh then went to his residence, had his meal, and took some rest.
It was after leading the Asr salat that Huzoorrh came to his office, which was fully prepared, for the first time. The office was very basic and small, but it became blessed by Huzoor’srh arrival. Huzoorrh inquired about certain matters relating to the office and gave some instructions. At that time, Huzoorrh did not have a regular private secretary with him. Therefore, the responsibility fell on me to take instructions from Huzoorrh and implement them. This continued for about a month.
Historic address at Mahmood Hall: Huzoor’s message to the Jamaat
In the evening, Huzoorrh addressed the members of the Jamaat in the Mahmood Hall. This was a historic address that lasted for over an hour. Huzoorrh began by speaking in Urdu and also addressed the audience in English. Huzoorrh spoke while seated on the stage, with myself and Anwer Kahlon Sahib on either side. Mahmood Hall was packed with people, and members from many jamaats outside London had also attended.
An audio recording was made of the entire proceedings. It is regrettable that a video could not be recorded at the time; however, a film has been created using still photographs, and this has been shown on MTA. In this historic address, Huzoorrh provided a detailed insight into the situation in Pakistan and explained the reasons behind his decision to come to London. In a deeply emotional tone, Huzoorrh clarified that he was willing to make the greatest sacrifice for this cause, but it was for the benefit of the Jamaat that he had sought Divine guidance through supplication before arriving at this decision.
Huzoorrh also mentioned the evil plans of the government of Pakistan at that time. He touched upon certain dreams that some members had regarding the migration. He talked about some of his own dreams, through which Allah had given him glad tidings. Huzoorrh stated that it was time for the entire Jamaat to be ready; there were many great achievements that we needed to accomplish, and we were not to yield to any opposition at all. Huzoorrh mentioned that he was very busy and had highly significant planning to undertake. Therefore, he requested that no mulaqat (personal meetings) be sought in those days. He reminded everyone that each member of the Jamaat would be asked to render their services to the utmost of their capacity, and if Huzoorrh required any help or consultation, he would personally invite that person for a mulaqat. (This historic address has been broadcast on MTA many times.)
In the beginning, Huzoorrh explained the reason for his sore throat and mentioned that due to the government of Pakistan prohibiting the use of a loudspeaker in Rabwah, he had to speak extremely loudly to members of the Community. Huzoorrh requested some tea and emphasised several times that it should be made very light. However, the person making the tea was unable to prepare it as Huzoorrh had wished. Huzoor’srh gracious comment on this matter was that it did not appear to be the fault of the person making the tea; it was the murky water of London!
At the end of the address, Huzoorrh led a heart-rending and solemn silent prayer. He then asked Dr Abdus Salam, who sat in the front row in front of Huzoorrh, to come and see him in the office for a mulaqat. Thus, Dr Salam had the distinct honour of being the first person to be invited for a mulaqat by Huzoorrh after his migration.
This is a small detail of the historic day of 30 April 1984, based on my personal recollections. Nevertheless, it is a milestone in the history of Islam Ahmadiyyat, and its memory shall always be preserved in the pages of history.