Having remained ill for quite some time, Hazrat Umm-e-Tahir, Syeda Maryam Begum Sahibara, passed away on 5 March 1944. This naturally brought grief to the Jamaat at large, but it struck her husband, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra the most.
For approximately three months, Huzoorra did not write anything about her. However, under the Islamic teaching of remembering the righteous qualities of the deceased, Huzoorra penned a beautiful obituary of his noble wife, alongside mentioning the noble qualities she possessed and the services she rendered for the Jamaat. This book perfectly depicts Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud’sra tenderhearted nature and affection.
Throughout the month of February, the English rendering of this beautiful eulogy will be presented in Al Hakam.
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra
Syeda Umm-e-Tahir’s youth
Approximately 36 years ago, the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, settled the nikah of our younger brother, the late Mubarak Ahmad, with Maryam Begum, daughter of Dr Syed Abdus Sattar Shah Sahibra. The purpose behind the nikah was probably to see the practical fulfilment of some dreams and eliminate any subsequent cautionary aspects. However, Allah’s decree came to pass and Mubarak Ahmad returned to his Lord.
The young girl, who was completely oblivious to the concept of marriage owing to her age, began to be referred to as a widow. At the time, Maryam was two and a half years old. She would often leave the Gol Kamra [the round room – best known for being a guest room in the life of the Promised Messiahas] where the late Dr Syed Abdus Sattar Shah Sahibra would reside, and along with her niece, Naseera, she would come upstairs [to the main part of the house] and play. At times, they would become somewhat perturbed and start crying and thus, I would sometimes pick up Maryam or Naseera and take them back to the Gol Kamra.
On such occasions, it was unimaginable that the girl I had picked up to take back downstairs would one day become my wife. What was even more unimaginable was that I would one day have to pick her up and lower her, not towards the Gol Kamra, but towards her final resting place; not with the thought that I would see her face again, but with the certainty that the face I saw before me in the coffin would be the last time I would see it with my physical eyes and that I would never be able to speak to her again.
1907 to 1917
The young Mubarak Ahmad passed away and Dr [Syed Abdus Sattar Shah] Sahib’s leave had come to an end. He returned to his work in Raya, District Sialkot. Syed Waliullah Shah Sahib and Dr Syed Habibullah Shah Sahib were studying at school at the time. Both were my friends, but Dr Habib was closer than most friends. We were both very similar and inseparable as peers, but I had never imagined that their sister would again be a part of our family.
My friendship with him was only because of him and not because their sister and our brother were, for a short period, married. Many days and many years had passed and Maryam’s name was erased from our memories.
One day – either in 1917 or 1918, after the demise of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira – I was in the house of my late wife Amatul Hayy. As I left the washroom and approached our room, at the edge of the courtyard that was in between both rooms I noticed a very thin girl dressed in white and, after seeing me, move back against a wooden wall and wrapping herself [as if to hide]. As I entered our room, I asked my late wife, “Amatul Hayy, who is that girl standing outside?” to which she replied, “Did you not recognise her? She is Maryam, daughter of Dr Syed Abdus Sattar Shah Sahib.”
I was surprised and said that she had covered herself and that even if she had been in front of me, I would not have been able to recognise her. After 1907, that was the first time when Maryam came into my thoughts.
Nikah with Maryam
Now, I began enquiring whether her marriage had been settled anywhere, but I received the response, “We are Sadat [belonging to the Syed family – the lineage of Hazrat Fatima and Hazrat Ali, Allah be pleased with them]; our widows do not remarry. If she is to marry in the
household of the Promised Messiahas then we will allow it, otherwise she will spend her entire life as a widow.”
This came as a shock to me. Therefore, I tried my utmost to arrange Maryam’s Nikah elsewhere, but it came to no avail. Eventually, I attempted to convince my brothers through various means. I would tell them, “Her life should not go to waste in this manner,” and would urge them to consider marrying her, but I always received a negative response.
It was at that point that the thought occurred to me: No action of the Promised Messiahas should prove damaging to a person. Thus, it was for this reason (and because I had a cordial friendship with Syed Habibullah Shah Sahib and Syed Mahmudullah Shah Sahib) that I decided to marry Maryam myself.
Thus, in 1920, I sent my proposal through the late Dr Syed Abdus Sattar Shah Sahib, which was accepted and on 7 February 1921 our nikah took place in the old part of Masjid Mubarak [Qadian]. It was more of a house of mourning than a nikah ceremony; all that could be heard was the wailing of worshippers; tears streamed down all faces.
Eventually, I brought Maryam to our home in a very simple manner and left her at the house of Hazrat Ummul Momineen [wife of the Promised Messiahas, Hazrat (Amma Jan) Nusrat Jehan Begum Sahibara]. She allocated a room for her where I would stay with her frequently. The room where Maryam Siddiqa now resides was the same room where she resided for five years and where her first child was born – Tahir Ahmad (the first, who died at a young age).
It was after his birth that she fell extremely ill and this illness eventually led to her demise.
Early days of marriage
In the early days of our marriage, [Maryam] was extremely thin and had certain facial features that were not very pleasant to me. Similarly, she had a strong Punjabi accent and I detest the usage of Punjabi in our home. She was somewhat facetious in nature and while speaking in Urdu, she would often deliberately mix Punjabi words in her sentences to irritate me.
As she was her parent’s favourite child, if she did not like something, it would irritate her and make her cry profusely, causing a stream of tears. At times, she would cry incessantly for a couple of days. Perhaps this was due to traces of hysteria. When I travelled to England, there was some sort of friction between her and the late Amatul Hayy and as a result, I became somewhat displeased with her. Upon my return, I found that most of the fault actually lay with Amatul Hayy. Due to that displeasure, in the initial part of the journey, I did not write to Maryam but, Alhamdolillah, Allah soon enabled me to realise the reality and I saved her from any further hurt.
I wrote a loving letter to her from Italy, which she preserved. I wrote a couplet in it also, the gist of which is that Rome is a beautiful city, but without you, it appears in ruins. One day, that couplet was mentioned in 1930, seven years after my journey to Europe. As soon as she heard the couplet, she shot up and brought the letter to me saying, “I have kept that letter ever since!” I sent the same couplet to Amatul Hayy. It is strange that God’s will had it that they would both pass away, leaving me alone not just in Rome but to live in this world.
Final promise to Syeda Amatul Hayy
A few days after returning from England, Amatul Hayy passed away. I could not find anyone to care for her young children. Right before her demise, Amatul Hayy expressed great concern for her children’s upbringing. She would express her concern especially for Amatul Qayum Begum [along with the rest of the children] by saying, “[Amatur] Rashid, being brought up by a wet-nurse, will not remember me after I am gone. Khalil is only a month-old and will never know me. Amatul Qayum is the eldest; What will become of her?”
She would glance at each of her children one after the other, but on this subject, she never glanced at me. Perhaps she thought to herself, “What does a man know about raising children?” I would repeatedly look towards her to say something but would supress my feelings in the presence of other people.
Eventually, when we got a moment of privacy, I said to her, “Amatul Hayy, why do you worry so much? If I live, I will look after your children and Insha-Allah will not let any harm come their way.” For her solace I uttered those words, but in reality, I hadn’t a clue what to do.
Fulfilment of a promise
The night after Amatul Hayy’s demise, I asked Maryam, “A heavy burden has been placed on my shoulders. Can you help me?” Allah bless her soul a thousand times over for she immediately replied, “Yes, I will take care of them! Just as a mother brings up her children, I will raise them.”
The following day, I brought [Amatul] Qayum and [Amatur] Rashid to Maryam as a way of passing them on to her. Both of us were oblivious that we were, in fact, giving consent to her death, because as a consequence of this responsibility, both of us endured many hardships. However, it was a result of those hardships that we remained hopeful of Allah’s blessings.
Amatul Hayy was very dear to me and still is to this day. But I cannot truthfully say for sure that if she remained alive, she would have attended to her children when they fell ill in the same way as Maryam attended to them. May Allah raise her soul to the closest possible station to His threshold and may Allah show mercy upon me too. It was no ordinary thing for a 19-year old girl to suddenly become a mother of three. However, she readily and enthusiastically took up the responsibility and helped me in a time when nobody in the world could. She relieved me of a promise I had made at a time when I saw no way of fulfilling it. That moment is still before my eyes when I took Qayum and Rashid to Maryam and she embraced them with tearful eyes, saying, “From now on, I am your mother.” The girls, who were still weeping and scared, immediately jumped into her arms.
A prayer for love that God accepted
At that moment, I made a pledge to her:
“Maryam, if you raise these children, I promise that I will love you immeasurably”. I cried and cried before God, praying that Allah developed love in my heart for her, which He heard. From that day onwards, I had great love for her. Any reservations I ever had were removed and she won my heart over. A face that was unpleasant for me became the most beautiful face in the world and her carefree attitude which once offended me became her birth right.
Maryam was not very literate, and her handwriting was very untidy. She could not read or write very fluently. She would take lessons for a few days before dropping them, however she was remarkably intelligent. She could take a hint through the subtlest of facial expressions and body language. One would think that she had her very own way of acquiring knowledge of the unseen. She possessed a very sensitive temperament. Where sarcasm was not the motive, she knew how to extract it; where displeasure was not intended, she would still sense it. If she was treated better than others, even then she would feel as though she was being subjected to injustice.
This was all something that I was the prime subject of, and this was where her intelligence would be rendered useless.
Her pure faith in Ahmadiyyat
Maryam had true faith in Ahmadiyyat. She had a deep love and dedication for the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him. She loved the Holy Quran and would recite it melodiously. She learnt the recitation of the Quran from a hafiz and for that reason – albeit with slight overemphasis – she could pronounce the Arabic t’s and q’s very well. She was not capable of initiating intellectual discussions but would thoroughly enjoy thought-provoking talks.
On Fridays, if the sermon was on a special subject, after the sermon, I would enter our house with the certainty that Maryam’s face would be beaming with pleasure and that she would immediately overwhelm me with compliments, saying that she had really enjoyed it. This certainty would very rarely be proven wrong. I would always find her waiting for me at the door. Her whole being would be buzzing with ecstasy at such moments.
(To be continued)
(Meri Maryam, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 17, pp. 347-372; Al Fazl, 12 July 1944, pp. 1-8; Translated to English by Al Hakam)