By Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II and Musleh-e-Maud, may Allah be pleased with him – an obituary written for his late wife, Hazrat Umm-e-Tahir, Syeda Maryam Begum Sahiba, may Allah be pleased with her
A brave woman
Maryam was extremely courageous. In sensitive times, I knew with full confidence that I could rely on her. Her feminine weaknesses would automatically be supressed at such moments and she would put on a brave face of tenacity and determination, so much so that an onlooker would be convinced that other than death or success, there was no other option for her. She would rather face death than withdraw from her assigned responsibility.
In desperate times, my beloved spent many late hours assisting me in my work and never complained of fatigue. Merely saying, “This is the Jamaat’s work,” or, “This could be a potential danger for the Jamaat,” or, “It could bring the Jamaat to disrepute” would suffice for her and she would selflessly pounce at the occasion.
She would forget about eating; she would forget about her children and what’s more is that she would forget about me; her entire focus would be on the task at hand. Only after the task had been accomplished would she exist. Either that, or she would surround herself with hot water bottles, wrap her swollen abdomen and lay down in a manner that would appear as though she had just returned from hospital after a major operation. In actual fact, the tasks would be no less than complicated operations for her ailing body.
She knew brilliantly how to find enjoyment in things. She could mend broken souls [by putting smiles back on their faces]. She had a deep passion for horse-riding; she was good at shooting and when her aim proved more precise than mine, she would overwhelmingly rejoice.
She alone knew how to find enjoyment in mountain hiking and crossing rivers. She travelled with me to Kashmir in 1921 during the rainy season. I would implore her to be serious, while she had continuous outbursts of laughter. This resulted in neither seriousness, nor laughter and the “torrential rain” of tears continued to flow until our return from Kashmir. The second time we went to Kashmir was on Maryam’s request, which was around 1929.
Now, Maryam had three children of her own, as well as three of Amatul Hayy’s. As a result, Maryam was somewhat more mature as compared to the previous trip. Also, I had far more appreciation due to her fostering Amatul Hayy’s children and thus, her laughter was always welcome in that atmosphere. Thus, on that trip we had a great time seeing the sights in Kashmir and filled the void that was left in the 1921 trip. However, the only thing that remained was her desire to see Kashmir with me alone, without any other wife accompanying me.
Maryam had a strange characteristic, which was somewhat self-contradictory in that she showed immense love to all my children, no matter which mother they were from, to the point that she expressed deep respect for them, however she would struggle to get along with my other wives. She would not quarrel like an uncultured person but would certainly hold a grudge. She always had the desire to be given special treatment, but because I was unable to do this under the instruction of God and His Prophetsa, she would be certain that I never loved her and that I loved my other wives more.
A question by Syeda Umm-e-Tahir and its answer
At times, when we were alone, she would ask me, “Who do you love the most?” to which I always gave the reply, “God Almighty’s instruction forbids me from answering this.” Upon hearing this she would become cross and fall silent. But for the past few years, she had given up asking me that question.
Today, if Allah brought her to this world and enabled her to see the rays of light constantly shimmering from my heart, extending to the Heavens in supplication for mercy and clinging on to God’s throne, she would know the answer to her question. If she could be granted permission to enter this world again, she would see my zikr-e-Ilahi [remembrance of Allah] in which, whenever I praise God, the thought of His Purity covers and envelops me, causing me to tremble and further causing me to spontaneously cry out in the final moments of His praise, “O You Who are the Pure God! Will you not purify my Maryam?”;or when praising God in my thoughts, the whole world begins to praise God and all that exists in the Heavens and the Earth is the praise of God, which ultimately causes me to shudder and my heart to skip a beat, resulting in my spontaneous cry, “O God; The Being Who every particle praises! Will you not make my Maryam the recipient of Your praise?”
If her soul was able to witness this, how regretful would she be for her prolonged misconceptions. O my Lord! O my Lord! For a long period, I suppressed myself to fulfil Your command. Will You not keep my Maryam happy in the next world in return for this? O my Master! I beseech Your mercy and prostrate my being before You. Accept this supplication of mine and keep the flame [of love] between us alive forever and protect it from all calamities and misfortunes.
My Maryam had immense love for my relatives and would show more love for them than her own. She had a deep connection with my brothers, sisters, uncles and their children. She would hold their sincere opinions in high esteem and would take all possible measures to see that they be fulfilled. She had a special desire to serve Hazrat Ummul-Momineenra [the noble wife of the Promised Messiahas]. Initially, when she resided in her house, she was hurt by one or two housemaids due to which she kept her distance in the first couple of years.
However, that distance soon vanished. If anyone was suffering in our family, Maryam would be the first to respond and would not tire from spending night and day attending to them. During pregnancy, despite being severely ill herself, she would sit and hold her abdomen for hours without complaining in the slightest.
High standard of hospitality
She was extremely hospitable. She would try to accommodate everyone in her home and during the Jalsa period, she would refrain as much as possible in requesting food from the Langar Khana [Jamaat’s kitchen] for the guests at home. She would burden herself and assign tasks to the children in order to please her guests. She would burden herself with so much at times that I would be displeased and say, “After all, the central guest house is made for this very purpose; why do you compromise your health by overburdening yourself? Eventually, I will have to bear the burden of your illness.”
No advice in this regard would make a difference. Would that her hospitality benefits her now for she is in divine hospitality and that the most Beneficent Host grant her lone soul a place in Jannatul-Firdaus [the highest status of Paradise].
Upon the demise of the late Amatul Hayy, I started a talimi [educational] class as a means of encouraging education among young girls. Maryam also joined. However, her heart was not set on books, rather she preferred practical tasks. She could not bear the burden and so withdrew from education after only a few months. Yet, her memory was so sharp that only until recently, she knew committed Arabic poems to memory, which she had come across during those days. Only a few months back, she sang an Arabic poem for me.
Syeda Sara Begum’s children
When I intended to promote female education and in doing so, married the late Sara Begum, [Maryam] promised to let her stay with her, though she was unable to keep this promise and eventually they both had to make separate arrangements. Their rivalry continued until Sara Begum’s demise, after which [Maryam] showed so much love to her children that they revered her just as a mother deserves.
Onset of poor health
I have mentioned that at the birth of her first child, Maryam Begum was afflicted with an internal infection that would get aggravated at every birth. It would further aggravate when she would have to perform hard work. I tried my best to treat the condition, but it was to no avail. She was admitted twice to Aitchison Hospital for treatment. She also attempted to get treatment in Lahore Cantonment [Military Hospital]. Esteemed doctors, the likes of Dr Nelson, Dr Hayes and Dr Cox were consulted, but there was never any considerable improvement and only momentary relief. She was sensitive by nature and as a result, she could not tolerate anything conflicting her desire.
Many a time, she would fall unconscious after she had been irritable and this would harm her internally. Eventually, I was forced to tell her – albeit very reluctantly – that if she had such a fit again, I would not come near her for treatment. I knew that they were displays of hysteric behaviour and that my saying this would benefit her. When she displayed such behaviour, I would call the doctor and leave due to which she started to suppress such emotions and never had such bouts for the last three or four years of her life.
Extraordinary progress of Lajna tasks
I have written above that her heart was set on practical work rather than books. When Sara Begum passed away, Maryam’s passion for work was ignited and she took upon herself the workload of Lajna [Imaillah]. The ladies of the Jamaat bore witness to the manner in which she fulfilled the responsibility, despite not being well-educated. She put her heart and soul into her Lajna work. The Lajna [Imaillah] today is not the Lajna it used to be during the time of the late Amatul Hayy and Sara Begum.
Today, it is an organised community wherein there is great potential to excel. She infuriated some but pleased many. Catering for widowed wives, bringing up orphaned children, enquiring about the frail, giving a helping hand in the organisation of Jalsa and extending hospitality and warmth to those ladies who had travelled from far [were just some of her qualities].
She broadened the scope of the organisation in every faculty in a better manner than before. But when one takes into account that she mostly managed the organisation laying on a charpoy surrounded by hot water bottles, the hearts of perceptive people are filled with love and appreciation for her. O my Lord! Have mercy on both of us.
(To be continued)
(Meri Maryam, Anwarul Ulum, Vol. 17, pp. 347-372; Al Fazl, 12 July 1944, pp. 1-8)