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
Illness of 1942
In 1942, while I was in Sindh, [Maryam] fell extremely ill. Her heart’s condition had dropped significantly. I received a telegram that her heart was in a poor state. I enquired as to whether I should return, to which I was told that her health had restored. The effects upon the heart attack lasted a few months and improved somewhere between June and July.
That same year and in the same period, Umm-e-Nasir Ahmad also suffered a heart attack. The causes were unknown.
In May 1943, I took her to Delhi to seek treatment from hakims [Eastern physicians]. We visited Hakim Mahmud Ahmad Khan Sahib’s son for treatment, but [Maryam] only ever treated herself with the method she pleased. Thus, she was not willing to undergo that treatment and did not complete the course. There, she suffered another minor attack, but her health quickly restored.
On the train to and from [Delhi], she would lie on the floor and lay the children of my other wives on the berths. Upon our return from Delhi, I suffered a severe chest infection and fever for which Maryam painstakingly attended to me. During those hot summer days, she would reside with me and would often carry the commode for me and empty it herself. She would continue cooking for me and constantly remain on her feet. If I ever stayed up at night, she would stay awake with me and if I fell asleep and woke up coughing, she would be the first to attend to me. When I somewhat recovered from that illness and travelled to Dalhousie, she immediately took on the responsibility of the kitchen and putting the residence in order.
There, she also experienced very poor health but due to my illness, she never expressed any signs of discomfort.
Trip to Chamba [India]
When I recovered a little more and travelled to Chamba, despite being ill, she was persistent to accompany me. There, she did horse-riding because for a portion of the journey, we could not find a dandi [a sort of sedan chair swung on poles and borne on the shoulders of porters, used in the hills]. I explained to her that going in that condition would not be a good idea, but as customary, her reply was, “You don’t want me to enjoy myself; I am definitely going!”
Eventually, keeping in mind her illness, I stopped others from going and took her along.
Struggles in Ramadan
Ramadan followed this and according to Indian custom, the people travelling with us began complaining about the food. After all, servants have a specific temperament and it resulted in [Maryam] waking up in the early hours to cook approximately six to eight pounds of parathas [South Asian bread fried on a griddle] and provide them to everyone for sehri [the early morning breakfast during Ramadan] despite her life-threatening condition. This caused her immune system to weaken considerably and her ability to fight the illness became unstable.
Due to weakness I was not able to fast, but as soon as I found out about this, I stopped her from carrying out those duties, to which she replied, “Who knows if I am given the opportunity to do something virtuous afterwards,” and carried on performing this task.
When we returned home, her condition was still feeble. After three or four weeks, she suffered another vicious attack. I was suffering from kidney pains at the time. It was then that I was made aware that the attack could be fatal for her. That was the first time the thought of Maryam’s death occurred to me.
I was in no condition to walk, so when I was left alone in the room, I fell face-down on the charpoy and helplessly and humbly prayed before my Lord. God Almighty showed mercy by deferring the hour of her death and when I recovered, I regularly visited her.
The final attack
I suffered from gout a few days later and was again unable to visit her. Due to an error on the part of the doctors, Maryam Begum was injected with medicine that did not suit her, something which she repeatedly cried out. Later, during my stay in Lahore, I found out through various senior doctors how that injection was in fact injurious to her condition. The effect of that injection was such that it bloated her abdomen to the point where it became apparently obvious.
Due to the gout, I struggled to get to her. When I reached her and found that her condition had worsened, I immediately called Col Hayes from Lahore and Lady Dr Vine from Amritsar. The following day, they both arrived and suggested that she be transferred to Lahore. Accordingly, she was taken to Lahore by road on 17 December 1943. Col Hayes decided that he would treat her through various medications and so, he commenced with his plan from 17 December to 8 or 9 January.
Eventually, however, a verdict was reached: the only way forward was an operation. Dr Mir Muhammad Ismail Sahib was averse to this, but I could not see any other way out of it.
Thus, I presented the situation to [Maryam] and said, “Whatever you decide, that will be the final decision.” Her reply was that they should go forward with the operation. Although she tactfully put those words together but a lady who resided with her told me that she would often say to her, “Pray that Hazrat Sahib does not feel apprehensive about the operation at the last minute,” which shows that she herself considered the operation necessary.
Anyhow, the operation was performed on 15 January , after which her recovery was not well maintained. This resulted in her heart condition worsening. It was then that the doctors paid heed to the circumstances and blood was transfused into her body, assisting in her gradual recovery.
Fatal condition after recovery
On 25 March, I was told that she would be released from hospital in a few days due to which I sought leave [from her] and returned to Qadian for a few days.
It was after I had returned to Qadian that her health deteriorated again and the incision that was thought to have healed was opened up again. I was kept unaware of all this and as a result, I continued to stay in Qadian for the entire week. Dr Ghulam Mustafa, who helped tremendously during her illness – may Allah reward him the best reward – reassured us through constant phone calls and telegrams that I did not need to hasten in returning.
But on Thursday evening, I received a telephone call from Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Sahib, saying, “Brother Syed Habibullah Shah Sahib says that his sister’s health is weak and that you should come immediately.” After hearing this, I returned to Lahore on Friday and found her extremely weak. The weakness was such that from thereon, she never regained good health.
Expenditure on treatment
Two nurses were assigned to repeatedly check up on her, day and night, and because their fees were approximately 50 or 60 rupees daily, I realised that it was a burden on her. She expressed to a few of her close friends, “Because of me, he is burdened with so much.” I somehow got to know of this and reassured her by saying, “Maryam, do not worry at all. I am spending this money for your comfort, not to trouble you.”
I also told some of her close friends to explain to her that the expenditure brought comfort and happiness to me and that God was witness to that. This reached a point where one day, I thought to myself that her treatment had spanned over a significant period of time and questioned how I could afford future treatment. Shortly after, without a hint of hesitation, I decied that I would sell the residence of Dar-ul-Hamd and the adjacent orchard. I thought to myself that the cost of both were quite high, but if it was sold for even a meagre amount, it would sell for no less than 75,000 rupees.
In this manner, if I had to bear the expenditure of Maryam’s treatment for even a year, then I could afford 6,000 rupees per month without worrying. And that is not all; I was prepared to sell every part of my property for Maryam Begum’s sake just to keep her alive, even if it meant through illness.
Prayer to prevent suffering during illness
A few days had passed when I felt that she was suffering a great deal due to her illness, which was made all the more unbearable by her wound. It was then that I prayed to God, saying:
“O my Lord! You possess the power to bestow health. First, I beg you to bestow health upon Maryam Begum. But, if for any reason you feel that Maryam Begum’s existence in this world is neither positive for her life and faith, nor mine, then O my Lord, save her from such suffering that can harm her faith.”
After this prayer, which was said eight or nine days prior to her demise, I witnessed a gradual decline in her physical pain, but the pain caused by weakness and heart problems increased. The apparent reason was that we had moved her to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital to be treated by Dr Barocha who had started giving her sedatives as treatment.
In any case, the end was drawing closer. She and I both had complete trust in Allah.
Upon seeing her frail condition the day before her demise, Iqbal Begum – who attended to her for two and a half months (may Allah grant her honour for this in this world and the next) – started crying. She said that once, when Maryam saw her crying, she lovingly said to her, “Why are you crying, silly! Allah is the Most Powerful. Pray because He can grant me health.”
In the evening of 4 March, Dr Mir Muhammad Ismail Sahib and Dr Hashmatullah Sahib informed me that her heart was extremely weak and the medicines were no longer having any significant effect. Thus, I stayed there longer than usual. When they felt relatively satisfied, I went to Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Sahib’s home to rest.
At around 4 o’clock in the morning, someone came running to the house and told me to rush to the hospital as her condition had got worse. It was in that moment that I became certain that my love was ready to depart this world. I began praying for her spirituality and mine. Now, her heart condition began deteriorating more and more while my heart began inclining towards the final destination of every human being.
When I returned to her at around five o’clock from the room next door, where I sat with heart specialists, she was in a cold sweat and was showing signs of extreme faintness, though she could still talk. She said something to me upon which I counselled her. From that, she gathered that perhaps I was telling her that she had shown spiritual weakness. She peered up towards me with eyes that begged for mercy and said, “My dear master! Don’t let me die a kafir [disbeliever],” meaning that if she had committed an error, then I should not be cross with her, rather I should show her the correct way.
At that point, I could see death racing towards her. Now, my fragile heart was experiencing emotions completely out of my control. I began losing my strength. But I soon realised that perfect loyalty to God Almighty and [Maryam] required that I advise her to continue zikr-e-ilahi [remembering Allah] and that I forget about my anguish. I managed to control the sentiments in my heart and pull myself together. I knelt down beside Maryam and told her softly, “Do not think ill of God; He will not allow the progeny of Muhammad Rasulullahsa [to which she also belonged] and the daughter-in-law of the Promised Messiahas to die a kafir.”
Our last conversation
In those moments when she was able to speak and listen, I wanted to express my love to her. But I came to the conclusion that now, she no longer belonged to this world and had moved on to the next; our relationship had reached its end. Now her ties were only with her Lord and to intervene in that connection would be disrupting the sanctity of that relationship. Therefore, I decided to remind her of the Hereafter so that she could occupy herself with the remembrance of Allah. However, I feared telling her so bluntly lest her fragile heart sank before the perfect opportunity to remember Allah.
Finally, I said to her, “Maryam. Everyone has to die someday. Look, if I am to die before you, then I will beseech God that He permit me to meet you every now and then. But if you die before me, then you ask God to permit you to meet me every so often. Maryam, if this happens, convey my Salam to the Holy Prophetsa and the Promised Messiahas.”
Recitation of the Quran
After this, I said, “Maryam, because of your illness, you are not able to recite the Quran. Come, let me read it to you.” Accordingly, I recited Surah al-Rahman to her, which was very dear to her (something I was not aware of and was made aware of afterwards by her close friends) along with its translation. When I completed its recitation, she told me in a soft tone to recite more. I realised then that she had come to terms with those being her final moments and thus, I began the recitation of Surah Ya-Sin.
Now that the realisation of her final moments had dawned on her, when she tried to tell me something by saying, “My beloved…” I explained to her, “Maryam, now is the time when you should forget your love for me and focus on remembering the One Who is both yours and mine.”
“Maryam, now is the time to remember the Beloved One”, after which I would often at times recite the following, urging her to repeat after me:
لَا اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اَنْتَ سُبْحَانَکَ اِنِّیْ کُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِیْنَ
[There is none worthy of worship except Thee. Holy art Thou; verily, I am from among the wrongdoers.]
رَبِّ اِنِّیْ ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِیْ فَاغْفِرْلِیْ ذُنُوْبِیْ اِنَّہُ لَا یَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوْبَ اِلَّا اَنْتَ
[O my Lord, I have wronged my soul. Pray forgive me my sins, for there is none else except Thee who can forgive sins.]
بِرَحْمَتِکَ اَسْتَغِیْثُ یَا اَرْحَمَ الرَّاحِمِیْنَ
[Through Your Mercy do I seek assistance, O You Who are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.]
After some time had passed, I observed that by nature, the words she uttered were those of the remembrance of Allah. There was a unique calmness in her composure and it seemed from her state that she was gracefully seeking the mercy of God in His presence. In such a beautiful, sweet and soft tone, she repeatedly uttered the words:
یَا حَیُّ یَا قَیُّوْمُ بِرَحْمَتِکَ اَسْتَغِیْثُ
[O Living, Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining (God), through Your Mercy do I seek assistance.]
She would utter it in a manner and shape her lips round while saying the words “astagheeth” that would have us believe that she was conversing with Him with full certainty and was only saying those words in a state of worship. Otherwise, her soul was saying to Him, “O my Lord, I know You will forgive me.”
Later I called Dr Mir Muhammad Ismail Sahib and told him that I could not bear it any longer and that he should continue to reassure her. Thus, he carried on reciting portions of the Quran and saying various prayers aloud, after which I returned for a small amount of time, followed by Mir Sahib again taking over. In this manner, we took turns to speak to [Maryam]. Her voice had now fallen silent, though her lips were still moving.
At that point Dr Latif Sahib arrived from Delhi and told us that her illness was aggravating her asthma. He feared that that would increase her suffering and suggested that she be given oxygen. The ventilator was brought in that helped her breathing, but despite it, her breaths became shorter and shorter. Her lips were still moving with the prayers she uttered.
Finally, at ten minutes past two, after I had anxiously left the room, Mian Bashir Ahmad Sahib [brother of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra] left the room and gestured to me to enter. That gesture meant that God’s decree had come to pass. I entered the room and saw a still, motionless Maryam, with traces of happiness and satisfaction in her expression. Due to her prolonged illness and irritable nature, I feared that she would show signs of intolerance in her final hours. This is why, upon seeing her extraordinary and exemplary belief and end, I spontaneously cried out, “Alhamdolillah!”
Sajda-e-Shukr – Prostration of gratitude
I fell into prostration facing the Ka‘bah near her bedside and thanked Allah repeatedly that He saved her from trials and that her life ended with her thanking Allah. Thereafter, we made preparations for her body to be taken to Qadian. Her body was brought to Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Sahib’s house, where she was bathed and finally taken to Qadian – the abode of God’s Messiah – after arrangements had been made for cars and coaches.
For the first night, she was kept on the ground floor of her own house and on the second day, after Asr, she was taken to her final resting place in Bahishti Maqbarah at the feet of God’s Messiah, where I stood at the head side and helped lower her body into the ground.
اَللّٰھُمَّ ارْحَمْھَا وَارْحَمْنِیْ
[O Allah, show mercy on her and show mercy on me.]
She had four children – three daughters and one son – Amatul Hakeem, Amatul Basit, Tahir Ahmad [Khalifatul Masih IVrh] and Amatul Jamil. May Allah bless them all and be with them in this world and the next. When we brought her body to Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Sahib’s house, the youngest daughter, seven-year-old Amatul Jamil (who was very dear to Maryam and is dear to me) started wailing and crying out, “Hai Ummi, Hai Ummi” [O mother! O mother!].
I approached her and said, “Jammi (as we call her), your mother has gone to Allah’s house. There, she will be much more comfortable. It was Allah’s decision that she should go to Him. Look, the Holy Prophetsa passed away. Your grandfather [the Promised Messiahas] passed away. Was your mother greater than them?”
May God’s shelter never be removed from this girl for even a minute, for as soon as I said those words, not once did she wail for her mother. As soon as she heard those words, she fell silent, so much so that the next day, during the funeral procession when her elder sister – who is rather unwell – screamed and fell unconscious, my Jammi approached my youngest wife, Maryam Siddiqa, and said, “Choti Apa (as my children call her), how strange is Baji. Abbajan says that it was God’s decision for Ummi to pass away, but she still cries.”
O my Lord! O my Lord! Will you not protect that person in the Hereafter from every anguish and pain whose daughter never displayed anguish at her mother’s death merely for Your pleasure?
O my Merciful God! It is the right of Your servants to have such an expectation of You and to fulfil this desire is most befitting for You.
(Meri Maryam, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 17, pp. 347-372; Al Fazl, 12 July 1944, pp. 1-8)