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.
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.
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.
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.
Desire to understand one another
As I have stated above, due to her illness, my Maryam was often under the illusion that I never loved her or that I loved her less than others. For this reason, she would be pleasant to others, but often times, she would quarrel with me and thus, our life was a mixture of love and disputes. I loved her immensely and seeing her face in times of difficulty would ease my distress. But she remained firm on her stance that she was loved less than others.
During her final illness, the two ladies who stayed with her in turns both told me separately that she had accepted her mistake. One of the ladies said, “[Maryam Begum] expressed that she would often think that Hazrat Sahib did not love her, but she said that she was mistaken. She said, ‘The lengths to which he has gone in my illness has proven to me that he indeed loves me dearly. If I come out of this alive, I will give him all the love and respect possible.’”
The other lady narrated, “She told me that she was certain that Huzoor loved her. She said that if she stayed alive, she would spend the rest of her life in his service.” Destiny had it that they would both tell me this after her demise. If they had told me during her lifetime, it would have been a source of great happiness for me. I would have gone to her, taken her hand in mine and said, “Maryam, do not worry. You do not need to serve me or show me your love and respect. This thought occurring to you has reciprocated all my love.”
Perhaps she would have felt satisfied by this and my heart would have been overjoyed. If we were able to stand face to face even once in a way that we both understood each other, just for a minute, how joyous would that moment be for the both of us! But this was not in Allah’s plan. Perhaps the misfortune of our shortcomings demanded a huge sacrifice from us.
Sound mind until the last breath
The extraordinary thing is that despite such a long illness, Maryam Begum remained in her senses till her last breath. Two days before her demise, when she had reached the extremes of weakness, she said to me, “Can you arrange for some small tablecloths.” Thus, I requested Maryam Siddiqa to go by car and select some according to her choice. When I showed [Maryam] the tablecloths, she was extremely drowsy. But she replied, “They’re nice. Get a dozen of them.”
I thought that she was not in her senses because in the hospital room, there was only one coffee table. I responded, “Alright. Okay!” and left the room worriedly with tears in my eyes. After some time, her maid came out from her room and said, “She is calling you.” As I entered, she immediately overcame her drowsiness, but was still weak. After gesturing to come closer, she told me, “You got so worried. I am in my senses. I did not order the tablecloths for the hospital; I ordered them for our home.”
I feel that her weak heart made her believe this afterwards. The reality is that she was affected by temporary drowsiness, but she understood and saw through my worry. After assessing the situation, she realised that she had made a mistake, thus correcting the tablecloth issue so that it seemed sensible and explained the logic to me.
Prayer for the visitors
During Maryam Begum’s illness, the wife of Sher Muhammad Khan Sahib of Australia, Iqbal Begum offered her services the most. This pious lady served [Maryam] day and night for two and a half months, forgetting about her children and her home in a manner that led me to worry about her mental state. May Allah the Almighty always cover her and her entire family with His shadow of grace.
Then there is Dr Hashmatullah Khan Sahib, who had the opportunity to serve her for a long and continuous period of time. Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Sahib hosted us for many months and helped us in so many ways.
Mian Ehsanullah Sahib of Lahore worked day and night, to the point where I had to pray that Allah enable him to always live a pious life till the end. Hakim Sirajuddin Sahib of Bhati Gate, alongside his wife, provided food and would frequently visit us in hospital. Dr Mirajuddin suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is quite aged. When he would arrive tumbling and huffing and puffing in the hospital and would call me outside to speak to me about [Maryam’s] health, many a time, upon seeing this grace of God Almighty, my eyes would well up with tears; God filled the hearts of people with the love of an unworthy being like me.
Many others from Lahore showed signs of immense sincerity and helped us in so many ways. Seith Muhammad Ghaus Sahib of Hyderabad showed such a high example of sincerity that is rare even among biological brothers. Despite being at a distant place like Hyderabad, his daughter-in-law and daughters first resided in Qadian for a long period and would often visit [Maryam].
When they finally returned home, Seith Muhammad Azam left his business and settled in Lahore and sometime after the demise did he return home. Dr Latif Sahib visited many times, travelling from Delhi. Many people from my own family lovingly made many sacrifices. This was but their responsibility and other than through prayers, how else can I repay them?
O my Lord! Exalt all these people with Your grace and blessings and those who I have not been able to mention or am unaware of. O my Lord! I feel as though these pious servants of Yours deserve a more sincere and caring leader than me. What more can I say to intercede for them before You?
The sincerity of the Jamaat
The sincerity shown by the Jamaat upon Maryam’s demise was a means of increasing our faith. It is the sheer blessing of being associated with Muhammad Rasulullah [Messenger of Allah], peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and the Promised Messiah, on whom be peace, that we find such high levels of loyalty in our Jamaat. May Allah accept their sincerity and loyalty, distance them from wrongdoings and increase them in righteous deeds. May He provide spiritual and moral sustenance for their future generations Himself. Allahumma amin.
O my Lord! I now conclude this piece and refer to the famous incident mentioned in Bukhari as a reminder by saying that at the time of Maryam Begum’s demise, I attempted to occupy Maryam in Your love, despite my bleeding heart, and sacrificed my emotions so that her soul could eventually return to You, entrenched in Your love.
My Dear Lord! If that act was wholly for You and in exaltation of Your Name, then in return, I ask that You remove any painful memories of Maryam from my heart. My Lord! When Maryam Begum promised to raise the late Amatul Hayy’s children and I promised to love her immensely, I prayed to You that You may instil her love in my heart. You accepted that prayer and despite thousands of misunderstandings, her love never escaped my heart. Today, I ask of You again to let her love remain in my heart so that I may pray for her. But [I ask that You] remove any painful memories so that I may serve Your religion in the best manner, till the very end.
My Lord! I have full certainty that Maryam is now in the Hereafter and that the truths have been made manifest to her. If You reveal this to her then she will not mind it, rather she will tell You, “In order to purify my heart, my husband urged me in my final hours to forget his love, for God Almighty is our true love and that I should only focus on thinking about Him. Now I intercede for him and ask that You take back the love for me he prayed to You for; not to the extent that he forgets about praying for me, but just enough that this love does not cause him distress and becomes a hindrance in his work.”
A comprehensive prayer for the entire Jamaat
O my Lord! How beautiful You are! No one knows when my death will come and for this reason, today, I entrust all my children, my dear ones and the entire Ahmadiyya Jamaat to You. My Lord! Become wholly theirs and enable them to become wholly Yours. May my eyes and my soul never witness their pain. May they flourish, spread and sprout and may they establish Your Kingdom in the whole world. May they return from this world to You by leaving behind such progeny that is no less in service to Your religion.
O God! Never let me witness their pain and never let my soul feel sorrow for them. My Lord! Bless the souls of my Amatul Hayy, my Sara and my Maryam. Always come to their help and aid and grant them security from all evil in the Hereafter. Allahumma amin.
From the depths of my heart
O Soul of Maryam! If God Almighty conveys my voice to you, then here, listen to my final message from the depths of my heart and then go and enter the mercies of God where grief ceases to exist; where pain is unknown and where the memory of us earth-dwellers does not trouble anyone. Wassalam
وَآخِرُ دَعْوانَا وَدَعْواکُمْ اَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِیْنَ
[And in the end, our claim and your claim is: All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds] ٍ
اَبْکِیْ عَلَیْکِ کُلَّ یَوْمٍ وَلَیْلَۃٍ
اَرْثِیْکِ یَا زَوْجِیْ بِقَلْبٍ دَامِیْ
I cry for you, every day and every night. My dear wife! I mourn your death with a bleeding heart.
صِرْتُ کَصَیْدٍ صِیْدَ فِیْ الصُّبْحِ غَیلَۃً
قَدْ غَابَ عَنِّیْ مَقْصَدِیْ وَمَرَامِیْ
Upon your death, I became the prey that is trapped in the early hours, whilst searching for food. The shock struck me in a way that made me forget where I was and where I was headed.
لَوْ لَمْ یَکُنْ تَأیِیدُ رَبِّیْ مُسَاعِدِیْ
لَاَصْبَحْتُ مَیْتًا عُرْضَۃً لِسِھَامِیْ
Had God’s succour not been at hand, I would have become the target for the arrows of my own heart, thus becoming like carrion.
وَلٰکِنَّ فَضْلَ اللہِ جَاءَ لِنَجْدَتِیْ
وَاَنْقَذَنِیْ مِنْ زَلَّۃِ الْاَقْدَامِ
But Allah’s grace came to my help, and kept me from stumbling.
یَا رَبِّ سَتِّرْنِیْ بِجُنَّۃِ عَفْوِکَ
کُنْ نَاصِرِیْ وَمُصَاحِبِیْ وَمُحَامِیْ
O My Lord! Protect me with the shield of Your forgiveness; Be my Helper! Be my Companion! Be my Protector!
اَلْغَمُّ کَالضِّرْغَامِ یَاْکُلُ لَحْمَنَا
لَا تَجْعَلَنِّیْ لُقْمَۃَ الضِّرْغَامِ
Sorrow is like a lion that eats away at our flesh; God! Prevent me from becoming the morsel to this lion!
یَا رَبِّ صَاحِبْھَا بِلُطْفِکَ دَائِمًا
وَاجْعَلْ لَھَا مَاْوًی بِقَبْرٍ سَامِیْ
O my Lord! Always accompany her and send down Your blessings on her; And make her abode a shrine of eminence.
یَا رَبِّ اَنْعِمْھَا بِقُرْبِ مُحَمَّدٍ
ذِیْ الْمَجْدِ وَالْاِحْسَانِ وَالْاِکْرَامِ
O my Lord! Bless her with the nearness of Muhammad (Rasulullah), who is bestowed majesty, beneficence and reverence (by You).
All worldly loves and sorrows are temporary. True love exclusively belongs to Allah the Almighty. By being at one with Him can we meet with our dear ones and by distancing ourselves from Him can we lose everything. The things our flawed perceptions consider painful are usually blessings in disguise from God. Thus, I declare that my heart can be false, but my God is True.
وَالْحَمْدُ لِلّٰہِ عَلیٰ کُلِّ حَالٍ
[And all praise belongs to Allah in every condition.]
Seeking God’s grace,
Mirza Mahmud Ahmad
(Meri Maryam, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 17, pp. 347-372; Al Fazl, 12 July 1944, pp. 1-8)