Muhammad Ahmad Khurshid Missionary, Manchester, UK
I often ask myself whether we take being Ahmadis for granted, more specifically those of us who were born into Ahmadiyyat. This question has lingered in my mind for a long time. The reality is that the status of the Promised Messiahas is not fully comprehended by some; a reformer who was foretold by many reformers before him; a reformer whose advent was not only foretold in the Holy Quran, but was interpreted and thus foretold by the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, himself.
The world that we find ourselves in is so chaotic and as the saying goes, that every second counts, some of us truly have not grasped the reality that a reformer came to rectify the world that we live in. This fact alone should be the greatest indicator that our lives really should be devoted to the work of Allah and every day should bear testimony that we have truly accepted the Promised Messiah and Mahdi.
I have seen something very unique in my life as a missionary so far. Those who find Ahmadiyyat, view that find as a treasure and then with all their might, hold onto that treasure. Their thirst for knowledge is also unquestionable; it undoubtedly strengthens their faith.
I have seen many individuals who strived upon this road to Ahmadiyyat, an exceptional one being the late Malik Muhammad Akram Sahib. His journey is really that of one who found Ahmadiyyat as a treasure and it became his life motive. Born as a non-Ahmadi Muslim without direction, he found Ahmadiyyat at the tender age of 14 or 15. His older brother, Master Azam Sahib had converted before him and inspired him to apply for Jamia Ahmadiyya in Rabwah.
In his interview to be admitted into Jamia, he was asked to recite from the Holy Quran, which he declined, stating that he could not recite the Quran. This bemused the staff interviewing him as the recitation of the Quran is seen as the most basic thing taught in Islam. Akram Sahib could not recite the Quran because prior to becoming an Ahmadi, the environment he was brought up in, the Quran was seen more as a symbolic book, which would have been kept high somewhere on a shelf rather than being read.
Akram Sahib’s older brother, upon finding out that his brother was not granted entry on this basis, requested to be presented before the staff. He told the Jamia staff that the Promised Messiahas came to rejuvenate the faith of Islam and by reintegrating the teachings of the Quran into our lives, he then requested the staff that having accepted Ahmadiyyat, Akram Sahib should be given an opportunity to study the Quran. This was where his quest to learn Islam Ahmadiyyat began and then led him to a journey that enabled him to serve his faith for nearly 50 years.
I was appointed as a missionary in Manchester in the North West region of the United Kingdom in 2014. The task was unnerving and as a recent graduate, I always questioned myself as to whether I was even capable of this task ahead. I was very fortunate that Akram Sahib was the missionary serving in Manchester and he guided me through my early years as a field missionary. Even though he was a senior missionary of the Jamaat and almost 43 years senior to me, he was always very kind and affectionate towards me and where I took his advice on matters, he always spoke to me and took my view on the basis that we were both serving in the same region.
In 2015, I was transferred as a missionary from Manchester to Liverpool and after almost a year, I was reassigned to Manchester, whilst Akram Sahib received instructions to continue his services in Cardiff. In Cardiff, his health began deteriorating rapidly as he was diagnosed with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. This meant that he had restricted capability to be able to breathe. He was given a nasal cannula. This is a device that includes two small tubes that fit in your nostrils with a longer air tube attached to an oxygen tank. His health worsened over time, but he was still able to continue his responsibilities.
Imam Ataul Mujeeb Rashed Sahib told me that he went for an event near Cardiff and intended to meet Akram Sahib after the programme. He said that to his surprise, he saw Akram Sahib walk into the hall with the oxygen tank in his hand and with the tubes attached to the oxygen tank. Soon after this, he received retirement and requested permission to move to Manchester.
An apartment was found very close to the mosque for him and his wife. I had very little idea that his health had now worsened considerably and the illness had become terminal. He called me on Thursday, 4 April 2019 and said that he was coming with the regional amir and some other members who had come to drop him off and wanted to come to the mission house first as he was very tired. When I came to receive him at the gate of the mosque, it was very upsetting to see him in that state as he was struggling to walk. We had to bring him into the flat, which is on the first floor, through the lift on his wheelchair. After settling down, he asked me whether he could stay the night here as the journey had exhausted him. The paperwork for the flat was to be finalised the next day. We arranged one of the rooms in the mission house for him and his wife.
Little did I know that the last three weeks of his life would be spent in this very flat. The next day was the only time he left the flat. I carried his oxygen tank and put some spare ones in the car. We managed to reach the apartment to sign the documents for his accommodation. The flat was furnished and was ready to be moved into. When we returned to the mission house, I noticed that the exhaustion from a little movement had left him extremely weak and tired, requiring immediate bed rest. My mind wandered to the thought that Akram Sahib was physically not capable to look after himself and his wife, Amatul Kareem Malik Sahiba, who although physically well, but because of her age, would struggle to look after him, especially as the oxygen tanks were heavy.
That night, I requested Akram Sahib to stay the night in the mission house. Every day, he would mention to me that he was ready to go to his flat, but I could see that it was impossible and I felt duty-bound to look after this senior missionary of the Jamaat. I spoke to Amir Sahib UK and sought his advice. He instructed me to look after him as the missionary and acting regional Amir of the North West region. A hospital bed was set up in his room and all the requirements were met for him to live his last days in the mission house. Nurses and doctors visited daily and gave their reports.
The day he passed away, I was leaving the mission house for some work and he asked me twice about when I would be back. I told him that I would return in the afternoon and asked him if everything was fine. He replied positively, but the question concerned me as it was the first time in three weeks that he asked any such question. When I arrived back at the mission house, it was nearly time for Zuhr prayer. Azan was being called and we could hear it in the speakers of the mission house. His wife told me that he was struggling to breathe and that the oxygen tank was now insufficient as an assisting tool. I rushed to the mosque and requested someone to lead Zuhr and went back to his room. At this point, the lack of oxygen was really affecting him. I called the ambulance. I held him in my arms and tried delivering the oxygen through another mask, which did not help much. I called Iftekhar Sahib, a member of the mosque’s security staff , to help me.
It was during this point that I was unable to feel a pulse. There was lady on the line guiding me; she stayed on the line until the ambulance crew arrived. She asked me to place him on the floor. We placed his body on the floor and I was asked by her to give him CPR, which I continued for around five to six minutes. Those minutes were the longest and most difficult of my life. He did not respond and I knew that he had departed. The ambulance crew arrived and told me that he had indeed passed away. This entire time, I asked my wife to take Akram Sahib’s wife outside as this was an extremely difficult time. She, to my astonishment, stood there as her husband departed from this world without a tear in her eye. It was only after the ambulance crew went downstairs and I went to the other room and said:
اِنَّا لِلّٰہِ وَاِنَّا اِلَیْہِ رَاجِعُوْنَ
“To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return” that tears flowed down from her eyes.
Her devotion to Akram Sahib was inspiring. Caring for him at her age was extremely challenging, but she was ever-smiling whilst caring for him. Allah gives a lot of strength to His beloved during these difficult moments.
Malik Muhammad Akram Sahib passed away on Thursday, 25 April 2019. I informed the regional amir, who had returned a day earlier from abroad. He, along with some presidents, held a meeting aft er Asr prayer. We sent a request to Amir Sahib UK if it was possible for Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa to lead the Janaza prayer aft er the Friday prayer. Huzooraa graciously approved and we now had to prepare for the Janaza. The body was taken in the early hours of the night and we made the trip from Manchester in the morning.
The following were the words of Huzooraa regarding the late Akram Sahib:
“… Respected Malik Muhammad Akram Sahib, who was a missionary of the community. He passed away yesterday, on 25 April, in Manchester; to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return. His funeral is present here and after the prayers, Insha-Allah, I will lead his funeral prayer outside [the mosque].
“He was born on 2 April 1947 in Malkwaal in the district of Gujrat. In 1961, he performed Bai‘at [pledge of allegiance] and entered the Jamaat. His elder brother, Master Azam Sahib had accepted Ahmadiyyat prior to this and Akram Sahib also performed the Bai‘at after him.
“I remember he wrote an article in which he wrote that he only came to Rabwah for his studies, but having been influenced by the atmosphere of Rabwah, he performed the Bai‘at. Nonetheless, in 1962, aft er he had performed Bai‘at, he dedicated his life for the Jamaat. After completing his BA, he received his Shahid degree and also Maulvi Fazil degree. He was assigned as a missionary in 1971.
“In 1970, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh led his nikah, which was settled with Amatul Karim Sahiba, daughter of Maulvi Abul Basharat Abdul Ghafoor Sahib. Akram Sahib had the opportunity to serve as a missionary in different places in Pakistan, as well as countries outside of Pakistan. He served in various Jamaats across the UK for approximately 30 years, including Oxford, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff . His total service spans approximately 48 years. In the UK, he served as Naib Afsar Jalsa Gah for many years.
“From 1971 to 1973, he served in various places throughout Pakistan. From 1973 to 1977 he served in The Gambia. From 1977 to 1979, he served in Karachi, Pakistan after which he served in Rabwah in Wakalat-e-Tabshir from 1979 to 1980. Between 1980 and 1983, he served as the principal of the Missionary College in Hilaro, Nigeria, aft er which he returned to Pakistan and stayed in Rabwah until 1989. From 1989 until 2018, he had the opportunity to serve in the UK.
“Initially, in 2007, he reached the official age of retirement but was re-employed in February 2007 and had the opportunity to serve until 2018.
“Although a Waqf-e-Zindagi always remains in his capacity as a life devotee, however recently, due to illness, he was unable to actively carry out his duties and therefore retired. Nonetheless, we can say that he only spent a few months without being in active service and in this way, he served until his last breath.
“Amir Sahib UK writes, ‘He was very hard working, obedient and had a pleasant nature. Whichever Jamaat work was assigned to him, he would complete it with great effort and diligence. It was his habit to immediately compile a full report and send it. He was appointed to serve in Manchester. Malik Sahib worked tirelessly to collect funds for the Darul Aman mosque when it was being constructed.’
“Ataul Mujeeb Rashed Sahib writes, ‘Akram Sahib was a man of principle and possessed many qualities. He was very pious, honest and an extremely loyal Ahmadi. He was a passionate missionary who would work diligently. He was a servant of the Community who displayed the highest levels of obedience for Khilafat.’
“Majeed Sialkoti Sahib writes, ‘He possessed many qualities, the foremost that he was an extremely loyal servant of Khilafat. He had a passion for tabligh [propagating the message of Islam].’ Sialkoti Sahib further writes, ‘When we were students, during the holidays, he once visited our village and said that they ought to go out for tabligh and became involved in tabligh activities. He had sacrificed his holidays to perform tabligh with Khuddam and Ansar. He always displayed obedience throughout his life.’
“Aslam Khalid Sahib, who is serving in the private secretary’s office in London, writes, ‘He became a close relation of mine’. They were both related through marriage. ‘Wherever he was appointed, he would win the hearts of people through his affection. He even served throughout his illness and he would especially speak lovingly about the people of Manchester. He had a loving relationship with the youth and children of the Jamaat.’
“Giving one example of this, Aslam Khalid Sahib says, ‘He once told me an incident regarding one of the children who grew up with him and then later married; from among them, one of the youths was expecting their first child. When the child was born, he called him at 2:30am or 3am informing him that his first child had been born. Akram Sahib said that he thought to himself that this was not an appropriate hour to inform him via telephone and he could have easily called in the morning. However, it was the love the youth had for his missionary and who had played a significant part in his upbringing. He said he was left speechless by his next comment. The youth said, “Murabbi Sahib! I had vowed that whenever God Almighty would grant me a child, you would be the first person I would inform. Now that I have told you, I will inform my father.”’
“This was the love and affection people had for him and his love for the Jamaat members. May God Almighty continue to elevate his status, shower His forgiveness on him and grant his loved ones steadfastness and courage to bear this loss. His funeral is present, as mentioned earlier, and I will go outside to lead his funeral prayer.” (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, Friday Sermon, 26 April 2019)
He was buried the following day in the Merton Cemetery in London. Once, during a discussion with a non-Ahmadi, he was asked what difference he felt in his life since converting to Ahmadiyyat. He answered that since that day, he had never missed his Tahajud prayer. I always saw him as a strong defender of Ahmadiyyat and the institution of Khilafat. He really treasured the fact that he had found Ahmadiyyat.
On one occasion, Aunty Kareem became emotional observing his frail physical state. I vividly remember that Akram Sahib was unable to move at the time. All he was able to do was raise his fi nger and say:
وہ رب ہے نا
that she should not worry as Allah would look after her. During the three weeks that he was with us, I could notice expressions on his face that suggested that at times, he was in a lot of pain and discomfort, but he always remained patient. Dozens of people were coming on a daily basis to see him and despite being bedridden and unable to move, he spoke to people with great love and affection.
It was April last year that he arrived at the mission house. A whole year later did I finally gather the strength to write about him as the memories always flooded back. I felt that to truly honour and remember this great servant of the Jamaat, I had to write about him. Belonging to the younger generation, it is our duty to honour and remember our elders. Through this article, one task has been achieved, and that is to remember a pious soul who is no longer among us.
But another purpose of this article is to remind us all to remember the fallen soldiers of the Jamaat in our prayers. Malik Sahib was indeed such a soldier of the Jamaat, for whom I hope the reader will take the time to say a prayer.