Last Updated on 14th November 2021
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa delivered his Friday Sermon today (3 September 2021) on Syed Taalay Ahmad, who was martyred in Ghana while doing what he lived and breathed for – serving the Jamaat of the Promised Messiahas.
In 2013, Syed Taalay Ahmad, after completing his master’s degree in journalism, sacrificed his life for the cause of Islam Ahmadiyyat and was posted to the Central Press & Media department. In 2016, he was assigned duties in the MTA News department, an office which he took to new heights.
Huzooraa spoke about the great qualities and attributes of Syed Taalay Ahmad and spoke of him as a “model” for those who had sacrificed their lives to serve Islam Ahmadiyyat and also for the family of the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him.
Huzooraa expressed his own love and admiration for Syed Taalay Ahmad too in the sermon. He said:
“He was a gem that left us. May Allah the Exalted continue to grant the Jamaat such loyal people who have a relationship with Khilafat that is based on obedience and sincerity and who give precedence to faith over the world […] This beloved individual fully understood the spirit of waqf [life devotion] and fulfilled the oath that he had made in the truest sense. Upon observing him, I used to be amazed, and still am, as to how a child raised in this worldly environment understood [the essence of] his waqf and then fulfilled it. He fulfilled it in such a way that he reached its peak.”
Huzooraa highlighted that Syed Taalay Ahmad was the first martyr of MTA International (UK) and also the first martyr from the UK Waqf-e-Nau.
After the Friday Sermon, Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa led the funeral prayer of Syed Taalay Ahmad and travelled to the burial site too. Huzooraa held the coffin as it was being carried to the grave and also took part in the burial.
The whole Friday Sermon can be listened to on MTA International’s YouTube channel and its transcript will be published in the coming weeks in Al Hakam, insha-Allah.
We spoke to some of Syed Taalay Ahmad’s colleagues and friends who reminisced on his great qualities and attributes.
Nosherwan Rashid, an MTA News colleague who worked closely with Syed Taalay Ahmad at their office, said:
“Huzooraa had graciously appointed me to serve in the MTA News department over three years ago. At the time, I had never come across Taalay bhai before or spoken to him.
“When I initially joined the MTA News department, I had little or no knowledge regarding editing, filming, lighting, scriptwriting or TV presenting and for the news department, these were daily tasks. From the first day, Taalay bhai sat me next to him and showed me the basics of editing and told me to just watch as he edited daily world news or any other work he was doing, and whilst he was doing that, he explained to me what he was doing. Taalay bhai was an amazing and compassionate teacher and within days, I managed to pick up the basics and that was not due to my own abilities; rather, the continuous effort of Taalay bhai.
“Throughout the last three years, I worked closely with Taalay bhai and he would encourage me and support me at every step of the way. He always gave me comments like, ‘Well done, I’m proud of you’, or, ‘Keep up the good work.’ I had made mistakes and never did he once discourage me or tell me off as a senior; rather, he supported me and always told me in a polite manner what I had to do. I recall that in the beginning, he kindly compiled a list of over 25 videos about editing, filming, various shots, lighting, story-telling etc. and named that playlist ‘For Nosh’ and said to me that he created a list for me especially to learn more from. He wanted me to learn and achieve a lot.
“Taalay bhai had immense love for the Holy Quran and learning about it. I do not know a single person besides Taalay bhai who had achieved this task which I will share with you now:
“Taalay bhai quite frequently used to walk to work from his house, which is about an hour walk, if not more. He would listen to dars-ul Quran classes of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh to work and then on the way back too. This way, over a few years, he had listened to all the dars-ul-Quran classes and when he finished, he was extremely happy and told me about it with such joy and jubilation on his face that I can still picture it. And if I’m not wrong, he had started listening to those classes once again.
“Taalay bhai had immense love for Khilafat and this was apparent from his life. He would set his password in a way that every time he would log on, he would be praying for Huzooraa and when I spoke to him about this, he told me he had set passwords in this way so that every time he logged on (and that would be a few times a day), he would pray for Huzooraa. This was so inspirational not just for me, but another colleague of ours, Mubahil Sahib, so much so that we started doing the same.
“I remember when he wanted to launch This Week With Huzoor, he told me about the idea and was very much looking forward to it and had been praying that it would be approved to go ahead. Throughout the week, whatever other tasks he had, he would look forward to filming, editing, scripting and producing the episode for the week and I am sure he would be praying for its success. After he would finish the episode, he himself checked it multiple times to make sure there were no mistakes and would tell me to sit down and watch the entire episode before it was broadcast, in case he had not picked up anything. Every time he was about to upload it to YouTube, he would say, ‘Bismillah’ – ‘In the name of Allah’ – and then proceed to click on the upload button. He was extremely careful about the reports and events of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa and wouldn’t ever want to displease him.
“Since Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa moved to Islamabad, UK, Taalay bhai would regularly send me his letters to Huzooraa and ask me to forward them to the private secretary’s office. I had seen that after sending me the letter, he would message after a couple of hours or the following day to see if I had the chance to send it. Before he departed for Africa, he had sent me three letters to forward.
“Taalay bhai was so obedient to Khilafat that he would try his utmost to follow the instructions of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa to the best of his abilities, whether that instruction was for him or anyone else.
“A few months ago, when Huzooraa had a few virtual meetings with missionaries from different countries, Huzooraa said that every missionary should try to offer Tahajud prayers for at least one hour every day.
“After a few days, I was sat in the office with Taalay bhai and we were having a conversation and I saw that he looked a little tired. I asked if everything was okay. He replied, ‘I wake up an hour and a half before Fajr now and offer an hour-long Tahajud and then Fajr prayer as this is what Huzooraa expects from us. It is hard for me but as this was Huzoor’s instruction, I am trying my best.’ This instruction was specifically for missionaries, but Taalay bhai had made it compulsory for himself too.
“As we worked closely in the office and were sat just across from each other, I had seen his routine and the way he worked. When he worked on anything, he would wholeheartedly be concentrating on his work and would forget about everything else – about eating, drinking or taking a break. Every Friday, he would work on This Week With Huzoor and prepare to have the episode ready for broadcast and on those days, he would never go out to get lunch; rather, he would continue to work on the episode till it was complete and then leave. This was his practice not just on Fridays, but on most days.
“He was regular in the voluntary Thursday fast, something which I observed for over three years.
“I had the opportunity to not only work with him but also participate in other activities with his, like sports. Every week, on Friday, we would play football together and on some occasions, if he had forgotten his wallet, he would ask if I could pay for him. Many times, I would forget that I paid or I would say it was fine and he didn’t need to pay me back as it was so little, but I would return to the office and he would just place the amount on my desk. He was very careful about who he owed and no matter what the amount, he would do so. At times, it would only be a small amount, but he would consider it his responsibility to pay them back. He even mentioned that he had made notes on his phone to remind himself if he had to pay someone back.
“Taalay bhai was not only my colleague, but a teacher as well, and more importantly, a friend and a brother. He helped me immensely when I was producing my first documentary and helped with the entire script and also the editing. Even a couple of months ago, I had completed my research for the next part and sent it to him for help with the script and he immediately pinned the email so he could see it later. He said to me, ‘I’ll work on it whenever I get time; I won’t forget about it.’
“Taalay bhai will be missed and remembered every day and every time I walk into the office – his laugh, smile and the sparkle in his eyes. He was truly a gem, a diamond and I will miss him a lot.”
James Sutton, a school-friend and football teammate, said:
“I first knew Taalay as the head boy of our school. Taalay came across in his head boy campaign as a real people person and someone with a great sense of humour and a lot of charisma. As I got to know Taalay as a friend in later years, I found that these were only a few of his many qualities.
“A few years later, when I was around 16, Taalay recruited me, through his brother Adil, to The Gents FC, a seven-a-side football team that he had entered into the local league. The player base was very diverse and I knew no one in the team, but one thing had brought them together – Taalay. What Taalay created with the gents was a big part of growing up for me and he was responsible for many laughs and great memories. For this, I will always be grateful to him.
“Taalay was an expert at bringing people together and making them feel welcome in any situation. He even had me playing in a table tennis league at the local mosque.
“He would organise events and trips and would always deliver on his elaborate ideas, to the point where The Gents did a tour of London. He arranged a tournament with local teams, showed us around the sites of London and even put the full team up for the weekend in his accommodation.
“The weekend was one I will never forget.
“Taalay became someone I would go to for advice and he always delivered, it always felt like he cared and had a genuine interest in every conversation we had, he was someone I looked up to learned a lot from and always respected.”
Richard Sirs, a school friend and cricket teammate, said:
“Trying to describe why I liked Taalay seems so difficult to put into words because I don’t think that I have the vocabulary to do him justice. The only thing I can do to reflect on the boy he was and the man he became is by stories that I have of him.
“I never told him about this story, and I doubt he ever realised that we had met at such a young age.
“I decided at a young age that I wanted to play cricket. I must have been around the age of 11 at the time, maybe a bit younger. I was a nervous and shy young boy who turned up to cricket practice on a Saturday morning at Park Drive Cricket club. I knew nobody there and was left with around 10 other boys with a set of stumps, a cricket bat and a tennis ball. The coach made no introductions and just left us to it. One boy straight away took to organising everything to get a little game going. Whether he could tell that I was nervous or not, I can’t be sure, but he came over and introduced himself as ‘Taalay’ and instantly put me at ease. This encounter encouraged me to stay and return week after week.
“I never told him this, and perhaps I should have, but at that moment, I looked up to him.
“At the age of 17, we once again found ourselves back at the cricket club. We had a net and had decided to have a game of football. During the game, I broke two bones in my leg. There was a clubhouse full of adults who did nothing to come and help, even when asked. The person who again dealt with the situation, made sure I was okay and calmed the situation was Taalay. He waited with me till the paramedics arrived, making sure to reassure me that everything was going to be fine.
“Strangely enough, the final time we met face to face was at the age of 28 back at the cricket club once again. He told me about what had been going on in his life and we discussed old times, and although we had not talked in a while, nothing had changed. He offered me to come down and visit where he lived and said he would put me up and show me around and introduce me to his new family.
“For me, the measure of a man is being able to leave the world in a better place than when you came into it. Well, Taalay, my friend, this is something you have certainly achieved as your kindness knew no bounds.”
Mubahil Shakir, an MTA News colleague who worked closely with Syed Taalay Ahmad at their office, said:
“Taalay had a pure soul. He was very innocent-hearted. He would act the same with everyone and wouldn’t discriminate.
“He was kind and very jolly. He was enthusiastic about life. I remember he would come in to the office some mornings bursting with energy, saying: ‘Assalamo alaikum Mubahil! How are you? What’s happening?’ He would change the atmosphere of the office and bring it to life.
“Taalay had a very strong work ethic – he worked like a man on a mission. When he was working on a project, he did so relentlessly without any care for himself. Sometimes he’d be sat at his chair working for a long period of time and wouldn’t have eaten anything. If he did eat, it would just be snacks from the vending machine so he could keep working while he was eating. He didn’t let anything distract him. This is how he achieved so much in such a short space of time.
“When he worked, he did so discreetly and would tell very few people what he was working on. Then, once his work was complete, we would all be amazed about what he produced.
“At one time, he mentioned to me and one of my colleagues, ‘I have this hard drive and all my work is on this hard drive. So if anything is to happen to me, you both know where my work is.’ He said this jokingly, but I remember thinking at the time that it was a strange thing to say. In hindsight, this statement he made makes more sense.
“He made many excellent documentaries, which touched the hearts of millions of Ahmadis. But in my opinion, his biggest legacy is This Week With Huzoor, which brought millions of Ahmadis closer to their Khalifa.
“May Allah bless him and grant him a lofty place in Heaven. May he continue to reap the rewards for all of the good he has left behind in this world.”
Shazil Lone, Manager of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association football team, who worked closely with Syed Taalay Ahmad for his documentary For Love and the Game, said:
“Taalay was a very polite person, who first joined us years ago to play football at Wandle, London regularly. It was a few years later that he approached me to do a documentary on the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA UK) Jamaat football club. Thinking it was a standard MTA News segment, I told him to go ahead.
“Little did I know that he would follow us for an entire season, often discussing tactics and thoughts with me and was not afraid to ask the testing questions to myself, the players or spectators. He was never afraid to say, in his straight-talking Northern sarcasm, that if the season or tournament didn’t lead to a promotion or a win, the documentary would come out awfully!
“He had a clear storytellers’ vision and though many of us were unsure how it would pan out, we left it in his hands and the storyboard he had put together.
“What transpired was an ‘all or nothing’ fly-on-the-wall style documentary that was ahead of its time called, For Love and the Game, which was directed and narrated by Taalay. The follow-up documentary covered the inaugural Masroor European Football Tournament.
“He put his heart and soul into his documentaries, which was shown through his commitment to doing the aforesaid documentary over a year and the time spent with us all – getting footage and interviews, in the sun and the pouring rain. He would be there regardless. He captured a golden moment for the club and its players, but more so, his talent was to bring out the human stories, with the football story as its backdrop.
“He managed to intertwine this seamlessly with the ethos and history of the Jamaat and to ultimately raise the name of our beloved Jamaat.
“He also had a sense of humour and when doing the trailers for the documentary, he would always check that even the funny elements did not offend or hurt any feelings. Such was his duty of care.
“When it came to submitting this new style of documentary, he would always say Huzooraa knew better if it was to be approved. He messaged me when he was submitting it for approval and was as humble as saying that if it got rejected, it would be down to his own mistakes. He was always humble and ready to submit to the verdict of the Khalifa.
“The documentary was graciously approved and such was the documentary’s effect and reach that it even helped open dialogue with the Football Association (the FA) and when islamophobia was mentioned in the sporting press, the FA were able to make official statements to media outlets, including being aired on Sky Sports, wherein they had discussions with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community also on these matters. Taalay’s work had helped open these doors.
“Away from his MTA duties, Taalay was a regular five-a-side player with us also and I can say he was uniquely respectful, as the only player I knew to this day, that would call someone by their name and without fail, to add on ‘Sahib’ during the game!
“A competitive defender, he clearly had enough time to show people respect while still challenging them, such was his respectful and humble nature even in the heat of the contest.
“Allah charts the best of courses and He bestowed Taalay with the honour to leave this earth in this manner, but he will certainly be missed. A gentle smiling soul.”
Ali Khan, Manager Fazl-e-Umar football team, said:
“Although I served alongside him in the National Amila of MKA UK, my connection with Taalay Sahib was mostly through football, a sport he loved dearly.
“Taalay Sahib played football with us every week over the last few months, he was also an Assistant in my capacity as Manager of the Fazl-e-Umar football team of waqif-e-zindagi competing in the Masroor International Football Tournament.
“Taalay Sahib played football with exactly the same level of humility as he conducted the rest of his affairs. Taalay Sahib was always so conscious of making a mistake and was highly self-critical of his ability and performance – excessively so.
“He would always ask questions trying to learn and understand more. I loved his dry sense of humour, his devotion to the Jamaat and unwavering loyalty to Khilafat.
“Several times Taalay Sahib asked me to find a replacement for him in one of our planned football sessions at the last minute because he had to redo some of his MTA work overnight – this is a lesson in dedication, hard work and taking accountability to all of us.
“We didn’t appreciate Taalay as much as he deserved when he was with us, that’s the tragedy. Perhaps he didn’t want us to. I never heard him raise his voice and couldn’t stop him from addressing me as Ali ‘Sahib’ even during a game of football!”
Dawood Oto’o, from MTA Ghana Studios, who worked closely with Syed Taalay Ahmad during his recent trip to Ghana, said:
“I met Taalay Sahib for the very first time when I was asked to travel with him to the Western Region of Ghana and assist him with the documentary. The trip was for two days. He was so kind to me. He talked to me like we knew each other for years.
“The first night, we reached Jamiat-ul-Mubashireen, where we were given two rooms, but we were three in number. Immediately, he said that he wanted to be in the same room as me. The room had two fans. He asked me to choose which bed I wanted to sleep on, to which I said, ‘The one without the fan on top because I don’t like fans.’
“I left the room for a moment and when I came back, I found the fans turned off. I asked why he had turned them off. To this, he said it was because he didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable. Although I was sure he was feeling hot himself, he sacrificed his comfort for my comfort. In the middle of the night, I realised he was feeling hot so I turned the fans on. In the morning, he asked why I had turned them on. He was completely selfless.
“He was also very humble with me. At one point, I noticed the camera was unbalanced, and when I pointed it out to him, he was happy and said, ‘That is why I need you here to help me.’
“After the trip, he was expecting me to come with him to the next trip to North Ghana as well. Before they left, he was upset as to why I didn’t join him. He was concerned that it was maybe something he said to me which was why I didn’t go. But I assured him it was not the case. I explained that I could not go because I had not been assigned to this trip, that was all. He said that insha-Allah, when he returned, we would sit down together again – Allah willed otherwise.
“These were just very small moments I had with him in a short period of time, after hearing and reading about all the wonderful things they have to say about him from people all over the world, it all makes sense to me. I will cherish the moments I had with him forever.”
Usmaan Omer, who knew Syed Taalay Ahmad from childhood and was a close friend, said:
“We grew up together in the same jamaat of Hartlepool. Taalay was someone who would light up any room or any environment he was in. He was in-charge of many sporting initiatives throughout his time in Hartlepool. For around five years, Taalay was running a Jamaat table tennis league, which spanned the course of nine months.
“On the final day of the inaugural league, there was a chance for me to end the day as champion. Taalay and I always had a friendly, but intense rivalry throughout our sporting endeavours. When it came to the deciding match, I was defeated.
“I was visibly disappointed that the league had slipped away, but despite our intense rivalry, Taalay was the first person to come up to me, pick me up by the hand and put an arm around my shoulder to tell me how proud he was of me and how far I had come as a table tennis player.
“He was two years senior to me in school and we went through some of our tough examination times together, but he was always on hand to encourage me and give me advice, despite him going through his own exams.
“Throughout the times I knew Taalay, he always emphasised how, when it comes to our level of spirituality, we should never look down on one another and judge whether one is less spiritual than ourselves; rather, as Ahmadi Muslims, we are like one and should always be on hand to help and support one another.”
Adam Brough, a close friend of Syed Taalay Ahmad from school, said:
“Taalay meant a lot to a lot of us who knew him from school and college. He was the head boy in those places for a reason. Popular, witty, intelligent, talented – it’s no surprise he continued to achieve during the rest of his life. He was always set up to do so.
“One of the kindest people I’ve ever met, with one of the warmest hearts, he would always look out for those around him. His intelligence allowed him the capacity to focus on so many things, and never far from his mind was the welfare and wellbeing of his friends.
“His sporting talent too provided him with an outlet for his competitive edge to flourish, and he always wanted to be doing the next great thing. Be it academics, personal, or sport, there was always something to achieve and something to strive towards.
“The small seven-a-side football team he founded in 2007 that went on to win the small league we participated in, despite a fairly inauspicious start, will remain one of my fondest memories and will always serve as a reminder from Taalay that it’s always possible to achieve.
“It’s cruel that he didn’t get to achieve more because there’s little doubt he would have. He will be sorely missed.”
Tawqeer Mirza, a colleague from MTA International who worked closely with Syed Taalay Ahmad for the documentary Taalay was filming in Africa, said:
“We prepped over the phone together multiple times before he set out to his trip to Africa. It was so clear that he was genuinely concerned about there not being a single reason on his part for any shortcoming. Seeing that, I would give advice, accordingly, that he should rather take his own equipment that he trusts etc. And even though these types of trips I have had multiple opportunities to go to, Taalay was still not satisfied, and he made even more preparations. He would rather sacrifice taking personal items and clothes and taking further equipment that would ensure that nothing got in the way of the project he was undertaking. Such was his planning.
“I knew Taalay from 2005 when I first met him when I travelled with his family and some Jamaat members to Qadian Jalsa Salana. Even though I was young at that time, his inquisitive nature, respect and admiration for the Promised Messiahas and love for his extended family was apparent. His eventual waqf (life devotion) and all the works he undertook later in life were a clear testament to these early qualities.
“At MTA International – where Taalay was posted as a life devotee – my MTA colleagues and I would at times struggle with the few tasks that we had. However, we learned that the newly posted Taalay was not only giving his whole days at MTA News, but he’d spend the rest of his time with the Central Press & Media team. And not only that, but he was also heavily involved with the Atfal UK department. And if that wasn’t enough, shortly after, Voice of Islam radio started, where he was involved in regular programming too.
“One unique quality was that he would work quietly. I mean, if he was working on a project, no other person would know. He would bury his head in his work and the rest of the world would just fade away.
“A few years ago, he started enquiring from me how I went about planning and making a documentary. I shared what I could and then thought nothing of it. A few months later, he asked me to come to his office in MTA News to review something he made. He seemed embarrassed, constantly saying how he filmed it and so it was terrible etc. He then played ‘the video’, after which I realised it was a full-blown documentary!
“This was the first documentary he made without any technical or operational knowledge of cameras, half of which was filmed on a phone! (This was the For Love and the Game documentary.) But I found it so candid and wonderful in its nature, as it seemed like this person had been telling visual stories for half his life. I didn’t even finish reviewing it. I just said, ‘Whatever you’ve done here, it’s great and I don’t think I’ll find anything here that I would change.’ And Taalay was sure and headstrong; he didn’t seem like he was in doubt or even looking for approval.
“In essence, that is the mark of a true creative artist. From what I saw, he was a natural at this. And what he was then able to accomplish, alhamdulillah, we have all witnessed.
“Whatever I may have learnt only due to blessings of MTA and Khilafat over the past many years, Taalay far surpassed that in what he picked up in just a couple of years, as not only was he talented, but he was also extremely passionate.”
Wadood Ahmad Daud, who knew Syed Taalay Ahmad since childhood, said:
“I have known Syed Taalay Ahmad since 2002. We had recently migrated from Pakistan to the UK and were making Hartlepool Jamaat our new home – Taalay must have been 11-12 years old at the time. I have fond memories of going to Hashim bhai’s (Talaay’s father) house for prayers or meetings and staying back to play cricket or football in their back garden. It wasn’t just their house, it was also our community hub where their whole family welcomed the local Ahmadis with open arms.
“The legacy of the late Dr Hameed Khan Sahib (Talaay’s maternal grandfather) and his wife continued in Hartlepool through their progeny and Syed Taalay Ahmad embodied his grandparents’ nurturing and caring nature. Even at a very young age, Taalay was always extremely respectful and courteous to everyone. He always spoke with a lot of confidence and maturity, even with a six-year age gap, we soon became very good friends.
“When I was qaid of Hartlepool, Taalay was a very active member of our amila. He was always looking for improvements and would come up with new and innovative ways of bringing people closer to the Jamaat. An example of this is when the Nasir Mosque opened in Hartlepool and we faced a lot of local opposition from locals. Taalay was always keen to bring his non-Ahmadi English friends to the mosque on a regular basis and so, he started and managed the ‘Hameed Khan Table Tennis Tournament’ for many years, which was open to locals and allowed people from Hartlepool to visit the mosque and spend time with Ahmadis. The same passion for showing people what true Muslims were like led to him making exceptional documentaries for MTA.
“I currently serve in MTA Online as a volunteer and had the honour to help Syed Taalay Ahmad with the promotion of Brutality & Injustice: Two Trials in a Time documentary. By the grace of Allah, this promotional campaign helped the new documentary get more traction compared to some of the other documentaries. Two weeks after its launch, Taalay sent me a detailed comparison of all his previous documentary views in the first 14 days and thanked the MTA online Urdu team for their help. In my reply, I wrote to Taalay, ‘The quality of the video content and historic footage of Huzooraa makes it a unique documentary so I know we may have played a small part to promote it, but the actual work was done by you and your team’. To this, I got a very short reply, which truly reflected his humble nature, true submission to Allah and his love for Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya, as he didn’t take an iota of credit himself.
“Taalay replied with, “It’s all the blessing of Allah that he’s given us Khalifa-e-waqt to guide us and learn lessons from his life, alhamdulillah”.
“Whenever we spoke, the transition from ‘Wadood bhai’ to ‘Wadood Sahib’, and then back to ‘Wadood bhai’ was seamless. He would always greet everyone with his infectious smile and knew what to say, when to say it, how to say it and more importantly, he also knew when to stay quiet. He knew what his objectives in life were and he wouldn’t waste any valuable time in idle chats.
“My final meeting with Taalay was at Jalsa Salana UK 2021 where he spoke about his children with so much love and affection. He was full of energy and was so excited about Jalsa Salana taking place after a year’s gap. I will never forget the sparkle in his eyes and the smile on his face when he was talking about Huzooraa – his love for Khilafat was so evident from every word he spoke. I will cherish that short conversation for the rest of my life as little did I know that this handsome young man was soon going to join a very prestigious group of shuhada-e-Ahmadiyyat– martyrs of Ahmadiyyat. I will always remember him as a very dear younger brother who lived up to the expectations of his parents and all those around him.
“Taalay was honest with his waqf and remained true to his pledge with Khilafat to his very last breath. May Allah enable me to learn from his short, yet exemplary life. Amin.”
Muhammad Ali Ahmad, who knew Syed Taalay Ahmad since childhood, said:
“I have known Syed Taalay Ahmad Sahib since 2004. He was slightly younger than me, and a very talented and intelligent individual.
“Taalay used to come to the Nasir Mosque in Hartlepool daily for prayers with his father and brother.
“He was very keen to play sports. He started the Hameed Khan Table Tennis Tournament (named after his late grandfather) in Hartlepool to engage khuddam and encourage competition. Alhamdulillah, that tournament was a great success and brought all khuddam together.
“He also greatly enjoyed reading. I don’t know which book was his favourite in terms of Islam and Jamaat literature, but one of his favourites as a young man was the Harry Potter series.
“Taalay Sahib was very focused on his work. Whilst in Hartlepool, at times, I saw him busy thinking about something or planning something. Even though he would be physically present, his thoughts would be occupied with something else. Everyone has seen his hard work in the shape of successful MTA documentaries.
“Taalay Sahib loved Huzooraa and the institution of Khilafat. He also wanted Jamaat members to establish a strong bond with Khilafat, just like the one he aspired to establish himself and I believe he tried to achieve this through his work in MTA International. For me, as incidents and stories about Taalay begin to be shared, his love for Khilafat has become much more apparent than it was before his martyrdom. Taalay Sahib’s love for Khilafat is shining like a bright star in Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya today.
“Taalay Sahib has proven that even with all the distractions of the modern-day, like TV, the Internet, social media etc., one can still achieve the status of shahadat (martyrdom) through their bond with Allah the Almighty, the Holy Prophetsa, the Promised Messiahas and Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyyat.
“He has become a role model for us – an English role model who grew up in England and achieved a high status of a shaheed.”
Qaasid Muin Ahmad, Editor Al Hakam, said:
“Al Hakam was launched in March 2018 by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa. Since then, it has been published every week and has presented a plethora of articles on various subjects alongside conveying news of the Jamaat’s activities around the world.
“As the editor, it is my role to ensure that we are moving on track and that articles are engaging with our readers. Syed Taalay Ahmad was one of those readers who would help me in this regard.
“Although Taalay had no official affiliation with Al Hakam, on a personal note, he would frequently tell me which articles he was enjoying and he would give suggestions on what we could focus on more to keep our readers engaged.
“In our last conversation over the telephone, he expressed his desire to gather as much information and narrations of elders of his family as he could to write an article for Al Hakam on his great-grandfather, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra.
“Alongside my Al Hakam duties, I have the honour of serving in MTA International, and it was here that I came to be well-acquainted with the beautiful and charismatic personality of Taalay. His thirst for knowledge – in particular, to do with the history of the Jamaat – and his drive to get projects to see fruition in the best possible manner are some of the traits that I pray to see in myself and my children in the future. He was a person who had a passion to bring members of the Jamaat closer to their Khalifa and he used every fibre of his being to see that this was made possible through the role that he was assigned.
“Every Wednesday, the Al Hakam team sits down and spends the better part of the day proofreading the final copy of the newspaper to ensure that everything is up to the mark.
“During this rigorous exercise, very rarely do I pay much attention to those momentary thoughts that occur in the back of my mind.
“The day after Taalay’s demise, whilst proofreading our most recent issue, and whilst examining an article proposed for our 100 Years Ago section, I fleetingly asked myself, ‘I wonder what Taalay will think of this.’ Thereafter, I truly realised that we had just lost one of our most avid readers, who not only provided feedback in his lifetime, but actually gave me direction and inspiration in taking this newspaper to newer heights; such that I never properly appreciated how his observations and feedback had begun to impact how I saw articles.
“It would not at all be incorrect to say that Taalay was one of Al Hakam’s regular and passionate readers, which only tells of his zeal for this beautiful Jamaat of the Promised Messiahas. That he would read Al Hakam with such detail so as to point things out and provide constructive feedback was an indication of just how staunchly he supported the cause of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas.
“May Allah bestow Taalay a place in Paradise in the company of his loved ones; may Allah enable all of us to serve the Jamaat with the same fervour and drive as did our beloved brother, and may the coming generations see more servants of Ahmadiyyat like Taalay Ahmad; for he will surely be missed.”
Adnan Zahid, a close friend and colleague of Taalay at MTA International, said:
“I had the privilege of working with Syed Taalay Ahmad Sahib, which nourished into friendship.
“He was a true servant of Khilafat and his love for Khilafat was immense. He was a simple person and had no desire for materialistic life.
“He was a kind and loving person, who took special care of his friends and, more importantly, lived a true waqf-e-zindagi life.
“He worked very hard in making his documentaries and set a very high standard for us to follow. He touched so many hearts with his kind and loving personality and brought comfort to people’s hearts through This Week With Huzoor, especially during the pandemic.
“I had the honour of working with Syed Talaay Ahmad Sahib on the documentary, Four Days Without a Shepherd. He had the drive and determination to make such interesting documentaries and his passion for storytelling can be exemplified through his work.
“I feel honoured that Syed Taalay Ahmad Sahib would ask me to review and provide feedback on his work every time before it was made public. I will miss our conversations we had regarding his work.
“I pray that Allah the Almighty may elevate his status in Paradise, accept his efforts and keep him in the shade of His abundant grace and mercy. Syed Taalay Ahmad Sahib will truly be missed.”
Fowad Ahmad, In-charge MTA Ghana Production, who worked closely with Taalay Ahmad while in Ghana, said:
“The most glaring personality traits were his humility, passion and zeal to work for the Jamaat. It is difficult to find such motivated and driven people working with this level of energy. What I had noticed was how meticulous he was in aiming to get the absolute best from the documentary he was currently working on. It was evident that it was the unconditional love and respect he had for Khilafat that was the driving factor. It is what he lived and breathed for.
“His humility was on a level that is hard to find in others. This reminds me of when we were in his guest room preparing for the next interview and I noticed that there was no facility for hot water. I recommended to him that we could arrange to get some hot water for him, to which he instantly said, ‘No, it’s okay. I have been having cold showers; I have already become used to it.’ When he said this, I realised these were very insignificant issues to him. I would see him constantly analysing the footage he had recorded and he told me that he had made various backups in case anything went missing or ‘anything crazy happens’.
“It is very rare to find someone so concerned for not being able to work for a moment during the day. Once, he forgot his laptop during one of the journeys between the recordings and he would say, ‘If I had my laptop, I could have continued working during this time.’
“Once I would reach home at the end of the day, my wife would always ask me how the day was spent with him and we would find it comforting to know that he was enjoying his stay in Ghana. Being in his company inspired me to become more like him in the way he was serving as a waqf-e-zindagi [life devotee]. He was a true role model for us all.
“My wife, Naila Sahiba, with a heavy heart, summarised the days since his demise with the following:
When we heard that you’re gone
The world cried, we mourned
But you were true in your mission
You were in total submission
We raised our hands in grief
And believe that you are now in peace
A true life devotee
The epitome of humility
Chosen by the Creator to die as a martyr
But will live on in History
His name is Syed Taalay Ahmad
An exemplary waqf-e-zindagi.”
Syed Amer Safir, a close friend and chief editor of The Review of Religions, said:
“Syed Taalay Ahmad is someone I knew for a long time, both from work but also in a personal capacity – he was like a brother to me. I had developed a very close connection with him and therefore, his loss was something that I keenly felt and was impacted by immensely.
“Whilst I was saddened so deeply like the whole Jamaat, I also felt a sense of great pride. The initial reaction was, of course, of shock. As I kept thinking about Taalay, I also realised how his name will always be remembered and he has become an important part of history.
“What I remember about Taalay is someone who always wanted to achieve the best for the Jamaat and left no stone unturned to do this. He had a singular vision in his entire outlook of life. Whether it related to a trivial football match or an important Jamaat project, he never settled for mediocrity; he always wanted only, and only, the best.
“This might seem like something common to everyone, to want to achieve the best, but most people don’t follow up practically on this wish. Taalay had the desire, commitment, discipline and love of Allah and Khilafat to want to follow through with this desire.
“I was able to personally witness this on many occasions and I was and am truly inspired by this. Taalay worked for The Review of Religions for a number of years as the head of an important department where he helped categorise and index the last 100 years of editions in topics, and he always kept this connection because of his time with us. He always showed immense respect and never lost touch.
“His qualities are truly inspiring and he was more to me than a friend; he was someone with whom I could discuss personal matters and share jokes at the same time and have important discussions. He would often call me after documentaries and speak to me about it, all because of that old connection we had.
“I will never forget Taalay because of our personal connection, but mostly because he left a great example of how to live the life of a waqf (life devotee).”
Dr Hammad Khan, a friend and family member, said:
“I knew Taalay from a young age. He was a gentle and passionate young man who was always clearly destined for great things. He had a passion and determination about him that belied his youth.
“Taalay was extremely active within the Jamaat even prior to his waqf (life devotion) and expressed his love for the Jamaat and Khilafat through his work.
“I was most closely involved with him through his participation in Voice of Islam’s live discussion programme, Weekend World – he was a regular contributor and had a very relaxed and easy-going style. He had a very natural ability to express an Islamic viewpoint in a clear and articulate manner. He was knowledgeable and well-read and had the remarkable capacity to weave facts and quotes into his opinions.
“He was always smiling, friendly, open and big-hearted. Generous with praise and compliments, whilst humble in receiving the same. He had a cheeky sense of humour and was always ready to take a joke at his own expense.
“Taalay was a beautiful example of a dedicated and passionate servant of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya and stands as a beautiful model for many of us to emulate.”
Mubariz Ahmedi, a friend and colleague from MTA International, said:
“‘Mubariz?’, he would say with his distinctive Hartlepudlian accent as he walked towards my desk in the MTA Production office. I knew it was him coming to formally make a request, which would be for such a minor task, such as copying a file to a different location. He didn’t need to make a formal request, but that’s how Taalay was. The utmost respect for individuals – young and old – and the utmost respect for Jamaat work – small or large.
“The relentless hard worker who would pour through the MTA archives for days to locate the right footage for his documentary; the footballer who would command from the back and a friend who simply wanted to have a chat – these are just some of the countless qualities which Syed Taalay Ahmad possessed.
“The pioneer of This Week With Huzoor, Taalay had a vision of connecting more and more people with Khilafat and he ultimately created the most popular programme on MTA, second to the Friday Sermon. Seeing our beloved Huzooraa in a more relaxed setting, answering the questions that many Ahmadis hold in their hearts and the insightful responses from their Khalifa have resonated with hundreds of thousands since its launch in November 2018. The stronger relationships between the Jamaat members and Khilafat, as a result, are a testament to the man, and his humble efforts have surely affected the lives of many.
“This is the type of legacy that Taalay leaves behind – one that inspires us to truly make the most of the time we have.
“A face I will miss seeing, and a voice I will miss hearing – a dear friend who I’ll miss greatly.”
Rana Ataur Rehman, a close friend and colleague at MTA International, said:
“Although there are many incidents one can narrate in order to celebrate the wonderful character of Taalay as a friend and a person in general, one incident that really left a mark on my heart was, in fact, the last professional engagement I had with him as an MTA worker.
“Syed Taalay Sahib was an excellent professional and would not leave any stone unturned in producing the best quality work. On some occasions, he would send me translations of the Friday Sermon to ensure they were correctly proofread before being aired on MTA News that day, and I would do my best to provide him with an accurate assessment of the translation before me. Eventually, Taalay actually went on to seek approval for me to proofread the subtitling of one of the finest documentaries produced by MTA, Brutality and Injustice: Two Trials in a Time, which was directed by Taalay himself. This project was very personal to Taalay and I could sense that he had put his life and soul into making this the best piece of work he possibly could. Seeing this passion, I also buckled up to ensure that I did not let him down with any mistakes or let-ups whilst proofreading the translation of the documentary. I prayed and did my best to cooperate with Taalay accordingly.
“The documentary was aired and it turned out to be a major success. The content itself was superb considering all the archival material from Rabwah and the late 20th-21st-century videos from MTA. The genuine emotions in the interviews and style of narration were pinpoint in order to recapture the mood of the time that was being described.
“Taalay had done a brilliant job overall with the directing and editing. To me, Taalay was a hidden gem that was yet to be unleashed to its full potential as a director and producer, and this documentary was a great example of this. A small part of me was feeling a sense of satisfaction from inside that I helped my friend on something so dear to him, even though the contribution was nowhere near as immense as the standard of his creativity.
“A few weeks later, Taalay was insisting on taking me out for lunch out of the blue – he had been trying to get hold of me for a month or so. I knew it was his way of showing his appreciation for my help in this project and other translations, but I really did not feel it was necessary for him to do so.
“I did my best to deflect his proposition on treating me, but those who know Taalay well would also know that he would not give up on something that he intended on doing. Eventually, we did go to the local Pizza Hut buffet during our lunch break to enable ‘Rishi Sunak to cover half the cost’, as Taalay would put it (referring to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme). He had a great sense of humour, no doubt.
“The thing that touched me the most about this entire episode was the fact that I realised Taalay would not give up in order to show his sincere appreciation towards the people who had done anything for him. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the last time that we sat together to have a meal as friends, as England once again embraced a national lockdown during the winter.”
Safeer Uddin Qamar, a friend and colleague from MTA International, said:
“Taalay was one of the most humble, pious and devoted humans I knew in MTA International. One unique personality of his was that before speaking, he would always go quiet and think before he spoke, or he would go quiet when he thought nothing useful needed to be said.
“His talent shone in all his work, yet he remained humble about his efforts and hard work. He worked in silence to produce stunning and captivating documentaries which have touched the hearts of millions of viewers. Taalay helped me and many of my colleagues in our projects and always had a unique talent in storytelling and coming up with ideas.
“His leadership and devotion also carried over in his sportsmanship – I observed this while playing football with him in the Fazl-e-Umar football team. He always showed passion and dedication to bring the team’s spirits high.
“My most recent memory of Taalay was when I asked him for some help on very short notice for my Jalsa documentary. Taalay, to my surprise, put his things on the table and immediately started to go through my Jalsa project and spent a good 4-5 hours editing my documentary, even skipping lunch. At the end of the edit he had made – although it wasn’t entirely how I wanted it – to my surprise, once again, without a script or any notes, he had come up with a story that I just couldn’t imagine. It was like he had turned all of my work upside down and brought a whole new angle to it and I was left in shock as to how amazingly he put this together.
“He stood out from everyone in MTA when it came to producing stories and documentaries that we all used to go to him for ideas and help.
“I hope and pray that Allah grants him the highest place in Paradise and that his family are able to overcome this tragic loss. Amin.”
Mansoor Clarke, a colleague at the Central Press & Media office, said:
“Taalay was no ordinary man. Yes, he was a magical storyteller, a phenomenally dedicated worker and an exemplary waqf-e-zindagi, but he was also an immensely kind, sincere and caring human being.
“I remember after a particularly long day of filming in Central London, Taalay and I were heading back to Fazl Mosque. As we were walking back from the train station, Taalay suddenly stopped and looked almost panicked. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, ‘I completely forgot! He’s going to be so upset with me!’
“For a moment I shared his panic thinking that perhaps we had forgotten an essential piece of footage or had left out a crucial interview in the project, so I turned to him and asked what he meant, to which he replied, ‘I promised Talal (Taalay’s son) that I would bring him back a toy today because I’ve been spending a lot of time away at work, but if I go back home now empty-handed, he’ll be so upset!’
“It was dark and we were round the corner from the mosque, tired and weary from traipsing around all day. Any ordinary person would have shrugged it off, gone home and explained the situation to his son. But Taalay was no ordinary man. He walked back to the high street, lugging his heavy camera bag with him and went off in search of the toy he was going to give his little boy.
“After a lengthy search, we came to the realisation that the only shop still open was the supermarket, Tesco. We went in and I simply stood and watched in admiration as this loving father paced up and down the aisles comparing dozens of toys assessing which one would make Talal happiest.
“Taalay was frustrated, not because it was late at night and he wanted to go home and lay his heavy camera bag down, but because, the way he saw it, none of the toys or magazines were good enough for his beautiful baby boy. After at least 20 minutes, Taalay picked out a children’s magazine and a couple of toys and said that these would have to do for now and that he would make it up to Talal by getting him something the next day as well.
“You see, Taalay was a simple man – frugal, stoic and collected – but when he loved something, people around him could see the glint in his eye, that passion and zeal he reserved for those that he loved most. But this kindness, love and care were not only reserved for his biggest love – Khilafat, or indeed even for his own family – rather, it was something he showed in his character to everyone he met.
“He cared immensely about his work, but he also cared about the people as well. Even now, I cannot believe he is gone. As the person who drove Taalay to the airport for his final trip, I was the last person from the Jamaat to see him in the UK – an honour that I will cherish forever.
“The whole way, we laughed and joked about life and the obstacles we had both overcome. He spoke about how honoured and privileged he felt to be waqf and how his only goal was to do justice by the task given to him by Khalifatul Masih – a goal he no doubt achieved.
“As I dropped him off at Terminal 2 and loaded up his bags onto the trolley, we laughed one last time, hugged and said our goodbyes. ‘I’ll see you soon’, he said in his happy Hartlepudlian accent, and off he went through the automatic doors.
“Fi imaanillah (Be you in the protection of Allah) Taalay! You leave behind a global family who will forever remember your smile, your laugh, your kindness and your passion. Whilst I am left ridden with grief that you are gone, I am immensely proud that I knew such an extraordinary human being, and take comfort in the knowledge that you now sit in the protection and shade of Our Lord.”
Safwan Choudhry, a friend and colleague of Taalay from Canada, said:
“The news of the passing of Syed Taalay Ahmad Shaheed is a source of great sorrow and joy. Joy, because when martyrdom is bestowed by Allah, it is in fact glad tidings of eternal life. Indeed, it is news of great significance to join the rank of a shaheed. For those left behind, there is also immense sorrow. A great-great-grandson of the Promised Messiahas, who was a life-devotee of the highest order has been elevated to the rank of shaheed.
“They say that the seeds on good soil, under any condition, produce the finest crop. Syed Taalay Ahmad Shaheed came from good soil. He became a visionary leader at a tender age – a leader who once said he would die for Khilafat, even as he lived every minute for Khilafat. His life validates that through prayers, and dedication, and willingness to open our hearts to Allah, we can reap a bountiful harvest.
“Many have remarked about his witty sense of humour – like a priceless gift, his laugh just made you feel better. Especially during the tough projects, when the path ahead looked crooked, when obstacles abounded and when others entertained doubts, Syed Taalay Ahmed, like a ray of sunshine, would refuel the air with a crafty joke.
“200 to 300 years from now, he would say, people would reflect, and they would ask the question, ‘What did you do?’ Hearing the firmness of his conviction, it would be a stark reminder that it falls upon each one of us to be ready to offer any sacrifice for guarding the institution of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya.
“Syed Taalay Ahmad was a person of noble qualities and a pure heart. His great-great-grandparents, great-grandparents, grandparents and parents planted the seeds in that good soil of his. At a tender age, he harvested all the crops that he could, for the Almighty has now called Syed Taalay Ahmad home, to give his dedicated, faithful servant rest. It now falls on us to continue the work, so that an entire generation of Ahmadi Muslim youth may captivate audiences from around the world through storytelling. That’s how we will remember him; that’s what he would hope for.
“May Allah grant mercy and elevate his spiritual status in Heaven!”
Sabahuddin Ahmedi, a colleague and friend at the Press and Media office, said:
“Taalay was a gentle, kind-hearted and jolly individual. I had the opportunity to work with him on a few projects. I noticed that he never wasted time on other things. He would do his work quietly and efficiently and wouldn’t stop until the job was complete. I think this is such an amazing quality and something I’ll never forget about him. His passion for work was evident.”
Ameer Cannen Naraynen, a khadim whom Syed Taalay Ahmad interviewed for MTA News, said:
“I remember, it was the laying of the foundation brick for the new Southall mosque in the UK, Dar-us-Salaam, on 8 October 2017. It was a widely covered event as beloved Huzooraa was attending.
“MTA covered the event with great quality, and this was where I met Taalaay Sahib for the first time. He was passionately pacing around the new mosque grounds trying to line up khuddam and ansar for interviews on the new mosque and the experience of the day.
“As I was doing security duty outside the perimeter of the new mosque with my fellow local Hounslow South khuddam brothers, I had a clear view of Taalay Sahib and his cameraman pacing back and forth keeping organised and fulfilling their duties.
“He came to a group of us during the afternoon and asked if any of us would be willing to do an MTA interview with him. I happily agreed as I was beyond words and happiness with the experience of the day and wanted to get that emotion across in interview form.
“Before the interview, Taalay Sahib kindly enquired into my background as he noticed something different about me. I told him I was born here in the UK but had a family background of being Mauritian and also that I joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in 2011. On this, Taalay Sahib enquired deeper into my story and background, and I was more than happy to relate everything to him. Straight away, I felt with him a sense of calmness, openness and friendship and I didn’t even know anything about him.
“After relating everything to him, Taalay Sahib, with zeal and passion, said this interview had now changed! He wanted to expand the interview he was going to do and ask questions about my journey to the community, combined with questions on the experience of the day.
“Suffice to say, the interview alhumdulillah went well, despite being outside in windy conditions, and Taalay Sahib expressed his delight in being able to talk to me and record all the necessary footage he could.
“I was more than thankful for this and expressed my sincere gratitude to Taalay Sahib for the opportunity and his time for listening so attentively to me. He was so passionate about his work. He seemed to always think about what more he could do to improve and always went above and beyond.
“He had complete trust in the people he worked with and completely trusted in Allah the Almighty with his life and devotion to Khilafat.
“May Allah Almighty bless him with Paradise and grant him peace in the Hereafter. Amin.”
Umar Bhatti, who worked closely with Taalay Ahmad in Atfal-ul-Ahmadiyya UK, said:
“In Talaay’s second term as secretary for sehat-e-jismani (health and fitness) of Atfal-ul-Ahmadiyyat UK, at the start of the Khuddam year, he invited all team members to his house for a meeting and ordered pizza for everyone. It was a really relaxed and fun time, but when he got slightly serious – the serious Talaay wasn’t even him talking loudly – it was him saying, ‘Listen, boys, in all seriousness …’ and we were all ears immediately.
“Anyway, he wanted to get his message across about the real objective of the pizza meeting. He beautifully narrated the story of the sacrifice of Prophet Abrahamas and of his son, Prophet Ishmaelas. He linked this to us as a team and told us that when we are given instructions by him, then we are not working for him; rather, the sole purpose of all of the activities we organised as a team was to get everyone, including ourselves, closer to Allah the Almighty and Khilafat. We all grasped this message immediately.
“On a more personal note, when my maternal grandfather passed away, my mother and sister travelled away to the US. It was my father and me in the house for two to three weeks. Talaay found out and kindly sent us food for a couple of days. But what was even more astonishing, which lifted my whole mood, was when he shared his whole pot of honey with my family which was blessed by Huzooraa. He didn’t just do this on one occasion, but he did this several times.”
Abdullah Dibba, a friend and colleague from the USA, said:
“In the US, I have talked to quite a number of people about the famous MTA documentary, Four Days Without a Shepherd and how it beautifully captured those challenging days for the global Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, and how, through Khilafat, Allah once again restored security and peace to the believers as He promises in the Holy Quran.
“But I would barely mention it without talking about how I personally knew Talaay Ahmad Sahib, the man who made the documentary. I texted Talaay Sahib and shared positive feedback from different people. But Talaay Sahib’s responses would always be short and he would just request prayers. I didn’t understand why.
“When I met him in the UK later that year, I thought it was an opportunity for me to talk to him about the great job he did. But I realised that Talaay Sahib didn’t want to have that conversation. He was shy to talk about himself. He kept changing the topic to talk about football and how he couldn’t wait for us to play together before I returned to the US.
“Now I look back and realise how humble Talaay Sahib was about such a good job he did, and how he didn’t want to be praised, nor did he want to leave any room for himself to be overly proud of his work.
“As I worked with him over time, I understood more, that he always told himself that he could have done much better.
“On the occasion of the Jalsa Salana UK 2018 inspection, Taalay Ahmad Sahib wanted me to present live on MTA for a few seconds to say a few words. I happened to be busy when he needed me to start the setup. But he patiently waited for at least 45 minutes, without bothering me or rushing me.
“Eventually, when I was available, we walked together to the area he needed me to be in. We started the rehearsals and went through everything, now waiting to get the cue from MTA to tell us when we would be live.
“A few minutes before we went live, some technical issues arose due to which we were told that the segment may be cancelled. I remember telling Taalay Sahib that it was probably better to just forget about it and I wouldn’t mind. Taalay Sahib would simply not give up. He kept hiking back and forth between MTA and my location, trying hard to ensure that everything worked out. At the very last moment, he came back running towards me, immediately picked up his camera and told me that we were set to start. He made it back just in time.
“My presentation was for less than a minute, but I was amazed at how much effort Taalay Sahib put into it. His dedication and drive to keep trying were very inspiring for me.
“I tried to tell him how I felt, but he didn’t want to be praised. He immediately changed the topic to thank me for my patience and he moved onto his next duty.”
Mirza Usama Bashir Ahmad, a family member from the UK, said:
“I will always remember Taalay bhai as that humble, friendly and approachable person whose love for Khilafat, the Jamaat and his work was ever-present.
“Wherever a Jamaat event would be taking place, I would always see him extremely busy in the midst of his work, yet constantly with a radiant smile on his face. The various documentaries and projects he had worked on are an example of the dedication with which he fulfilled his life devotion – truly an example for the generations of waqifeen to come.
“Several years ago, my mother fell ill and when I received the news, I was attending an ijtema at Baitul Futuh Mosque with my brother. With no immediate way home, it occurred to me at the time that Taalay bhai’s office was in Baitul Futuh.
“To this day, I remember that after explaining the situation to him, he proceeded, with a look of great concern and worry, to immediately pack his things up and take me and my brother home which was a considerable distance away. This act of kindness is something that I will be forever grateful for.
“Taalay bhai was truly an excellent example of a loyal servant of Khilafat and the Promised Messiahas, whose dedication to his mission was faultless. An excellent example that has been penned into the history books and a legacy which generations of waqifeen to come will seek to emulate.”
Atif Rashid, a colleague, said:
I had the brief opportunity to work with Taalay this year. He took such care in his filming and loved his work and quietly got on with his tasks. He tried to make every shot perfect. He would redo shots again and again until it was up to his standard.
The footage he filmed was used in a national TV report which I had the privilege to make and was broadcast by a major news outlet. He was so happy that his work was used and grateful that he was serving the Jamaat. He also very nicely gave me some feedback about editing and although I did not do justice to his filming in my editing, he congratulated me and was very kind in his feedback.
Without his filming, which was of a very high standard, I would not have been able to make the report which reached many millions of people.
He had no idea where the footage would go but was still determined to get every shot as good as possible. From the brief moments I had with him, Taalay came across as very hard working, diligent and passionate. It felt like you could really rely on him for good camerawork. I felt he was one of those meek, unassuming and loyal kinds of people who do their work without pretension or desire of credit from people. His motivation was just service and doing his duty. It was extremely shocking and saddening to hear of his demise just a few weeks after I had worked with him. It was unimaginable and such a great loss.
Salman Abassi, a colleague from MTA International, said:
“Taalay always brought a smile to your face. He would whisper salaam quietly or nod like he was in a different world altogether. Walking through the MTA corridors, holding his camera bag, you knew a special documentary would soon be coming to our screens. I always asked what he was working on and he would give me a small glimpse of it and I used to always ask how he created these memorable documentaries. I always wanted to learn storytelling from him. The emotions he brought from his work were unparalleled.
“I was unfortunate to not have had the opportunity to work on an MTA project with him, but our friendship grew through football. As we worked in MTA, every Friday, we got the opportunity to play against The Review of Religions’ football team. The day before, Taalay would come to me and tell me what tactics we should use or who should play in what formation. He was so passionate and enthusiastic, he used to get a pen and paper and start writing people’s names down and form a squad of players. He knew everyone’s attributes and qualities and I was so amazed at how much he knew about each person. He used to have an account of how each person played the week before or if he had a slight knock (injury) and so his position should change.
“But it should be mentioned here that every individual he spoke about, he spoke about dearly, positively and how each person could become a better player.
“To keep it short and precise, without any exaggeration, Syed Taalay Sahib was a sincere, loyal and devout follower of Khilafat. What struck me most about him was the fact that he did not attend Jamia Ahmadiyya; he was not provided with the refined training that Jamia students are provided in an intense seven-year period where the essence of waqf (life devotion) is taught to each individual attending, yet the quality of Taalay’s sincerity to his waqf was of the purest and highest calibre.”
Usman Shahzad Butt, a friend and colleague, said:
“When the waqf-e-arzi scheme started in Jamia, the first jamaat I was assigned to was Hartlepool. It is there where I met Taalay for the first time.
“During our stay, Talaay, along with his brother, Adil, would come to the mosque every day. We would enjoy each other’s company, play sports and open our fasts together (as it was Ramadan). In fact, it was Talaay and Adil who introduced me to Chicken Parmo (Chicken parmigiana) – a tasty and unique dish famous in Hartlepool. Both brothers and their family really made us feel welcome and lifelong friendships were formed.
“When he moved to London, I would often see him every Friday night for a game of football. He was extremely passionate and left everything on the pitch. One quality of Taalay that I really admired was that he would never hold any grudges and would always make it a point to resolve and apologise for any issues that may have occurred during the match.
“From my interactions with him, I also noticed he would never shy away from having difficult conversations, as he was a very simple and straightforward individual. He had an infectious smile and was ever so humble.”
Abdul Haleem, a colleague from MTA International, said:
“I only knew Taalay for a few years after joining MTA. What I noticed instantly is that whenever he met anyone, he always had a smile on his face. He was a very joyful person whenever we shared a conversation. When having a conversation with someone else near me, there were bound to be some jokes involved from him.
“I noticed that he would always try to hide his good deeds. Once, he came to our office and someone offered him some biscuits, which he respectfully declined, but the person was persistent in asking him. After a few more times of turning him down, Taalay then quietly said that he was fasting so that the person would stop insisting. I heard him because I was sitting quite close to him, otherwise, he made sure to tell the person he was fasting in a low voice. This was his level of piety and humility.
“He was very passionate about sports. In our conversations, often football would come up and Talaay would tell me and my friends how to improve our game and what tactics we should be applying for the Fazl-e-Umar football team.
“He was a kind, humble, hardworking and pious soul and will be missed a lot.”
Nooruddin Jahangeer, a colleague, said:
“One thing about Taalay which stands out to me ever since I got to know him was his tireless efforts in everything he did. If he was occupied in his work, he would be deeply delved into it and focused on the task at hand. If his mind was on sports, he would always be thinking about how best to involve everyone and to allow us all to enjoy participating. He brought a spirit of healthy competitiveness which would push us to achieve more.
“In short, I always saw him invest himself entirely in whatever he was doing so that it could be carried out in the best manner possible.”
Rana Qasid Rahman, who worked closely with Syed Taalay Ahmad in Atfal-ul-Ahmadiyya UK, said:
“Unlike some of the other memories that Taalay’s family and closest friends will express, to all of whom I extend my most sincere condolences, I never realised that my encounters and moments with Taalay would become memories that I would cherish.
“Taalay was always someone who I could get hold of to ask him about anything and everything. I didn’t ask him much; however, I remember speaking to him as a young 15-year-old entrusted with Jamaat responsibilities that felt extremely overwhelming and so I simply asked him for advice: ‘How do I balance my education and these new responsibilities, as I simply cannot manage them together?’ I enquired. Taalay, who always had a way with words and putting people at ease, asked me one question in response. This one question will remain my most powerful memory of Taalay.
“He said to me, in a calm yet encouraging manner, ‘Has God ever failed you?’ to which I replied, ‘No, but I don’t want to fail my responsibilities to Him.’
“Then Taalay said, ‘So keep your head up and tackle everything from one Namaz (prayer) to the other Namaz. If you don’t have the strength to continue and want to stop, submit to God. If you can muster the courage to bow to him and then stand again, then nothing in this world will stop you from completing your responsibilities to God because He is the One giving you the power to continue.’
“Back then, these words were simply a short dose of motivation and inspiration; however, without knowing, Taalay’s words have allowed me to push beyond boundaries that were set by myself and others.
“A day after I heard of the sad news of Taalay’s passing, without realising, I was standing in the same mosque and in the exact same spot where I took Taalay’s advice and tested whether I could still continue by submitting in prayer. At that moment, in prayer, I had a sudden rush of emotions and remembered all of our discussions, debates and his guidance.
“Now, sitting at the end of my table typing up some of the memories of Taalay that I can share, I offer my salaam to him and will always be grateful for that message I never realised until today was so meaningful and impactful for my life.
“Taalay was the embodiment of a man who lived by his words; a man who honoured his own guidance and as a man who loved his Creator more than anything in this world. I know this because he said to me during a conversation, ‘If, one day, my legs give in while serving the Jamaat, don’t pick me up! I’m finally resting because I’ve achieved my goal.’”
Asef Hadi, a colleague from MTA International, said:
“Growing up, I’ve heard countless narratives of martyrs in our Jamaat from beloved Huzoor, but I’ve never had the opportunity to spend time with and interact with any of those blessed souls before their demise. So naturally, I would always wonder what the personality of those martyrs may have been like when they were alive. What was special about them? These questions were always unanswered for me until I heard the news about Taalay.
“Suddenly, all my questions and thoughts were answered at once. Looking back now, Taalay’s character and personality perfectly fits the narratives we hear about martyrs. I can’t claim to have been one of his closest friends, but if you observed him closely, there was something about him I was always perplexed by. His dedication to his work always made him aloof to the world. At times, you would see him coming to MTA, shoes hardly on properly, rushing to meet his next deadline. It’s like he had no care in the world except for his service to the Jamaat. Despite his apparent detachment from the world, he was one of the most informed people I knew. It was as if he was always buzzing with new ideas and concepts.
“Whenever I think of him now, I think of his iconic high-pitched laughter. He was always smiling or cracking some sarcastic joke. Yet, when it came to his Jamaat work, he was more dedicated than most.
“Taalay managed to achieve more for MTA International in the last 7-8 years than I could ever imagine achieving in a lifetime! He was the rock of MTA News. He transformed the News department into a vibrant and lively Jamaat news channel. His documentaries still have the largest viewing figures on MTA Online. He understood the MTA audience better than anyone I know. Whilst I would try to cater for an external and internal audience with my documentaries and failed to grab the attention of either group, Taalay would solely focus on the Ahmadi audience and would always win their hearts.
“I guess his biggest legacy after his martyrdom is that he was the sole founder of This Week With Huzoor. Many might not know this, but in the beginning, like with all worthwhile ideas and projects, he struggled greatly to get the show on its feet. I, like many others in MTA, was sceptical of its success due to early production issues. But fast forward to the pandemic, look at the show now! This Week With Huzoor has been the life and soul of millions of Ahmadi Muslims around the world. It is one of the most successful shows in MTA and it was all down to the services rendered by Taalay. God blessed him greatly.
“Taalay was ever willing to help and suggest ways to improve someone else’s work. Taalay and I always had mutual respect for each other’s work. Being somewhat senior to him in age and time-served, he would always praise my work, way more than I ever deserved. Whenever he wished to see any projects I was working on, with the intention of seeing how I worked, I would happily show him my timeline. And whilst he may have thought he may learn something new by observing my editing or filming styles, I was secretly always learning from his feedback and observations. You could rely on him to give honest constructive feedback.
“Every time Taalay would release a new documentary, I would always be awestruck with his ability as a storyteller. His production skills in terms of camera work and editing weren’t always the best, but recently I was shocked at how great it had improved, almost overnight.
“To summarise, I finally understand what type of personalities Allah chooses as a martyr. I finally understand the verse in the Holy Quran that states that martyrs will never die but will always remain alive.”
Zaafir Malik, a colleague, said:
“It is very hard to capture even a glimpse of Taalay Sahib’s qualities in a few lines. I am fortunate to have known him both in a work capacity and personally as well. As anyone who knows him will tell you, he was extremely dedicated and passionate about his faith, his beliefs and his work. This is plainly evident from the legacy he leaves behind.
“Away from the work-life, he was extremely passionate about football. We would spend hours discussing, arguing, laughing about the latest football transfers in the Premier League or which team would go on to win the league. I had the pleasure of sharing the same football pitch with him. His passion and dedication were the same on and off the pitch.
“The thing I remember most about him was his infectious smile and the jolly aura around him. If someone was down about anything, I can guarantee that a few minutes with Taalay would make them forget all their worries as he would leave you in hysterics.
“He never had a bad word to say about anyone. Even in sports, if someone criticised his performance, I saw that he would never react to it and was always ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of the team.
“Indeed, he was a true team player, a true friend. He has departed, but will not be forgotten. We are content with the will of God.”
Mudabbir Ahmad Din, a colleague from MTA International, said:
“Taalay was a special individual with many praiseworthy attributes. I would like to mention only two here:
“The first is his humility. As we know, Taalay was a very skilled and accomplished documentarian. Enquire from anyone in this field and they will tell you the amount of time and effort required to produce a documentary – the mental capacity and intellect to form a storyboard, the patience and persistence behind a camera and the countless hours glued to a screen.
“When I would be assigned a project or documentary, I would, at times, approach Taalay for his advice and give examples of his work. It is no exaggeration that he would never take any credit for his effort and hard work. It was always attributed to the guidance of Khalifatul Masih.
“The second unique quality I would like to mention is that he would never hold a grudge. Apart from working in MTA together, we would also play football on a weekly basis. There is no hiding the fact that we both were very passionate about the sport. To say we were football fanatics would be an understatement. Even if the game was highly competitive and things got heated up, never had it been that Taalay ever held a grudge or would stay upset with me. The next day, we would be joking and laughing about the game in the MTA corridors and would already be looking forward to the following week.”