Once, the succession to Hazrat Muhammad Rasulullah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was under discussion. The Holy Prophetsa of Islam concluded this whole chapter by saying that there was nothing to worry about in this regard because God Himself and a party of Muslims would refuse everything except the successorship [Khilafat] of Abu Bakr.
Significantly similar was the case in the latter days, when, after many centuries, the foretold re-initiation of the rightful Khilafat took place following the demise of the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas.
In the coming lines, we will try to recount the election of Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Nuruddinra as the first Khalifa of the Promised Messiahas from the established accounts of some eyewitnesses to this historic event.
One can only imagine what went through the hearts and minds of believers when the heart-rending news of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’sas passing in Lahore on 26 May 1908 was received.
Almost all notable Companionsra and family members were present in Lahore at the time. The news reached Qadian the same day in the afternoon, which sent a thrill of grief and sorrow into the hearts of all Ahmadis. Almost all the Ahmadis of Qadian assembled for the Asr prayer in Masjid Mubarak. They offered their prayers, pouring their hearts out through prayers and profuse weeping. All hearts were filled with grief and sorrow at the sudden and sad demise of their spiritual leader. All Ahmadis felt like orphans. Everybody was in a state of shock.
“What will happen now?” “The whole world was a body without a soul – the soul having left with the demise of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas”, reflected Hazrat Maulvi Nuruddinra.
During the night between 26 and 27 May 1908, the coffin was placed on a charpai (bedstead) fastened with bamboos and carried on the shoulders of faithful followers from Batala to Qadian. There, it was placed in a room in Mirza Sultan Ahmad Sahib’s garden for the public to view. This garden is now Bahishti Maqbarah.
All the leading members of Lahore, Amritsar, Batala joined the funeral procession to Qadian. Guests were served with light refreshment in Hazrat Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan’sra house. On this occasion, Khawaja Kamaluddin Sahib was chosen to lead the event, as he first conversed with Maulvi Muhammad Ali Sahib that leadership was a must for the Jamaat and they both agreed on the name of Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Nuruddinra.
In this regard, Maulvi Muhammad Ali Sahib was under the false impression that only new converts should perform Bai‘at at the hand of the Khalifa and that the Companionsra and those already members of the Jamaat were not required to perform Bai‘at of the Khalifa.
However, after a short discussion, he dropped his idea and agreed to perform Bai‘at. Khawaja Kamaluddin Sahib then, along with Maulvi Muhammad Ali Sahib, approached other influential members from Lahore, like Sheikh Rahmatullah Sahib, Dr Muhammad Hussain Shah Sahib and Dr Mirza Yaqub Baig Sahib.
This assembly in the old residence of Hazrat Nawab Muhammad Ali Khanra was joined by Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi Sahib to deliberate further. Hazrat Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfanira was assigned to escort Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan Sahib. The main focus here was that the Bai‘at of the new imam should be performed before the funeral and burial of the Promised Messiahas as was practiced at the birth of Khilafat of Abu Bakrra in early Islam.
Everyone present backed this idea and at this point, Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan Sahib suggested that the young Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad Sahibra would be called in and be part of this important discussion.
Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Mahmud Ahmadra was still in the garden, near the blessed body of his revered father, when he was asked to join the meeting. According to a page of that date’s diary written by Hazrat Nawab Muhammad Ali Khanra, Hazrat Mirza Mahmud Sahibra participated in the discussion and endorsed the leadership of Hakim Maulvi Sahibra and feared division if the Bai‘at of the new imam was not performed unanimously. He called the attention of members towards the warning mentioned in one revelation of the Promised Messiahas that there would be two groups of this Jamaat and God would side with one of them if the division took place.
Before joining the mourners gathered in the garden, where the body of the Promised Messiahas was laid to rest, the said delegation sought the opinion of Hazrat Mir Nasir Nawabra, who also showed his deep adherence to the idea of Bai‘at of Khilafat. Naturally, the first and foremost thing that occupied the attention of the Jamaat was the election of a successor to Prophet Ahmadas.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’sas family and elders of the Jamaat were naturally inclined to the election of Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Nuruddinra as his successor. Every heart, after the demise of the Promised Messiahas, was deeply moved. It was obvious that among all the members of the Jamaat, there was no one better suited than the outstanding personality of Hazrat Hakim Sahibra, but everyone was submerged with sadness and sorrow and the most saddened was Hazrat Hakim Sahibra himself.
On this historic day, Khawaja Kamaluddin Sahib reached out to Hazrat Amma Janra on behalf of the Jamaat and sought her views about the leadership of Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Nuruddinra. She replied by saying, “Who else can be the successor of the Promised Messiahas other than Maulvi Sahib[ra]”.
Moreover, it is reported that on that day, it was Khawaja Kamaluddin Sahib, Secretary of Anjuman-e-Ahmadiyya, who stood up and made a very touching speech – a passionate plea for calm and courage, which moved the audience to tears. In his words, “God sent a warner to guide the people of the world to the right path. He called upon the people to follow him. We responded to his call and rallied around him. But now, he is no longer among us. Now the question is, what should we do?”
There was dead silence for some moments. Sheikh Rahmatullah Sahib of English Warehouse, Lahore broke the ice and suggested that Hazrat Hakim Sahibra should be approached to assume the leadership of the community. Having agreed upon Hazrat Maulvi Nuruddinra as the most suitable person for the office of Khalifatul Masih, the party went to the house of Hazrat Maulvi Sahibra and requested him to accept the office of Khilafat.
Hazrat Maulvi Sahibra replied that he would like to offer nafl [supererogatory] prayer before replying. He performed ablution there and then and went into his private room. After the prayer, he came out and told the audience to proceed to the garden where the sacred body of their beloved master was lying in eternal peace.
Upon the gathering of Ahmadis, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra, Editor of Al Badr held a petition in his hand, which he read:
“In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Ever Merciful.
“We, the Ahmadis, whose signatures are appended below, unanimously agree that the first of the muhajireen, Hazrat Hakim Haji Maulvi Nuruddin, who is the most pious among us and enjoys the highest status and was a close friend of our dear Imamas, and whose personality is clearly reflected in the couplet, ‘What a thing of happiness it may be, if every one of my ummat becomes a Nuruddin [light of religion], and if every heart is full of truth, then the goal of success is achieved.’ We Ahmadis, at the hand of Hakim Sahib, take a fresh Bai‘at in the name of Ahmadas and follow him and show him the same obedience to his commands as shown to the ones by Hazrat Aqdasas [the Promised Messiah].”
This petition carried a large number of signatures and the correct number of people who signed it could not be verified. After having heard the petition of members of the Jamaat, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira advanced and spoke. After reciting the Kalima, he recited the following verse from the Holy Quran:
وَلۡتَکُنۡ مِّنۡکُمۡ اُمَّۃٌ یَّدۡعُوۡنَ اِلَی الۡخَیۡرِ وَ یَاۡمُرُوۡنَ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ وَ یَنۡہَوۡنَ عَنِ الۡمُنۡکَرِ ؕ وَ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الۡمُفۡلِحُوۡنَ
“And let there [always] be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness and enjoin virtue and forbid evil. And it is they who shall prosper.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.105)
Thereafter, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira said:
“I glorify Allah, Who is ever Eternal. Every prophet who comes to the world has a mission and after its completion, God calls him back. Have a look at my past life; I never desired to be an Imam. When Abdul Karim Sahib was appointed Imam-us-Salat [one who leads the prayer], I felt a sigh of relief. I know myself well and my God knows me even better. The only desire that I have is that my God is happy with me and in order to achieve this happiness, I keep myself occupied in constant prayers, seeking His pleasure.
“In Qadian, I have spent quite some time in reflecting over what would happen aft er Hazrat Sahibas. Three members from the household of Hazrat Sahibas are present among us [Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, Hazrat Mir Nasir Nawabra and Hazrat Nawab Muhammad Ali Khanra]. Take Bai‘at at the hand of any of them and I will happily join you.”
Continuing his address, he reminded them again:
“I am an old man, a poorly man and my temperament is not suited for this. This is a very heavy load. I swear in the name of Allah that you take the pledge of Bai‘at at the hand of any one of the three whom I have mentioned and I am with you, but if you want to take Bai‘at at my hand, then be very clear what Bai‘at means. Bai‘at means to sell yourselves; when a person eschews everything else. That is why Allah has called His servant abd [one who submits]. So, whatever feelings and inclinations you have, you must follow what I say and if you accept these conditions, then in the name of Allah, I accept these responsibilities.” (Al Badr, 2 June 1908, p. 6)
After hearing this call, every one of the 1200, who was present there, said in one voice, “Please accept the responsibility of being our leader because we believe you are the only person who can deliver this heavy responsibility.”
First, the men took the Bai‘at and then the ladies. Among the ladies, the family of the Promised Messiahas was first. Once the Bai‘at was done, Khawaja Kamaluddin Sahib, as secretary of Anjuman-e-Ahmadiyya, took it upon himself to inform external jamaats of the decision taken at Qadian. The following statement later appeared in Al Hakam and Al Badr of 28 May 1908:
“In accordance with the will of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas as mentioned in the booklet Al Wasiyyat and after consultation with the president and members of Anjuman-e-Ahmadiyya, members of the family of Hazrat Sahibas and over 1,200 Ahmadis who were present in Qadian at the time of the burial of Hazrat Sahibas, Hazrat Haji-ul-Haramain, Janaab Hakim Nuruddin Sahib was elected unanimously as the Khalifa and everyone present took Bai‘at at his hand. Some of the prominent people who took Bai‘at include Maulvi Syed Muhammad Ali Khan Sahib and, in sequential order, Ahsan Sahib, Hazrat Sahibzada Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Sahib, Sheikh Rahmatullah Sahib, Maulvi Muhammad Ali Sahib, Dr Mirza Yaqub Baig Sahib, Dr Syed Muhammad Hussain Sahib and the writer of these words.”
This statement was signed by Khawaja Kamaluddin and a letter containing this announcement was sent to all members of the Jamaat, asking them to take Bai‘at either in person or in writing at the hand of Hazrat Maulvi Nuruddin, Khalifatul Masih Ira.
After Bai‘at at the hand of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira, he led the Janaza [funeral] prayer of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. It was a highly moving scene; every eye was full of tears. The Ahmadis were parting with their master, the Promised Messiahas, who led them through a period of spiritual elevation and purification.
By 6pm, the body was lowered into the grave at Bahishti Maqbarah – the heavenly graveyard. A large number of people wrote about this eventful day. Hazrat Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarulla Khanra, on page 107 of his book Hadrat Maulawi Noor-ud-Deen, Khalifatul Masih I, wrote:
“As soon as he finished speaking, all present, who arrived from far and near and who numbered about 1,200, urged him with one voice:
‘We offer you our pledge. We shall obey your orders. You are our Amir and successor to our Messiah.”