The love of Khilafat: A transatlantic experience

Asif Basit, Curator, Ahmadiyya Archive & Research Centre
ronin n9DgnK2ouNs unsplash

On official duty, I had to fly to Canada earlier this month for a week-long trip. The official side of this trip might not be of any interest to the readers, so I share here some feelings and emotions that I experienced, which, I believe would be of common interest.

It was in early April that I received the instruction of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, that I travel to Canada. It was a very challenging moment for me and embarrassing it is to recollect but I do so for the message it carries.

I had avoided flying for a long period of fourteen years for the fear of flying that I had developed while aboard a flight to Sweden. The tiny aircraft, the propellers of which could be seen from my window seat, had been a very bumpy ride, leaving me unable to imagine ever flying again.

I must admit that avoiding flying had not been easy. On some occasions, it was work that required me to be abroad, on others, my family had proposed a holiday. Frightened, I always found an excuse.

Thanks to Ahmadiyya missions dotting the entire globe, my work never got compromised. For instance, when on one occasion I had to access the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul, I did all the digging work from my desk, spoke to the staff over the phone and requested Sadiq Butt Sahib, the missionary in Turkey, to kindly acquire copies of the required document and send it over to me. And so, he very kindly did.

And thanks to my late mother and her dementia years, where she lived with us and my wife was her full-time carer. My children always understood this and were ready to sacrifice their wish to fly abroad with me.

But now, in early spring of 2024, here I was; instructed to fly to a destination where no other mode of travel was possible.

My master had commanded, and this humble servant had to respond with full willingness. By the grace of Allah, that is what I did. The fraction of a second, that stood between my fear and my response was quickly washed away by the urge to respond to an irshad (order) of my master in a manner befitting one who claims to be a waqif-e zindagi.

I picked up my phone and requested the department concerned book my flight to Toronto. In no time, I had my itinerary in my inbox. This meant that I was going to fly.

Despite the urge, on many occasions that fell between this time and my departure, I did not deem it appropriate to mention to Huzooraa my fear of flying. It was my weakness, and it does not behove a soldier to tell his commander that behind him stands a weak link. Thus, I kept it buried in my heart.

I had planned to seek guidance regarding the official engagement in a mulaqat the weekend before my departure. I was flying on Saturday, 4 May, and so I had left it for the mulaqat that I had requested for the weekend before, i.e., 27 or 28 April.

On Friday 26 April, I was informed by Huzoor’saa office that I had not been granted a mulaqat, nor had anyone else. I was deeply worried as I had put up a very important matter for the eleventh hour, and here I was, with no chance to request guidance before my departure.

On the morning of Friday, 3 May, I wrote to Huzooraa, requesting an audience in the afternoon as I was flying the next morning. Huzoor’saa private secretary informed me that Huzooraa had seen the request and had said that if time permits, Huzooraa might grant me some time in the afternoon.

But during his Friday Sermon, Huzooraa mentioned the heart procedure that he had undergone a few days ago (around the weekend when no mulaqats had happened) and requested the Jamaat for prayers.

It’s not hard to imagine how bad I must have felt for having written for a mulaqat just that morning. Had I known, I would never have troubled Huzooraa with such a request, even if it was only asking for a few minutes of his time. I felt the urge to write and take my request back, but then that too was not appropriate. I spent the rest of the day in a deep sense of guilt, but then there was nothing I could do. I would have been more than happy if I were told that Huzooraa could not see me, as that would have been a very small price for me to pay for Huzoor’saa comfort.

I said the Asr prayer in Islamabad and stayed there, anxiously waiting for a call from Huzoor’saa office. The wait, long as it seemed in anticipation, was actually not that long. Shortly after Asr, I received the private secretary’s call that Huzooraa had graciously summoned me.

I walked into Huzoor’saa office to see him working as usual. He was looking down at the matter that he was reading, hovering his pen over it to write an instruction. Huzooraa was very calm, very composed and appeared to be in very good health. I took a sigh of relief as I walked to take a seat before the man of God.

Smiling, as usual, Huzooraa asked what had brought me to him.

I told Huzooraa that I was leaving the following morning and wanted to seek guidance on the task that I had been assigned. Huzooraa very graciously imparted guidance, which I noted down – this was going to be the only asset I was taking with me. This is what the assignment was all about. I was very clear in my mind that no one in Canada would want to know my personal thoughts on a certain matter; all they would want is a piece of Huzoor’saa wisdom. That is what I had collected in those moments and secured it to take it with me.

Afterwards, in a very relaxed tone, Huzooraa asked what else I had to say. I took the opportunity to express how everyone was concerned about Huzoor’saa health and how everyone was praying and that Huzoor’saa health alone was the talk of the town.

Huzooraa explained how his doctors had been advising this procedure for a long time, and how he had put it up for a later time, and how years had lapsed between the first advice and now.

At the end of this audience, Huzooraa graciously asked how long I was going for and when I was returning. Having answered, and as I left, I thought I should request prayers for the fear that I had lived with for many years and was now looking me in the eye.

I said, “Huzooraa, I have a fear of flying. I wanted to request prayers for that too.”

I was by now standing by the exit door. Huzooraa looked at me from head to toe, and smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back as I imagined a six-foot tall man telling Huzooraa that he had a fear of flight; or of anything for that matter.

Huzooraa said, “What is there to be afraid of? When you go to the airport, just look around and you will see many little children and old people boarding the plane. That will be enough to make you feel ashamed and get rid of your fear.”

Amused by how lightly Huzooraa had taken on an issue that seemed to me like one of life and death, I took leave.

As I walked out of the office and towards the car park, everyone who had seen me come out of Huzoor’saa office enquired about Huzoor’saa health. I arrived home to be asked the same question by my family. The next morning, the friend who dropped me off at the airport also asked the same question.

I conveyed to everyone the relief I had experienced by seeing Huzooraa busy with his work and looking healthy, happy and content.

At the airport, I breezed through the security and the border control paraphernalia with not even a trace of fear.

The plane took off (a phase I had dreaded the most), it climbed to an altitude of around 40,000 feet (another nightmare I had always had), it occasionally shook from some turbulence (something I always thought I would not be able to stomach), it flew over the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean (something I had imagined would be no less than a scene of a horror movie), and, after eight hours, began its descent into Toronto. The landing, too (an imagination that had haunted me for many years), was a walk in the park. And there I was, already in Toronto and ready for the task ahead.

My mind was puzzled. What was it that had uprooted a deep fear, or phobia, if you like, from my mind so easily? Was it that smile on the blessed face of Huzooraa that I had seen when I expressed my fear? Was it his advice? But then I hadn’t even remembered to observe vulnerable passengers around me to get reassurance. Or was it the concern for Huzoor’saa health that had left no room for any petty worry to remain in the heart of any Ahmadi?

I reached the conclusion that it was a bit of everything. Another realisation I gathered from this experience is that while Huzoor’saa acknowledgement of something can be magical, his dismissal of something can equally work wonders. His smile had dismissed my fear and the fear had actually vanished, Alhamdolillah.

I was received at Pearson Toronto Airport by Abdur Rashid Anwar Sahib (missionary in-charge Canada) and Fazal Malik Sahib. The first question they both asked, after exchanging salaam, was about Huzoor’saa health.

In the short journey from the airport to the guest house where I was going to stay, the same remained the theme of our conversation.

The gentlemen waiting at the guest house asked the same question: “How is Huzoor’saa health now?”

I was attending an event at the Baitul Islam Mosque in a couple of hours’ time from my arrival. The first question I was asked by everyone and anyone I met remained about Huzoor’saa health and well-being. In the whole week that followed, I got the chance to meet hundreds of lovers of Khilafat. The first thing they wanted to know was how Huzooraa was doing: “Did you meet him?”; “Did you speak to him?”; “How is Huzooraa doing? Is he well?”

By the grace of Allah, I was able to tell them that I had had the blessed opportunity to see Huzooraa only a few hours after Huzooraa mentioned his heart condition, which also happened to be a few hours before my departure for Canada. I felt so glad that I had good news for all those lovers of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih: “Alhamdolillah, he is doing very well. When I saw him, he was busy with his work. He was at his desk. He was happy. He was content as he always is. The whole atmosphere was glowing with his rejuvenating smile.”

In the several events that I attended during my stay, there was not one where I wasn’t asked two questions. One was about Huzoor’saa health. The other was: “Living so far away from Huzooraa, how can we build a strong connection with Khilafat?”

For the first question, as I mentioned, I had good news. The second question always sent a chill down my spine. They asked me this question because I was seen as someone who lived near Huzooraa. I could feel the envy in their eyes and it would embarrass me to the core of my existence.

I live only a mile-and-a-half away from Islamabad and have not been able to do justice to this blessing of geographical closeness to Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa. These people who ask me this question live an ocean-and-a-half away, thousands of miles apart from Islamabad, and have so much desire to be close to Huzooraa. I like to think that I was able to hide my feelings of guilt from them – the guilt that pierces my heart even now as I write these lines.

I replied to all such questions by saying that nearness to Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa is a matter of hearts and not bodies. I gave an example of how the nearest, as well as the farthest light in the hall, would all come on with the single flick of a switch; that this is how Khilafat electrifies all of us with the light of Allah. I also mentioned how sometimes the nearest bulb could seize to glow while all others remained illuminated.

In drawing this analogy, I always felt in my heart that I was the near one but with no light and the illuminated farther ones were those bright eyes that shone with the love of Khilafat as the question was asked and as they tried to make sense of the answer. It would give me goosebumps to see how people living thousands of miles away from their beloved Imam were charged with the energizing power of his love. I never forgot to cite the example of Abdul Mannan Siddiqui Sahib, who lived in a remote part of Sind, and yet was so very close to Huzooraa. Most people only found out about this closeness when he was martyred and Huzoor mentioned him in Friday Sermon

After every event, the attendees would very lovingly ask when I was returning to the UK. I would tell them, and literally every single one of them would say: “Could you say my salaam to Huzooraa?”

Of course, I couldn’t say no. I had to carry the tons of love I had been given to bring back for Huzooraa. Had love been tangible, I would definitely be denied to board the plane.

In a week’s time, Allah the Almighty had showed me something miraculous: The love of Khilafat that sees no bounds – a connection that electrifies hearts across huge continents and mighty oceans.

I leave aside the magnified sense of guilt that I live so close to Islamabad and yet don’t make the most of it. I leave it to Allah to cover my shortcomings.

What started with the fear of flight, must end at it as well. As I write these lines, I am bracing myself for another flight that I have to take at the end of this month. And as I do so, news channels cannot stop running the story of the Singapore Airlines’ flight that was struck by extreme turbulence and a subsequent series of unfortunate events.

But so be it! I am flying under the command of my master. Nothing will happen! And if anything is to happen, what better than facing it while complying with the orders of my holy commander. Nothing about us matters. What matters is that every order and command of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa be obeyed and upheld. Long live Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa!

No posts to display