The Promised Messiah’s residence in Sialkot: 1861 to 1868

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Awwab Saad Hayat, Al Hakam

The Indian subcontinent’s city, Sialkot, is a renowned and historical city. It is commonly recognised for its industries and local factories and is known as the world’s largest producer of hand-sewn footballs. It has also gained prominence around the world through well-known personalities.

There is a considerable amount of distance between Qadian and Sialkot; however, the gap is vastly reduced if one travels through Dera Baba Nanak, a town in India, and Narowal. Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Karim Sialkotira and Hazrat Sir Chaudhry Zafrulla Khanra, two well-known companions of the Promised Messiahas, also belonged to Sialkot.

Sialkot, Punjab

The city of Sialkot holds a distinct privilege and honour among cities in the subcontinent, which is that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, resided there for around seven years. It is probably the only city, after Qadian, where Hazrat Ahmadas lived for such a long period.

With regard to his stay in Sialkot, the Promised Messiahas said:

“I lived in this [Sialkot] town for about seven years. Before the writing of Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, only a few among you gentlemen could claim to know me, for I was then an anonymous person, a mere solitary soul among the multitudes, with no significance in the eyes of the people […] I love Sialkot as I love Qadian because some of my early years were spent here and I walked around a great deal in the streets of this city.” (Lecture Sialkot [English], pp. 60-61) 

Allah the Almighty desired to make Hazrat Ahmadas a role model for all human beings. Through various narrations and books, we read about many aspects of his life which serve as an example and beacon of light. 

During his time in Sialkot, Hazrat Ahmadas, under the instructions of his father, worked as an employee at a government post in a court in Sialkot. 

Objections are raised against Hazrat Ahmad’sas employment here; people assert that a prophet never works as an employee. Even after presenting such an allegation, they fail to state where this principle is taken from, nor do they provide any reference from the Holy Quran or ahadith. 

To answer this baseless allegation, it is recorded in the ahadith that the Holy Prophetsa of Islam stated that whosoever earns his livelihood through hard work and toil has been declared a beloved of Allah. He even stated that the acquisition of halal business was obligatory:

طَلَبُ‭ ‬كَسْبِ‭ ‬الْحَلَالِ‭ ‬فَرِيْضَةٌ‭ ‬بَعْدَ الْفَرِيْضَة

“Trying to earn a lawful livelihood is an obligatory duty in addition to the duties which are obligatory.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, Kitab al-Buyoo‘, Hadith 2787)

Further, this objection that our opponents raise is not new as such allegations have been raised about previous prophets too. The Holy Quran states:

وَقَالُوْا مَالِ هٰذَا الرَّسُوْلِ يَاْكُلُ الطَّعَامَ وَيَمْشِيْ فِي الْاَسْوَاقِ لَوْلَا اُنْزِلَ اِلَيْهِ مَلَكٌ فَيَكُوْنَ مَعَهٗ نَذِيْرًا

“And they say, ‘What is the matter with this Messenger that he eats food, and walks in the streets? Why has not an angel been sent down to him that he might be a warner with him?” (Surah al-Furqan, Ch.25: V.8)

These allegations are raised by people who, it seems, consider a prophet to be superhuman, although there is no such thing. A prophet is a human being and a role model for everyone. 

Referring to his period of service in Sialkot, the Promised Messiahas writes:

“From my experience, I learned that most job seekers follow impure lifestyles. Very few of them are fully committed to fasting and offering Salat and who can save themselves from the illegitimate pleasures that come to them as afflictions. 

“I would always look at their faces with astonishment and I found that most of what their hearts desired were limited to gaining wealth and possessions, regardless if it was by following halal or haram means. Their efforts during the day and night were only to further their worldly progress of this short life. I found very few, among the employed, who, by merely remembering the greatness of God Almighty, were imbued with high virtues – forbearance, kindness, chastity, humility, modesty, compassion for others, who ate halal, spoke with honesty and abstained [from wrong]. Rather, I found many among them to be arrogant, immoral and lacked interest in religion and found them as the brothers of Satan, engulfed in all sorts and kinds of vices. 

“Since it was the wisdom of God Almighty that I should have experience with all kinds of human beings, it was necessary for me to be in the company of various classes of people […] I lived those days with severe aversion and detest.” (Kitab al-Bariyya, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, pp. 184-185)

In various sources and history books of the Jamaat, Hazrat Ahmad’sas period of service, employment and time spent in Sialkot is usually mentioned and recorded from 1864 to 1868. However, further research, which has been published in Al Fazl, shows that Huzooras worked in Sialkot from 1860 or 1861 to 1868. 

In Life of Ahmad, it is stated that Hazrat Ahmadas was employed in the court as a reader. (Life of Ahmad, AR Dard, p. 47) 

Pandit Sehaj Ram was in-charge, i.e. the superintendent, of this office and Mr HE Perkins was the deputy commissioner.

The testimony of an eyewitness about Hazrat Ahmad’sas residence in Sialkot has been recorded in a detailed narration in Sirat-ul-Mahdi, narration number 625. 

Mai Hayat Bibi Sahibara, daughter of Fazal Din Sahibra and mother of Hafiz Muhammad Shafi Sahib Qari, narrated:

“Mirza Sahib, at that time, was in his early teens and did not yet have a full beard. After arriving at Sialkot, Hazrat Mirza Sahib came to my father’s house. My father opened the door and he entered. He [my father] presented him water, a charpoy, a prayer mat, etc. He also carried Mirza Sahib’s belongings into the house.  

“When leaving the court [where he worked], it was his [the Promised Messiah’s] custom to call my father and go home with him. His food was also prepared at our house. My father used to deliver the food to Mirza Sahib. As Mirza Sahib would go inside, he would close the door and then go to the courtyard and recite the Quran. 

“My father used to tell me that whilst Mirza Sahib recited the Holy Quran, at times, he [Hazrat Ahmadas] would fall into prostration, perform a long sajdah and would weep to such an extent that the ground would get wet. 

“Earlier, Mirza Sahib used to live in a room on the first floor of a house in the same neighbourhood which was next to our present house situated in Jandanwala. When this house collapsed, Mirza Sahib then moved to my father’s house in Kashmiri.” 

With regard to Huzoor’sas clothing, Mai Sahibara said:

“Mirza Sahib used to wrap a shawl over himself and would cover his head with it, leaving enough space to see through. My father used to tell me that he [Hazrat Ahmadas] would take his shawl off only after entering the house. 

“Hafiz Sahib told us that our grandfather, Fazal Din Sahib, used to say that when Mirza Sahib came back from the court […] some landowners, whose case was ongoing in court, would follow him home. Mirza Sahib would call Fazal Din Sahib and say, ‘Fazal Din, release me from their pursuit. What do they want from me?’ 

“Fazal Din Sahib would explain to them, ‘Mirza Sahib will look into your matter when he is at the court. He does not meet anyone at home.’ 

“He would say that Mirza Sahib’s salary was distributed to the neighbourhood’s widows and the needy. He would either give them clothes or cash and kept only what was enough to buy himself food.”

The Promised Messiahas, in the court of the deputy commissioner, was assigned to perform the duties of a reader. In terms of rank, it was a simple and modest position. However, due to his honesty, piety and intellectual ability, he soon became well-known. The residents of Sialkot, Huzoor’sas neighbours, co-workers and court employees respected him a great deal. Their hearts were convinced of his noble character, piety and honesty which they would express through their words. 

The Promised Messiah’sas honesty, virtue, pure and noble youth was witnessed by those who saw it with their own eyes and heard it with their own ears. They were ordinary people who were distinctively known for their piety. Even the reverends, who after facing defeat from Huzooras during their discussions and debates on religion, admired him. 

Rev Taylor, the missionary-in-charge in Sialkot, also acknowledged Huzoor’sas great and noble character. This reverend was very prominent and well respected within the Scotch mission in Sialkot and would often have religious discussions with Hazrat Ahmadas.  

In spite of the scholarly and religious controversies, his intellectual and moral regard for Hazrat Ahmadas had taken root in his heart. Before returning to England, he came to the court, where Huzooras worked, to bid Hazrat Ahmadas farewell and paid homage to him. There, when the Deputy Commissioner Mr Perkins asked him why he had come, he responded by saying that he had come to see Hazrat Ahmadas

Munshi Siraj-ud-Din Sahib, father of Maulvi Zafar Ali Khan Sahib, and “Shams-ul-Ulema” Maulana Syed Mir Hassan Sahib, who was also Allama Iqbal’s teacher, were also convinced of Huzoors’as noble character.

It was Hazrat Ahmad’sas practice, upon entering his home, to refrain from looking outside whilst closing the door so that his vision would not meet with a woman’s. As soon as he entered, he would close the door with both hands behind his back and then would turn around to place the latch on the door. After coming home, he would not meet with anyone. 

The Promised Messiah’sas residence in Sialkot

One day, when a few curious men came to know that Huzooras would not meet with anyone whilst at home, they decided to see what the reason behind this was. In their curiosity, they found that Huzooras was seated on his prayer mat and whilst holding the Holy Quran, he would pray to Allah:

يا‭ ‬الله‭ ‬تيرا‭ ‬كلام‭ ‬ہے۔ مجهے‭ ‬تو تُو‭ ‬ہی‭ ‬سمجهائے‭ ‬گا‭ ‬تو‭ ‬ميں‭ ‬سمجھ ‬سكتا‭ ‬ہوں

“O Allah, this [Holy Quran] is Your word. Only if You explain it to me, will I understand it.” (Hayat-e-Ahmad, Vol.1, p. 175)

During this period in Sialkot, Huzooras used to teach the Holy Quran to Lala Bhim Sin, a Hindu. Lala Bhim Sin was a resident of Sialkot and well-known amongst the knowledgeable and respectable personalities. Later, his son Kanwar Sein, became well-known all over India.

Lala Bhim Sin was also a scholar of Persian and Arabic and used to practice law in Sialkot. His relationship with the Promised Messiahas traces back to when Hazrat Ahmadas was young and was receiving lessons from Maulvi Gul Ali Shah Sahib in Batala, who taught books on grammar, logic and philosophy. This same teacher also taught Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Batalwi and Lala Bhim Sin and in this way, they were fortunate to be Huzoor’sas class fellows. 

Lala Bhim Sin had read 14 parts of the Holy Quran with Hazrat Ahmadas. One day, after seeing a dream, the Promised Messiahas got up in the morning and narrated this dream to Lala Bhim Sin. Huzooras said that he had seen the Holy Prophetsa in a dream and added that he took him to God where he was bestowed something and was directed to distribute it to the whole world. 

In addition to sharing knowledge of medicine, he also used to help mankind through treatment, subscribing medicines and prayers. 

Mian Buta Kashmiri, in whose house Hazrat Ahmadas resided, states:

“I know him [Hazrat Ahmadas] to be a pious man of God. Once, my father fell ill and all doctors and physicians had given up and said that he could not survive and that any further treatment was futile. However, we called Hazrat Mirza Sahib. He prayed and prescribed some medicine. With his prayers, Allah the Almighty healed my father and many of his supplications were accepted in our favour.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 1, pp. 85-86)

During this time in Sialkot, Huzooras was very fond and keen of theological discussions. He would debate with Christian missionaries a lot. Once, Hazrat Ahmadas had a debate with a person named Elisha, an Indian Christian reverend. The reverend stated and declared that nobody could attain salvation without accepting the Christian religion. Hearing this, Huzooras questioned him and asked what the definition of Salvation was and what he considered to be salvation. Huzooras asked him to explain this clearly. 

Reverend Elisha

The reverend could not explain this. He then ended the debate by saying that he had not studied this sort of logic.

Rev Taylor MA, a researcher and a learned individual, had countless debates with Hazrat Ahmadas. This person resided near Gohadpur. Once, he said that the wisdom behind the Messiah of Nazareth being born fatherless was so that he was born from the womb of the Virgin Mary. Thus, he was cut off from the progeny of Adam and avoided inheriting his sin. 

Responding to this, Hazrat Ahmadas replied by saying that Mary was from the progeny of Adam and asked how she avoided inheriting the sin of Adam. Huzooras then added that according to the Christian belief, it was the female who incited Adam, causing him to eat from the forbidden tree and thus be counted as sinful. So, Huzooras said that to ensure the Messiah was free from sin, his birth should have been free from the involvement of any female also. Hearing this, the reverend had no reply and was left speechless. (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, narration 236)

Since Hazrat Ahmadas enjoyed debating with Christian missionaries, Mirza Murad Baig – a resident of Jalandhar who would often come to Sialkot and later to Qadian to consult Hazrat Ahmadas on religious matters – told Huzooras that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had written a commentary on the Bible. He said that if Huzooras corresponded with him, it would prove useful for him. Thus, Hazrat Ahmadas wrote a letter to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in Arabic. In that same year, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan started to write a commentary of the Holy Quran and published the commentary of three rukus (passages).

One day, in a meeting which took place at Lala Bhim Sin’s house, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was mentioned in a conversation, as well as the commentary he had composed which was about dua (prayer) and wahi (revelation). Hearing this, Huzooras said, “Bring a copy of the tafsir when you come tomorrow.” (Hayat-e-Ahmad, Vol. 1, pp. 94-97)

The following day, Huzooras read Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s commentary of the Holy Quran but was not pleased by it.  

Once, Huzooras narrated that Sehaj Ram, who worked in the court of the commissioner at Amritsar and prior to that, worked in the deputy commissioner’s office in Sialkot, would often engage in religious talks and disputes with him. Sehaj Ram would assume that because he held a superior position in the office, he should have the upper hand in his religious argument and discussions. He was, by nature, hostile towards Islam. However, this oppressive officer was later demoted.  

The following incident is taken from the Promised Messiah’sas diary and has also been mentioned in Sirat-ul-Mahdi, narration 236: 

“[…] there is another incident of Sialkot; [once] I was asleep on the first floor of the house and, in the same room, there were approximately 15 or 16 people [with me]. At night, I heard a ticking noise coming from the beams. [Hearing this] I woke everyone up and told them that the beam seemed to be hazardous and that we should immediately vacate the house. They replied by saying that it must have been a mouse and went back to sleep. 

“A short while later, a similar sort of sound was heard, to which I woke them up again; however, they still paid no attention. Then, when the sound came a third time, I immediately told everyone to wake up and got everyone to leave. I was still on the second step when the roof caved in, causing the second floor to fall along with it and [the entire house] fell flat on the ground. Everyone survived.” (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, narration 236) 

There is another incident, similar to this, found in Huzoor’sas dairy:

“Once, when I was in Sialkot, it began to rain and thunder struck the room that I was in. Smoke spread everywhere in the room and it began to smell like sulfur; however, no one was injured. At that moment, thunder struck a temple, which was Teja Singh’s temple, in which, according to the tradition of the Hindus, there was a surrounding wall for circulating it. Inside, a person was seated. He got burnt to such an extent that he turned black like charcoal. Behold, that thunder, which struck and burnt him, was fire; yet, it could not cause any harm to us because God Almighty protected us.” (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, narration 236)

Allama Syed Mir Hassan Sahib has narrated another incident of Huzooras in Sialkot. In the early part of the summer, a young Arab, Muhammad Saleh, entered Sialkot and was suspected of acting as a spy. This caused the deputy commissioner to call the young Arab into his court for investigation. There, they found that there was a need for interpreters. 

As Hazrat Ahmadas was fluent and possessed command in the Arabic language, he was called on and instructed to enquire from the Arab gentlemen and ask the questions which he was given. Huzooras was told to write down, in Urdu, whatever answer he gave. Hazrat Ahmadas fulfilled this task exactly as it was required and thus, his ability and aptitude became known to all. (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, Narration 150)

The same narrator, Allama Syed Mir Hassan Sahib, states:

“Mirza Sahib’s outshining state and leadership in theology is known to all. However, his physical dominance in running had also become apparent to those present. 

“The details and circumstances of this is that once, after being dismissed from court [where Huzooras worked in Sialkot], when the employees were returning home, there was a mention of running and someone said that they should have a competition. Everyone began to claim that they were faster in running. 

“Eventually, a man named Billa Singh claimed, ‘I always take the lead in running competitions.’ Mirza Sahib [hearing this] replied, ‘Compete with me, then it will be proven who is faster’. 

“Sheikh Elah Daad Sahib was appointed as the referee and it was decided that the run would start from the position where they were already standing and the finish line would be the bridge which was on the road of the court and served as the boundary of the city. They were also to run bare feet. 

“A person took hold of their shoes and another person went towards the finish point at the bridge. Mirza Sahib and Billa Singh ran at the same time whilst the rest came behind them at a normal pace. When they reached the bridge, they found that Mirza Sahib had taken the lead, leaving Billa Singh behind him.” (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, narration 280)

When Hazrat Ahmad’sas mother fell seriously ill, Huzoor’sas father, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, sent a message to Huzooras to resign and return home. As soon as he received the message, he left Sialkot immediately. 

The highest officer of the district, the deputy commissioner, whose staff Huzooras was amongst, had great feelings of respect and reverence for Huzooras in his heart. 

A narration has it that when Hazrat Ahmadas resigned from his post and was leaving to return to Qadian, he ordered that the courts be closed as a mark of respect. 

The Promised Messiahas was a precious gem, who shone like a bright diamond, dispersing rays of light in the atmosphere of the Sialkot city. He stayed there as long as it was God’s will and then, according to His will, returned to Qadian. 

It is probable that his journey back to Qadian was made on 18 April 1867, which was the day his mother passed away.

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