Where stars descend – Chapter 7 (Reaching the corners of the Earth) – Part II

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Asif M Basit

Click here for Part I

As Rah-e-Huda evolved from what was once Persecution News and then Persecution to finally become what it is today, the set for the show always remained the same. The faces that would appear on the show would also be relatively the same. Thus, the impression it had on viewers was the same as before, when it was not yet live.

One day, Huzooraa enquired, “Your set is still the same. Is that not going to change?” It was obvious that this question was such that could not be answered in a mere “yes” or “no”. Huzoor’s desire had been understood and so, whatever chairs and table were available at the time were brought together to form a new set.

In the days that ensued, Huzooraa delivered an address from Baitul Futuh that was relayed live for a Jalsa Salana via MTA, aft er which, Huzooraa graciously visited the MTA studios in Baitul Futuh. After entering the studio, Huzooraa enquired, “Where is Rah-e-Huda filmed?” The set for the show had been designed in a rather simple fashion.

However, Huzooraa specifically gave instructions as to how he wished for the set to be. He even asked for a paper and pen and drew up a design to explain how he wanted the set to appear. The set was designed and built according to Huzoor’saa instructions and remained in the Baitul Futuh studios for many years.

By observing Huzoor’saa close attention to detail, the importance of MTA programmes became imprinted on my heart and a heartfelt prayer was made for Huzooraa. May Allah enable us to become worthy of this love and attention. Amin.

In December 2009, it had been six months since Rah-e-Huda was first broadcast live. Under Huzoor’s guidance and supervision, the programme had become properly established and had surpassed its teething issues. All matters related to the programme had now become part of a normal routine.

This Rah-e-Huda set was designed and built according to Huzoor’saa instructions and served as a set for many shows in the Baitul Futuh studios for a number of years

During one show in those days, a question was asked live pertaining to the history of the Jamaat and so, the programme took a turn towards history. In a following mulaqat, after hearing about the latest show, Huzooraa said, “A separate show should be made to present the history of the Jamaat as it is necessary to inform the younger generation of its history.”

I should mention here that other programmes also have always received Huzoor’saa guidance. Just as a specialist doctor is aware of how a medicine prescribed by them will act and react in the body, so too is Huzooraa precisely aware of how one’s aspirations skyrocket after receiving encouragement from him. Such a person immediately sets plans and desires to achieve everything there and then. With such a mindset, however, one is more prone to err.

Thus, from the very beginning, Huzooraa always explained that one should work with wisdom (ہوش) rather than passion (جوش).

In my experience, I have found that Huzooraa dislikes a person to work unnecessarily quickly. That is why whenever I have suggested something using only my passion and excitement, I have always been advised by Huzooraa to use wisdom and reflection and discuss with the other departments I would have to collaborate with. Huzooraa advises me, where appropriate, to discuss the matter with technical teams, if it involves technical issues; if it is a programme, then to discuss with the participants regarding the most suitable day of recording.

There are countless examples of when Huzooraa has advised the excited, eager, enthusiastic young man in me to utilise wisdom, reflection, planning, patience and sound judgment. How much I have benefitted from this advice, only the Concealer of all flaws – God Almighty – knows.

However, I can say that this unworthy servant is extremely grateful to his beloved master for his benevolence; otherwise, where would we receive such guidance from, that one should not simply act in excitement and love, rather one should reflect on the situation at hand and assess what the best plan of action is. The instruction to work with such moderation was in fact taught to us by the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and these very ways have been adopted by Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa today.

Now, let us turn our attention to the new programme that was to be based on the Jamaat’s history. I discussed this idea with the technical staff and before proposing names as possible participants of the show, gathered information regarding the potential panellists. Thereafter, I searched for a presenter for the show and planned for my next mulaqat with Huzooraa in which I would present a proper synopsis. After I had presented everything, Huzooraa graciously approved the proposal and the programme began. The show was named Tarikhi Haqaiq by Huzooraa himself.

Tarikhi Haqaiq (Historic Facts)

In its very inception, the programme was presented by Shahid Mahmood Sahib (Waqif-e-Nau), Ijaz Ahmad Tahir Sahib and Mashood Iqbal Sahib. Later programmes were presented by Aziz Bilal Sahib. Huzoor’saa desire was that more presenters should gain experience in presenting so that, where they were needed, we had more Urdu presenters prepared for other shows also.

In the earlier shows, Munawar Ahmad Khurshid Sahib and Naseer Habib Sahib would be invited as guests. This programme had now begun and was being aired every week. When the discussion reached the time of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, I felt that it would be appropriate to propose my father’s name, Abdul Basit Shahid Sahib, as a guest as he had the good fortune of authoring the last three volumes of Swaneh Fazl-e-Umar; however, I felt an apprehension in suggesting my father’s name as it could have seemed inappropriate.

In one mulaqat, Huzooraa asked, “Why don’t you invite your father? He worked on Swaneh Fazl-e-Umar and must also have some personal recollections of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra.”

At the time, a decade had passed since my father’s retirement; however, not only did Huzooraa remember him himself, but also his achievements. And this is not exclusive to my father; for this show, Tarikhi Haqaiq, Huzooraa would also instruct me to invite the late Bashir Ahmad Khan Rafiq Sahib every so often. Then, on one occasion, Huzooraa told me to invite Kamal Yusuf Sahib from Norway to the show. When he came, we recorded more than one programme. This made me realise that Huzooraa is not just aware of those who are in service, but he also remembers the scholars who, technically, have retired but are present. Huzooraa took into consideration their services and the show also benefitted a great deal from their contribution.

Quite some time had elapsed since the programme had started and become a regular routine, when Huzooraa established another show.

This is around 2010. Many Islamic channels had now commenced broadcast in the Western world, many of whom provided the facility of live calls. Although Rah-e-Huda was being broadcast at the time wherein live calls were being taken, but due to the nature of the programme – in that it was primarily for disputed matters – fiqh-related (jurisprudence) questions were not addressed. The risk in accepting such questions was that had we taken even one question on fiqh, the discussion would have taken a complete turn and fiqh would have become the real discussion.

At the time, most of the other Islamic channels would discuss fiqh when taking live calls. When this was brought to Huzoor’saa knowledge – that some Ahmadis were listening to those shows on fiqh and faced the potential risk that they could start adopting their fiqh as a way of life – Huzooraa immediately approved a programme to begin on jurisprudence. This programme was named Fiqhi Masail. Waseem Ahmad Fazal Sahib was appointed as the host of the show, while Zaheer Ahmad Khan Sahib became a regular guest from London along with Mubashar Ahmad Kahlon Sahib, Muft i-e-Silsila.

Deeni o Fiqhi Masail (previously known as Fiqhi Masail)

Viewers began sending in their questions via email and their answers were given. In this way, Ahmadis across the globe were given authentic information regarding fiqh. Readers will be aware that fiqh can be somewhat a difficult subject; although there is always room for debates, but disputes can also arise as a result of such debates.

Let us now turn our attention towards the other Islamic channels that were discussing fiqh. Fiqh was a preferred subject for discussion and continued day and night for it is a much-loved subject by many Muslims. What should be done when one has missed one rak‘at in congregational prayer; if someone experiences acidic reflux during fasts, should they continue fasting; if one injures their foot, then whilst performing ablution should they wash their feet and if so, should they only wash the foot that is uninjured or both; these were questions that were being covered at the time.

On those channels, when the answer to any of these questions would be given by a scholar, another scholar would disagree, while another would disregard the opinion of the first two scholars and produce their own fatwa. One channel would accuse another of misinformation and claim that their answers to the matters at hand were correct, when in fact their scholars would also have differences.

So when Fiqhi Masail began airing on MTA, another aspect of the importance of Khilafat came to light. If, at any point, it was felt that an answer presented was not satisfactory, it would be presented to Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa and either Huzooraa would declare a ruling there and then, or he would say to have Dar-ul-Ifta (the judiciary) send a report on the matter. When the report for Dar-ul-Ifta would be presented to Huzooraa, he would either accept their ruling as it was or set it aside and clarify the matter himself.

Many faith-inspiring events unfolded when presenting these matters on fiqh to Huzooraa, from which it became evident that Huzooraa possesses a great amount of knowledge in the realm of fiqh. Before being divinely assigned the responsibility of Khilafat, Huzooraa was able to observe matters related to qaza (the courts) closely. The Ahmadiyya fiqh went through an evolutionary phase and that too was closely observed by Huzooraa. The Holy Quran, hadith, sayings of the Promised Messiahas and the Khulafa would either be easily recalled due to being present in his memory, or he would be fully aware of where to find an answer.

Even though this is the case, Huzooraa still permits the relevant departments to continue functioning and assume their responsibilities by asking for their opinions and thoughts on a given matter; thus, the concerned departments go through a unique process of evolution. It had been a few months since this programme began and it was the month of Ramadan.

In my understanding, Fiqhi Masail had started when the very first show aired on MTA; however, when Ramadan came, I realised that the foundations of this programme had already been laid by Huzooraa early on. In the previous Ramadan, a programme by the name of Al-Siyam had begun with Huzoor’saa approval, wherein fiqh related questions would be taken. This programme was a weekly show and limited only for the duration of Ramadan. The show was presented by Zaheer Khan Sahib and in the panel was Mubashar Kahlon Sahib who was in the UK at the time.

Now that another Ramadan had come, we asked Huzooraa if we could broadcast Fiqhi Masail live. Ever since then, this programme has been broadcast live every Ramadan and it all came about under Huzoor’s supervision. Every programme has a life expectancy. After a few years, it was felt that the same questions were being repeated. When the challenge was relayed to Huzooraa, it was given a broader scope and the programme was named Deeni-o-Fiqhi Masail, with the expectation that people would ask questions of general nature as far as Islam is concerned.

The programme has since been serving this broadened purpose. In the new format of the programme, Dawood Abid Sahib, Mansoor Zia Sahib and Intisar Ahmad Nazar Sahib from Rabwah were included. So in 2010, this programme began and became fully established. It would be recorded regularly and broadcast every Wednesday. Up until this point, all the programmes that have been discussed are in Urdu. Whenever programmes have been discussed with Huzooraa, a particular concern is always noticed for the younger generation. In that period, Umar Safir Sahib had been producing Real Talk, which addressed social issues and the answers given from the Ahmadiyya perspective.

The peak of these programmes were the documentaries that were broadcast on Huzoor’s life in Ghana before Khilafat. This series was so well received that no comparison could have been drawn. Then Faith Matters began, which answered theological questions and other related matters in English. This was also well received.

However, a programme in which the youth could ask questions in English and have them answered by their age fellows did not exist at the time. And this was the reason for starting Beacon of Truth. A brief background of this has been given in a previous chapter.

Nonetheless, this programme commenced under Huzoor’s supervision and students of Jamia Ahmadiyya UK would participate in it. Huzooraa instructed for the programme to be in English so that the youth living in the West could have their issues addressed in a fashion they were more accustomed to. When the first recording was presented to Huzooraa, he showed great love and liked the programme. The youth who Huzooraa had once brought up as young children were now explaining to their age fellows the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat.

Students of Jamia also took it upon themselves to compile all the questions that were being received through email and providing it to the team. Initially, the programme would be recorded in front of a studio audience and broadcast at a later date. According to Huzoor’s instruction, the audience was to consist of members of Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya UK. And thus, the programme proved extremely enlightening. With Huzoor’s guidance, a different method was adopted in that the audience would be permitted to ask questions directly to the young students.

I would hold a separate meeting with the audience and explain to them the topic of the show so that they could think of questions on that basis. Those questions would not be relayed to the panellists so that they could answer them afresh. Thus, the programme had a natural touch to it and the viewers were kept engaged. With God’s grace, I have always been certain that the sight of Khalifatul Masih is a miracle of its own; by merely setting his sight on someone, there is potential for the person’s spiritual impurities to be cleansed. If a person wishes to see betterment in their work, then they should themselves endeavour to establish the relationship of their co-workers with Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa and remind them of its importance. If this does not happen, then one’s colleagues remain deprived of its blessings and one’s work is affected as a result.

Therefore, it is best to allow one’s co-workers to benefit from the blessings associated with this relationship through the nur of which we are led to the right path.

I asked Huzoor’s permission to bring the Beacon of Truth team for a mulaqat and Huzooraa graciously approved the request and the whole team had a mulaqat. These were young men who were seeking guidance directly from Huzooraa and at the same time, were experiencing the height of delight. After this one mulaqat, the work of these young students was blessed tremendously.

At the time, they were all studying in Jamia Ahmadiyya UK, but never did they falter in their education. It was this very programme that would later be broadcast as a live programme. The day before the first recording, the show’s presenter fell seriously ill; he suffered a stomach-ache and fever. The next day, everyone was to prepare for the live show, when this challenge fell upon us.

In the morning, prior to the live show, I had a mulaqat and until that point, the host’s health had not recovered. I mentioned to Huzooraa that the presenter was rather unwell and asked whether we could change the presenter. Very lovingly, Huzooraa said, “Where will you find an alternate presenter at this stage? There is no time for another presenter to prepare. Tell him to take this homeopathic medicine; he will feel better.”

Huzooraa also added that just as people panic before examinations and start experiencing poor health, he too felt the pressure in a similar way and it was not that big a deal. I left the mulaqat and delivered the medicine to the host of the show along with Huzoor’s message. Both had such an effect on the presenter that by the evening, when the show was to go live, he was perfectly fine. Qaasid Muin Ahmad Sahib presented the show not just on that day, but for a long while aft er and was able to present it in a decent fashion.

A shot of Beacon of Truth when it initially went live on MTA

In this manner, Beacon of Truth saw the love, affection and prayers of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa right at its inception. This is something that always comes to mind before every recording and a heartfelt prayer is made at every such occasion. Huzooraa is the leader of a community that is spread all over the world and his every second is precious due to his incredibly busy schedule, and yet, he takes out some much of his time for the sake of MTA programmes.

اَللّٰھُمَّ اَیِّدْ اِمَامَنَا بِرُوْحِ الْقُدُسِ

Initially, this programme was presented by Mansoor Clarke Sahib, but the responsibility was later assigned to Qaasid Muin Sahib, after which Raza Ahmad Sahib, then Ataul Fatir Tahir Sahib, Daniyal Kahlon Sahib and other presenters appeared on Beacon of Truth.

After Rah-e-Huda had seen a few years pass, one day, Huzooraa said, “Why don’t you go and present Rah-e-Huda from where rah-e-huda [the path of true guidance] actually started? Go to Qadian and host the show from there.”

I conveyed this instruction to Fateh Ahmad Dahri Sahib, Wakil-e-Tamil-o-Tanfidh for India, Nepal and Bhutan. (At the time, this department did not exist and was known as India Desk and Fateh Sahib was its director.)

Preparations for the programme were underway in Qadian, while on this side, the visa process commenced. I am reminded of my association with Pakistan every so oft en; however, never more so than when I had to fill out the visa form for India and throughout the whole visa acquisition process. This process was gruelling and extremely long, but preparations for the programme were already complete in Qadian.

The preparation was completed swiftly under the supervision of Fateh Sahib by MTA Qadian Studios. The show was to be broadcast live via web stream. So Huzooraa instructed that the programme be started immediately. The programme saw a historic moment in that Rah-e-Huda started being relayed live from the birthplace and village of the Promised Messiahas. K Tariq Sahib was assigned the responsibility of presenting the show and scholars from Qadian would be present in the show and still are to this day.

In this way, a new batch of scholars became familiar faces on the MTA screen. The potential of the scholars belonging to Qadian became apparent to MTA viewers and the show reached new levels. Initially, four programmes would be broadcast from Qadian and six from London, but this changed to six from London and six from Qadian, after which the routine became eight from there and four from London and has since seen various stages of evolution.

From London, I would host Rah-e-Huda, after which Raja Burhan Ahmad Sahib, then Hafiz Muhammad Zafrullah Sahib, Salman Qamar Sahib, Zafir Mahmood Malik Sahib and Ayyaz Mahmood Khan Sahib presented the show. There have been different presenters since.

Something I find extraordinary is that MTA studios had been set up at the time in many parts of the developed world, for example, the United States, Australia and Canada. But observe the wonders of Huzoor’saa instruction that other than London, at the time, no part of the world was broadcasting programmes live other than Qadian. This programme is broadcast weekly via web stream from Qadian and its signal is received here in London and sent via satellite throughout the world. Despite being aired via web stream, the quality of the video is excellent and is not really different from television broadcast quality.

It is my faith and belief that signals of this programme being relayed live from the blessed village of the Promised Messiahas is a means of blessings for MTA’s transmission. How could it not be? In the words of Hazrat Nawab Mubaraka Begum Sahibara, this is the land that the blessed footsteps of the Promised Messiahas made sacred, the security and safeguarding of which even the angels take pride in. Those who appear on the screen and those who are behind the scenes in making this programme possible from Qadian are assigned the responsibility of securing “Al-Dar” (the home of the Promised Messiahas).

Rah-e-Huda, under Huzoor’s instruction, commenced from Qadian, which is the nucleus of the Ahmadiyya Community. Through the blessings of this instruction, the aroma of Qadian is spread throughout the world via MTA. Rah-e-Huda would eventually go on to be regularly broadcast from Germany also. There are many other programmes as well. The readers of these words are also viewers of MTA. I will only say this, that every positive element associated with the programmes spread over the MTA canvas is a result of the guidance given by Huzooraa.

Whatever you may dislike is due to our shortcomings and with this in mind, I wish to acknowledge our shortcomings and seek your forgiveness and request your prayers.

As the subject is already under discussion, I shall go ahead and mention a few other faith-inspiring aspects of MTA programmes that may be of benefit to the readers. Huzooraa is always conscious of the content being relayed on MTA, but simultaneously, he reminds us that the people appearing on MTA are representatives of the Jamaat and therefore, their attire and appearance should be according to this standard.

Shahzad Ahmad Sahib, who is now a missionary and serving in The Review of Religions, had a family mulaqat with Huzooraa. A few days earlier, he had appeared on MTA whilst on Beacon of Truth. He is usually well dressed, but in the mulaqat, Huzooraa said to him that Beacon of Truth was on the television and he had a chance to watch a few moments of the programme, when he noticed that he was wearing a collarless shirt. Huzooraa said that although he had a blazer on top, but a person appears informal without a collared shirt underneath. He then instructed that even if a tie is not worn, one should at least wear a collared shirt and if not wearing a tie and wearing a collared shirt, then one’s chest hairs should also not be visible.

When he saw us next, he informed us of Huzoor’s instruction and we conveyed it to all participants of the show; in fact, we made this a policy for all programmes of MTA, that one must wear a tie with a shirt, or have on a collared shirt.

Mubashar Ahmad Kahlon Sahib is the mufti of the Jamaat, but one can probably not assume from the simplicity of his attire that he is such a stalwart scholar. There is no pretention in his attire, nor in his speech. He has a unique style of speaking; he ends his talks with an abrupt end and without any of the customary conclusions, reminding one of Faiz’s stanza:

جو رُکے تو کوہِ گراں تھے ہم

“We halt like mighty mountains.”

Once, when he was in London, he came as a guest in the Rah-e-Huda studio with all his simplicity. He had on a flowery, yet simple sweater above his shalwar qameez. When he appeared on the programme the following week, he took off that sweater and set it aside. I did not consider it appropriate to ask why he did this. He himself began explaining that a few days after the previous programme, he had a mulaqat wherein Huzooraa remarked:

تُسی بڑا پھُل دار سویٹر پا کے بیٹھے سی

“You were wearing a rather flowery sweater!”

He then added that although Huzooraa did not object to it, but perhaps he indicated that the sweater was not appropriate for the programme. May Allah grant him a long and healthy life. From such elders, we learn lessons from their words and actions that an indication by Khalifatul Masih should not be deemed negligible. Every gesture is worthy of being obeyed. If there is not an instruction in an indication, even then, one should reflect on the possible instructions and try to act on them.

Rah-e-Huda is broadcast on Saturday evenings. One Saturday morning, whilst trimming my beard, I pressed on the machine a bit harder than usual and the comb went down a few numbers. When I looked, I found that the comb was on the very first number of the machine and the chin area of my beard had pretty much vanished. It was a horrible accident! I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes I would blame the machine, while at the same time lamenting my own mistake. It would have been highly inappropriate for me to appear on the show with those long sideburns. Therefore, I decided the best thing to do following this accident would be to trim the rest of my beard the same size. The issue now was that my beard length was incredibly small and my moustache was all too noticeable.

The next morning, I went for a mulaqat. Huzooraa very lovingly remarked, “I saw a bit of the programme and also noticed that you had a bit of an accident with your trimmer.”

Utterly embarrassed, I recounted the entire event. Huzooraa kept smiling, but I felt all too ashamed that this was the first thing Huzooraa noticed. This was not an ordinary thing; it was something significant. The appearance of everyone who appears on MTA should be to a befitting standard. Although my beard had not completely vanished, the difference would have startled all viewers.

Once, I received a research assignment from Huzooraa. Allah helped me extraordinarily out of His sheer grace. The day after receiving the instruction, I set out and aft er only a few hours of searching, was able to acquire what I was looking for. From the library, where I was at the time, I called the private secretary and requested him to ask whether Huzooraa desired for me to come in the evening and present my research. Huzooraa graciously accepted and instructed for me to come after the last family mulaqat that evening.

Maghrib azan was being called when I entered Huzoor’s office. Huzooraa was about to leave his seat. Noticing the papers in my hand, Huzooraa asked, “What have you brought?” and called me over to his seat. I stood beside Huzooraa and showed him what I had found, whilst Huzooraa listened. Huzooraa said some words of encouragement having heard everything and then, upon noticing my shoes, smiled. I became a bit cautious, when Huzooraa asked, “Where did you get these shoes from?” I answered the question. The shoes were simple, yet their design was somewhat unconventional. Huzooraa then asked, “You don’t wear these shoes on the show, do you?” I replied in the negative. After that, Huzooraa said something and then got up to leave.

At the same time, Huzooraa would notice my startled state and smile, then laugh. Even after I had left , I would enjoy this moment when Huzooraa noticed something so minute. I could not explain that I would never even have come to meet Huzooraa with those shoes on had I not been travelling on trains and buses that day, but why would I have said this? Allah the Almighty created another lesson from Huzooraa for me to learn from and convey to my colleagues, that one should pay attention to those details on programmes that are otherwise ignored. Huzooraa is aware of the psychology of not just those who appear on MTA, but all viewers of MTA.

I had once studied in psychology that when established companies interview potential candidates for employment, they always have a psychologist present. The psychologist invites an employee in and asks them to walk to the interview room. As the candidate walks to the room, the psychologist walks behind them; this is to observe whether the candidate has made their hair presentable from only the front, or the back as well; whether they cleaned their shoes from the back as well as the front. This determines whether the person only works superficially or whether they have a depth in their work.

Our dear Imamaa has always borne in mind these factors so that it doesn’t have a negative impact whatsoever on the viewers. These are just some of the serialised programmes that have received Huzoor’s attention and minute and careful instructions. How Huzooraa has provided immense guidance with regard to other programmes will insha-Allah be discussed later.

Click here for Part III

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