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

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Asif M Basit

Click here for Part I

Click here for Part II

There are many programmes that have been broadcast on different occasions and Huzooraa has very graciously provided guidance for them on different occasions. Something Huzooraa has said numerous times regarding MTA programmes is, “The purpose of every programme on MTA should be to spread the teachings of Islam to the world.”

Another lesson we have also been taught from Huzooraa is that the task of spreading Islam cannot be possible until and unless we ascertain the vision of Khalifatul Masih. The Khalifa has the divine gift of being able to view things from a 360-degree angle.

Take, for example, the Friday Sermons; there is no subject that Huzooraa has not spoken on; onslaughts against religion, allegations against Islam, the rise of irreligiousness and materialism, questions on Ahmadiyyat, apt direction for successful tabligh, tarbiyat related matters, the education and wellbeing of the new generation and most importantly, the purpose of the advent of the Promised Messiahas i.e. the establishment of huququllah and huquq-ul-ibad (rights of Allah and the right of His creation) – these have all been addressed by Huzooraa on various occasions.

We always try to streamline the vision of MTA programmes with that of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa. On a personal level, I endeavour to remind my colleagues and myself that the actual programmes on MTA are the sermons and addresses of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa and the significance of every other programme is no more than that of a filler. What is essential is that those “fillers” are also streamlined with the vision of Huzooraa.

No matter how hard we try to achieve this, it is an impossible feat to achieve without Huzoor’saa guidance. Even if we are able to ascertain specifically what Huzoor’s desire is, before we implement that understanding into a programme, we must seek guidance from Huzooraa so that if something requires any clarification, then we may determine it beforehand.

No one is oblivious to the persecution of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Pakistan and that the Pakistani Government does its best to make life difficult for Ahmadi Muslims living in the country.

A few years ago, restrictions were put in place against the publication and spread of Ahmadiyya literature by the government and policymakers. Thus, all the Jamaat’s printing presses were closed. Wherever the books of the Promised Messiahas were, those places were raided and the books, seized. If the books were found to be present anywhere, it was considered a breach of the law. Books were seized from all places, whether they were libraries or publication departments.

During those days, Huzooraa instructed that although the Pakistani Government was striving to halt the spread of the Promised Messiah’sas books, they would not be able to do so as they were available on the Jamaat’s website and other online platforms and thus being published throughout the world. Huzooraa then instructed for MTA to present darses on these books.

Upon hearing this instruction, preparations were underway. Although darses of Malfuzat and the writings of the Promised Messiahas were already being broadcast, MTA’s scheduling department was requested to schedule such darses more than before. Alongside that, three young missionaries were prepared to present a programme on the books of the Promised Messiahas, which was pending Huzoor’saa final approval.

The first book that was to be studied was The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam and would be presented in a discussion format, but the text of the book would be given preference above any personal explanation. These three missionaries, who have been prepared by Huzooraa himself, immediately accepted the task and began preparation for the show. With a synopsis in hand, I set out for the Fazl Mosque that same evening.

Huzooraa had just led the Maghrib prayer and left the mosque, when I briefly explained the synopsis of the programme. Whilst walking towards his residence, Huzooraa heard what I had to say and approved the proposal. Huzooraa added, “It should be presented in English from here; tell the team in Rabwah to prepare such a programme in Urdu and ask the Germany team to present one in German.”

The foreign studios were conveyed Huzoor’saa instruction and from the UK, the team was ready. With time, graduates of Jamia Ahmadiyya UK began appearing on the show. Hearing Huzoor’saa instruction, MTA’s production department also offered full cooperation and the programmes began being recorded and broadcast. Huzooraa approved the name of the show as In His Own Words.

In His Own Words: The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam | MTA

This very programme was then prepared in various other languages and is broadcast to this day. In this manner, in light of Huzoor’s instructions, a programme – whose purpose was to promote the writings of the Promised Messiahas throughout the world – saw its inception. There were other various shows in which it was felt that showing the viewpoint of non-Ahmadis was vital.

Upon deliberation, one reason for our reluctance in this matter was the unpredictability of what external people would say on the show – whether it would be appropriate for the MTA viewership and whether it would steer the conversation towards a different subject. When the matter was presented to Huzooraa, he provided ample guidance and said, “You should first meet the people who you wish to invite on MTA.

In that way, you will be able to get a good understanding of their nature and temperament. Intellectual people generally tend to be cautious in presenting their opinions, but still, you should be careful when inviting guests.”

We began preparations for the show. We also began to invite academics who could speak about the Jamaat onto the show. Before talking about the academics who would appear on this show, it is important to mention here when external guests first began to appear on MTA.

In 2010, when Ahmadiyya mosques were attacked and just less than a hundred innocent Ahmadis were slain, I had the opportunity to interview many influential members of government in Pakistan and then have their interviews shown on MTA. This has been mentioned briefly in a previous chapter; however, I wish to present the details of this here.

At the time, I had acquired permission from Huzooraa to include some well-informed intellectuals on Rah-e-Huda, who could condemn the brutality shown by extremists in Pakistan so that it could have a positive effect on the global viewership. Thus, in that period the likes of Abid Hassan Minto, IA Rahman, Muneeza Hashmi, Barrister Hamid Khan, Roedad Khan, Sherry Rahman, Sartaj Aziz, Iqbal Akhund, Ashraf Liaquat Ali (son of Liaquat Ali Khan), Iqbal Haider and Imtiaz Alam were interviewed and their interviews were played on Rah-e-Huda. All these individuals personally condemned these attacks and all viewers, whether they belonged to the Ahmadiyya Jamaat or not, appreciated their statements.

In the early days of Rah-e-Huda, through the blessings of Khilafat, many high-profile academics, journalists and politicians of Pakistan were interviewed who spoke about their views on the laws against the Jamaat, in light of the 2010 attacks on two Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore

The viewers were pleased that there were still such people in society who had the courage to declare what was wrong as wrong.

In those days, I observed that when I sought permission for each of them to speak on the show, Huzooraa not only gave permission, but described to me their temperaments and inclinations. I also was guided by Huzooraa as to how I should ask each of them questions. As an Ahmadi Muslim, my faith has always been that Allah the Almighty bestows upon His chosen Khalifa divinely inspired farsightedness, but I practically saw its manifestation in those days.

Permit me to declare, whilst writing these lines, that I was able to witness this manifestation first-hand for the very first time. The manner in which Huzooraa described each of their natures, guided me about the questions that I should pose and the possible diplomatic answers I should be wary of was all an astonishing experience. By treading the path that Huzooraa had laid out for me, I found that the intellect and awareness of these academics was redundant in front of Huzoor’s wisdom. And how would it not be? The claim there is of worldly knowledge, whereas here, we find divine inspiration.

One such bureaucrat and politician was to speak on MTA who never shies away from speaking in favour of the Jamaat. I had only just mentioned that I was to speak to him the following day, when Huzooraa remarked, “He will speak in our favour, but he will expect something in return.” I assumed that this was said due to his affiliation with a particular group of people because his people are famous for having migrated to Karachi aft er the partition and abusing their wealth.

The next day, precisely what Huzooraa had described came to pass. The gentleman agreed to being interviewed, but also discretely asked to book him a ticket to London so that he could record his words on camera. I was very amused at this event. When I described the interview to Huzooraa, I also asked whether Huzooraa had ever had any interaction with the gentleman. Huzooraa replied, “I have not interacted directly with him, but I am aware of his personality.”

In this regard, Huzoor’saa instruction was always to properly inform the interviewee that we wanted to interview them on behalf of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s television channel, MTA. Huzooraa was aware that the progressive people of Pakistan were reluctant to voice their opinions due to the suppression of extremist elements there. Thus, Huzooraa felt it proper for them to be briefed about who we were and what we were recording the interview for. Accordingly, care was taken to act on Huzoor’s instruction and apart from a very few people, everyone was happy to cooperate.

It is not appropriate to mention the names of those who were reluctant to speak on our platform as we do not wish to humiliate them. I will only refer to one gentleman as he was a means of bringing to light a faith-inspiring aspect of Huzoor’s life.

In 1974, this individual was the minister of justice and during his tenure, the infamous amendment to the constitution of Pakistan was drawn out, which is known as the Second Amendment. When he was contacted over the telephone, he asked to be explicitly informed about the questions I would ask him. When I informed him that I wished to ask about the Second Amendment, in which Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslims, he replied that he did not wish to be a part of this conversation. I told him that his evasion was being recorded and that he was known as an intellectual and an experienced expert in the field of politics.

“The whole world is aware of your close ties with [Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto (and his family). This verdict was declared in the Bhutto era and you were his right-hand man. If you evade the question, then your political reputation will be compromised in front of the whole world.”

He replied by saying that he did not wish to speak; end of story! With that, he shut the phone. When the details of that conversation were relayed to Huzooraa, although I did not dive into the details, Huzooraa realised that I wanted to broadcast that conversation on the show. Huzooraa said:

“When he does not wish to speak, then leave it. What benefit can there be? And how would we be any different from other channels? Other channels blackmail people like this, but we shall respect his desire.”

I learned this lesson from Huzooraa then and continued to act upon it, that no interview should be broadcast in which the interviewee clearly expresses that they do not wish to be interviewed. I carried out interviews of intellectuals and experts and they would get aired on MTA. They were all well received by the viewers. I also sought permission from Huzooraa during those days to interview journalists and so-called scholars who were opposed to us.

Upon approval, I began contacting such scholars and journalists. In terms of reputation and opposition, the interview with a foremost scholar is still preserved to this day. The profane and foul language that was used by the scholar was more extreme than a drunkard’s language. However, that too was not aired. The language used in the interview is such that cannot be heard in any decent setting, never mind broadcasting it globally. Even regarding this scholar, Huzooraa said that I could interview him, but it may not be broadcast-worthy.

Once again, Huzoor’saa words proved precisely correct. I even spoke to a person who is known as a mufti [Islamic jurist] and appears on most Pakistani television channels. In his very articulate and composed manner of speech, he gave an interview, but resorted to such expletives that shocked me to my core. On many occasions, I reminded him, “Mufti Sahib! What sort of language is this?”, but he continued to use the same filthy language. His profanities have also been preserved, but in accordance with Huzoor’saa instructions, have never been broadcast.

I should mention here that when I initially sought permission from Huzooraa to interview these so-called scholars, Huzooraa said something very beautiful. He said, “It is a good idea; the opponents’ viewpoint will be known and they will get the chance to voice themselves.”

Our opponents tend not to allow us to voice our views on their platforms, but Huzooraa was careful in that they should be allowed to express their views to uphold the first principle of dialogue. This sign of respect was not recognised by them, whereas we were given a pristine guideline to follow. The interviews with politicians were also unique in their own right.

In view of the conditions at the time, it was thought that such influential people would refrain from talking on our platform. Almost every channel of the world was discussing the persecution of Ahmadis and the government’s backing for this opposition. Thus, it was felt that the representatives of government would not speak on the subject and I became doubtful about the possibility of being able to contact them. The situation was presented to Huzooraa, to which Huzooraa said, “Go ahead! You should most definitely do this. Get a hold of them and ask them!”

This had now become an instruction and I had to now get a hold of them. I began my efforts in this regard. I started to search the various departments within Pakistan’s government and call their phone numbers given on their websites. To my surprise, I found that the offices were either well-nigh deserted or riddled with corruption. For almost an entire year in certain departments, the minister overseeing the department hadn’t attended the office. Some staff members were instructed by their ministers to not allow anyone through to them. Other staff members would utilise every opportunity for bribes or other benefits.

Without any exaggeration, I called a certain minister’s office multiple times, but could not get through to them. The person who would constantly attend my call one day asked me, “You call from London every day. Do you live in London or have you travelled there from here?” I replied that I lived there and asked him why he wanted to know. He then asked whether I was a British national, to which, albeit aversely, I replied in the affirmative and enquired as to why he was asking. He then asked if there was any way that I could invite him to the UK as he had had enough of his job. I struggled to get myself out of that conversation.

Huzoor’saa prayers were with me during those efforts. I thought to myself that there must be some sort of way of communicating with those ministers and politicians as they always seemed to be willing to appear on other channels for discussions and indulging in futile debates. With this in mind, I called a familiar Pakistani television channel. A decent-mannered young man picked up the phone. I introduced myself by stating my name and that I was calling on behalf of MTA International and was in need of a certain politician’s phone number. The employee on the other end provided the number so quickly that in truth, I was a little taken aback. He was so quick to respond that I had to tell him to let me grab a pen and paper. I did not expect to get a number so quickly and so easily.

In any case, I called the minister and spoke to him and with their permission, had their interview recorded and broadcast on MTA. Now, whatever number I required, I would ask for it from the same television channel. When I next contacted the channel, the same gentleman did not attend the phone as it was not his shift. The person who picked up the call was not able to find the number I was in search of and expressed some hesitation in doing so. When I called a few days later, the same man, who had helped me initially, picked up. I told him that I had called earlier, but he was not on duty. He then told me to take his mobile number and that whenever I needed his help, I should call his personal contact number. He said that he had all the numbers saved and he could easily pass on information. Thus, I acquired a few other numbers from him.

One day, I expressed my deep thanks to him, but also asked whether he knew I was an Ahmadi. He replied, “I did not know this, but what difference does that make?” I then asked him whether he knew the risks he was taking in providing me numbers as his company could take action against him for providing phone numbers from their private directory. He said, “I am aware of this, but this probably happens in England. Here, I have not been informed of such a rule. All channels here do the same thing when in need of phone numbers for their shows. Whenever I have told you to call later, it was so that I could call another channel and obtain the number for you.” I became extremely grateful and told him that if there was ever something that I could do for him, he should let me know. He replied, “It’s not a problem. It isn’t really a big deal.” I haven’t been able to contact him for some time. May Allah keep him happy.

Whoever met me during that time and whenever those interviews float around on WhatsApp or Twitter even today, I am asked how I was able to contact such high figures and whether I had contacts in influential circles. I would like to tell all those people through these words that I never had any contacts then, nor do I have any today; Huzooraa approved this endeavour, encouraged me and thus, Allah the Almighty blessed it with His immense grace.

At times, calls went through to certain politicians and ministers so quickly that I did not expect to be taken straight through to them without being transferred. At times, it so happened that when I was asked who I was, I would reply, “My name is Asif.” I would then be asked where I was calling to which I would say, London. Of course, this introduction was incomplete, but with Allah’s grace, it was enough to pave the way for further interviews. When I would be put through to the relevant minister or politician, I would give a full introduction of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat and my affiliation with it. Not a single word of a lie would be spoken on my behalf and a full introduction to the Ahmadiyya Jamaat would be given. They would be informed that the interview would be broadcast on the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s television channel. This introduction would also be recorded so that if there was ever a problem in the future, we had proof that they were fully aware of who they were talking to.

The entire period of Rah-e-Huda in which these interviews were aired, wherein government ministers would display their shallowness, was all a result of Huzoor’saa prayers and attention.

Click here for Part IV

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