This series, Zikr-e-Habib, explores the life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, and his sayings, shedding light on his noble character and the impact of his teachings on his followers and the world at large.
M Adam Ahmad, Al Hakam
Prophets of Allah the Almighty consider it a divine duty to treat their guests with the utmost respect because they view them as a sign of God’s blessings. In addition to showing great hospitality, the messengers of God Almighty take this opportunity to help improve the spiritual and moral condition of those who come to benefit from their company.
From the Bible to the perfect book of Allah the Almighty, the Holy Quran, the sacred scriptures are replete with examples of various prophets extending exceptional hospitality to guests. All these accounts, from Prophet Abrahamas serving his guests with “roasted calf” (Holy Quran, 11:70), Prophet Jesusas offering food to the multitude (Matthew, 14:16-21), or Prophet Muhammadsa warmly welcoming people to his home and then God attesting to his hospitality when the Holy Prophetsa “feels shy of asking you [the guests] to leave” as they would stay longer than a reasonable time (Holy Quran, 33:54). Such examples show that by displaying such conduct, God’s messengers also encourage their followers to consider hospitality a sacred duty and serve each and every person, irrespective of their class, colour, and creed.
Following in the footsteps of his beloved Master-Prophet Muhammadsa, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiahas and Mahdi, manifested the values of respect, kindness and care when it came to showing hospitality to guests, especially those who would come to participate in Jalsa Salana gatherings.
Prophet Ahmad’sas hospitality was not motivated by vested interests or confined to a specific time in his life. Even before he was Divinely commissioned, people used to come to him, and the Promised Messiahas used to show great hospitality. At first, when very few people, and at times even just one person, would visit him, he was no less hospitable to them. As time passed and hundreds of thousands of people started to visit him, Prophet Ahmad’sas commitment to serving guests did not decline. In every era, the Promised Messiahas was a paragon of hospitality.
Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Dardra MA states:
“It should not be supposed that [Prophet] Ahmad’sas work consisted only in writing books, issuing leaflets, and making speeches. This alone was enough to keep him busy, but side by side with this, he had to attend to other matters also, which were by no means less important. […] He also interviewed more than 60,000 persons, to whom he had to explain the teachings of Islam. He had also to play the host to all who visited him, for Islam inculcates the most cordial hospitality towards all guests. There were no hotels in Qadian where visitors could find board and lodging, nor were there any big shops or provision stores. Ahmadas had, therefore, to make all kinds of arrangements, and he always looked after his guests himself, even down to the minute details. He had to request his devoted friend at Jullundur, Ch. Rustam Ali, to buy for him and send ghee, vegetables, chutney, aerated waters, pan, etc. to Qadian.” (Life of Ahmadas, pp. 216-17)
Caring for all the requirements of his guests in showing hospitality, the Promised Messiahas said:
“I always give instructions to ensure that guests are provided with as much comfort as possible because I am very concerned that no guest should be inconvenienced. A guest’s heart is as fragile as glass and can be broken by the slightest knock. […] I grant permission to each and every person to present their problems and issues. There are some people who are not well, so foods for their special dietary needs can be prepared for them.” (Malfuzat , Vol. 3, p. 292)
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahibra MA states:
“The Promised Messiahas possessed a very hospitable nature, and those who would come to Qadian at the time of Jalsa or on any other occasion, whether they were Ahmadis or non-Ahmadis, benefited from his kindness and hospitality in every way. The Promised Messiahas would always pay special attention to their comfort and convenience. There was no pretentiousness in his nature and he used to welcome every guest as if they were his kinsfolk. The Promised Messiahas found heartfelt joy in serving and showing hospitality to his guests. Early companions relate that when a guest arrived, the Promised Messiahas would always meet him with a smile on his face. He would bless them with a handshake, ask for their well-being, and seat them with respect. If it was summer, the Promised Messiahas would make a sweet drink and serve it to them. If it was winter, he would get tea prepared and present it to the guests. The Promised Messiahas used to provide accommodation for the guests and would personally give instructions to the guest house staff regarding food, etc. He would advise them that there should not be any kind of inconvenience.” (Silsila Ahmadiyya, Vol. 1, p. 208)
Under divine guidance that “People will come to you by every distant track,” (Tadhkirah [English], p. 881), perceiving the rising number of guests visiting Qadian, the Promised Messiahas established a Langar Khana, or public kitchen, to take care of their needs and requirements.
This Langar Khana, which started in the house of the Promised Messiahas under the supervision of his devoted wife, Hazrat Syeda Nusrat Jehan Begumra, Amma Jan, kept serving and providing for the steadily growing number of guests throughout his life. The establishment of Langar Khana not only satisfied the needs of the guests but also manifested Prophet Ahmad’sas commitment to serving humanity and showing hospitality.
Regarding the administration of Langar Khana, Iain Adamson writes:
“[Prophet] Ahmad[as] kept the administration of the guest house and kitchen [Langar Khana] in his own hands, despite the fact that this was time-consuming and inconvenient. When it was suggested that this could be done by an efficient administrator, Ahmad[as] declined. The guests were his personal responsibility, he said. He needed to look after them himself.” (Ahamd[as], The Guided One, p. 323)
Consequently, God Almighty blessed Langar the Khana manifold, and “as the community spread further throughout the world, many of its missions also established their respective Langar Khana or Dar-uz-Ziafat, the three most well-established of them being in India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Moreover, temporary Langar Khanas are set up at large events such as Jalsa Salana, the annual gathering of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.” (AhmadiPedia, under the heading “Langar Khana”)
Third branch is hospitality
In his book, Victory of Islam, the Promised Messiahas declared hospitality of guests and visitors as the third branch in spreading and establishing Islam Ahmadiyyat. Highlighting the blessings of God Almighty in fulfilling the great hospitality of guests, Prophet Ahmadas said:
“A man of penetrating foresight would undoubtedly be baffled as to how all the necessities and particulars for the hospitality of such a vast number of people were capable of being satisfied over time and, going forward, what arrangement could sustain such a large operation.” (Victory of Islam, p. 22)
Swift, sufficient accommodation for guests
Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Karimra Sialkoti narrates:
“When the time came to build houses to meet the needs of guests, the Promised Messiahas emphasised again and again that, ‘It is useless to spend money on bricks and stone. Do what is sufficient to accommodate someone for a brief period.’
“The carpenter was cleaning wooden panels and boards with a planer, but the Promised Messiahas stopped him and said, ‘This is nothing but affectation. It is an unnecessary delay of time. Do what is necessary.’ The Promised Messiahas said, ‘Allah the Exalted knows that I have no love for any property. I consider my properties to be the shared possession of my friends, and I desire greatly that we all come together and spend some time with one another.’ The Promised Messiahas said:
“‘It would please me if there were a place where my friends occupied houses on all four sides and my house was situated in the middle, with an entrance leading to every home that surrounded my own, so that I could remain in constant contact and interaction with each and every one of them.’” (Life of the Promised Messiahas, pp. 63-4)
Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Karim Sialkotira said:
“Brothers! All of these words are true, and the events are a testament to this fact. The property, both inside and out, downstairs and on the upper level, is full of guests like a ship. The Promised Messiahas also has a portion for himself after the division of other areas. In reality, he himself lives in a very small portion of the house. He lives in his own house as one who stays in a temporary home for travellers; the traveller never entertains the thought that this is his own home.” (Ibid., p. 64)
Serving Jalsa guests
Hazrat Munshi Zafar Ahmad Sahibra narrates:
“Once, a great number of people who had come to attend the Jalsa Salana did not have any bedding. A person named Nabi Bakhsh Numbardar of Batala started taking out quilts from inside and kept distributing them to the guests. I went to the Promised Messiahas after Isha prayer and he was sitting with his arms wrapped around himself [due to the cold], and his son, who was probably Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad[ra], was lying next to him. Prophet Ahmadas had covered him with a cloak. I realised that, upon request, the Promised Messiahas also sent his own bedding for the guests. I said to the Promised Messiahas, ‘You do not have a quilt and it is very cold out here.’ Prophet Ahmadas replied, ‘The guests should not be discomforted, and as far as my [comfort] is concerned, the night shall pass.’
“I came down and took Nabi Bakhsh to task, asking why he took the Promised Messiah’sas bedding. He was embarrassed and asked how he could take it back from the guest to whom he had given it. I then requested a quilt from Mufti Fazlur Rahman Sahib or someone else, probably someone else, and took it upstairs to Huzooras. Prophet Ahmadas said, ‘Give it to some other guest, I do not even sleep most of the night.’ Even on my insistence, the Promised Messiahas did not take it and asked me to give it to another guest, so I brought it back.” (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 4, narration 1118)
God informs the Messiahas to feed the hungry
In 1907, God Almighty sent the following revelation to the Promised Messiahas in the days of Jalsa Salana:
يٰٓاَيُّھَا النَّبِيُّ اَطْعِمُوا الْجَائِعَ وَالْمُعْتَرَّ
“O Prophet, feed the hungry and the distressed.” (Tadhkirah [English], p. 988)
During Jalsa Salana Qadian in 1907, some guests were served meals very late. There was enough food, but because of the shortage of space, only a limited number of people could eat at a time, which caused delays. Some guests retired to their rooms without eating. They received the reward that Allah the Almighty consoled with them and a revelation was conveyed directly by Allah to His apostle اَطْعِمُوا الْجَائِعَ وَالْمُعْتَرَّ (“Feed the hungry and the distressed”). When the Promised Messiahas enquired early in the morning, he found that some of the guests remained hungry. He called for the manager of the public kitchen (Langar Khana) and admonished him to take good care of the guests. (Tadhkirah [English], p. 988-989)
About the same revelation, Hazrat Dr Hashmatullah Khanra says:
“On the morning of 28 December 1907 at 8am after taking food, my humble self was absorbed in listening to the speeches. I also heard the speech of the Promised Messiahas and was greatly satiated. I offered Maghrib and Isha Prayers [combined] and, as directed, took my seat in Mubarak Mosque to participate in the general meeting of the Executive Board of Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya. I thought that I would eat after the meeting, because according to the announcement, the participation of the Presidents and Secretaries of the Jamaats was required. I was twenty years old, feeling weak and hungry, and had not eaten anything since 8am. I thought to myself that all members of the Anjuman must have gone to the public kitchen (Langar Khana) to eat and felt like doing the same. But I kept sitting out of fear that I might miss the meeting. I waited for two hours and felt the pangs of hunger. At 8:45 pm, the respected members of Anjuman and some others arrived, and the meeting started and was over at 11:45 pm. My desire for food vanished automatically since no strength to experience the feeling was left. I came out of the mosque and headed towards the public kitchen which was closed. I had no choice but to return to my residence at the Treasury. I was about to go to sleep when someone knocked at the door and said, ‘Any guest who has not eaten can come to the public kitchen to eat.’ I went and gratefully ate what was available.
“Next morning at about 9-10am, I saw that the beloved Messiah[as] was standing at the door of Mubarak Mosque facing the street, and many of his devotees were present. He asked that Maulvi Sahib be called. So, Hazrat Maulvi Noor-ud-Deen presented himself. The Promised Messiahas said:
“‘It seems that the arrangements for food were not very satisfactory. The cry of some hungry one reached the Throne of Almighty Allah and I received the revelation, يٰٓاَيُّھَا النَّبِيُّ اَطْعِمُوا الْجَائِعَ وَالْمُعْتَرَّ’ [i.e. ‘O Prophet, feed the hungry and the distressed.’]
“This revelation was received at 10pm. The Promised Messiahas called for the organisers and asked them to feed the guests who had not eaten. That is why one of them knocked at my door.” (Ashab-e-Ahmad, Vol. 8, pp. 91-2; Tadhkirah [English], p. 989)
Eating with guests
Stating how the Promised Messiahas strived to serve his guests, Iain Adamson says:
“[Prophet] Ahmad[as] also often ate with the guests to ensure that proper standards of cooking and service were maintained. He would actually eat only a little himself, and instead busy himself bringing food and freshly baked bread to the guests. Then he would nibble at some bread, helping himself to small, fresh pieces in case a guest noticed that he had finished his meal and so be too embarrassed to continue eating.” (Ahmad[as], The Guided One, p. 230-31)
Presenting his own meal to guests
Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahibra related to Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahibra MA:
“Dr Mir Muhammad Ismail Sahibra narrated to me that once, on the occasion of a Jalsa, we were sitting in the company of the Promised Messiahas and pilau, zarda, etc., were being cooked outside for the guests. Meanwhile, a meal was served to the Promised Messiahas from inside [the house]. We thought it would be a splendid meal, but it only consisted of boiled rice and some dal, enough for a single person. The Promised Messiahas asked us to eat as well. So, we also joined him.” Hafiz Roshan Ali Sahibra said, “Dr Sahib told me that though there were a lot of men, everyone ate to their fill.” (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, narration 146)
Looking after the preferences of guests
In the Promised Messiah’sas biography, Iain Adamson writes:
“His [Prophet Ahmad’sas] hospitality became as well-known as his humility. When guests arrived, he always enquired about what kind of food they liked, what they did not like and any preferences regarding their sleeping arrangements. Once, some guests arrived and the porters, being busy, told them rather brusquely to unload their own luggage from their cart. The guests took offence, remounted their vehicle, and set off home again.
“[Prophet] Ahmad[as], when he heard what had happened, set off after them on foot. He caught up with them some five miles away. He apologised for the casual reception they had received and accompanied them back to Qadian, where he helped unload their luggage himself.
“Ahmad did not reprimand the servants directly. This was never his method. Some days later, however, in the mosque, he said they must all think more of the welcome they extended to people who came to Qadian. When somebody had travelled many miles and suffered the hardships of the journey, it was a relief to arrive. If they were not met with a ready welcome, it was a great disappointment. Everyone should therefore strive to see that none of their guests was ever disappointed.” (Ahmad[as], The Guided One, pp. 229-30)
Abundance of guests and trust in God Almighty
During Jalsa Salana Qadian in 1903, a great number of guests arrived, exceeding prior expectations. Hazrat Mir Nasir Nawab Sahibra, who was the officer in charge of the Langar Khana at the time, came to the Promised Messiahas and said, “Huzooras, the guests have come in abundance; it seems that we will be unable to make ends meet.” The blessed countenance of the Promised Messiahas flushed, and he got up immediately and said, “Mir Sahib, how could you say this? Don’t you know that a believer never goes broke? One who comes [to Jalsa Salana] brings their own fortune with them. And when one returns, they leave behind their blessings. How did you come to the conclusion that we would be unable to make ends meet? Please, never say this again.” (Sirat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 5, narration 1288)
Humility and hospitality
Shedding light on the humble nature of the Promised Messiahas in serving his guests, Iain Adamson states:
“At dinner one evening, when his companions and guests were discussing their likes and dislikes regarding pickles, he suddenly got up and left the room. He returned with a bottle of the pickle that one person had said he was particularly fond of. ‘Why had he not asked a servant to fetch it?’, a guest asked. He was told that [Prophet] Ahmad[as] did not think he was superior to anyone. He never acted like the master who only gave orders. When beds, chairs, or trunks had to be moved and Ahmad[as] happened to be passing, a servant would often find that Ahmad was on the other end of a bed.” (Ahmad[as], The Guided One, p. 228)
He further states:
“[Prophet] Ahmad[as] never thought himself too grand for any task. One guest arrived well after midnight, when everyone was asleep. Ahmad[as] and a porter answered his knock. Ahmad[as] asked him to be seated, brought him a glass of milk and asked him to make himself comfortable while he and the porter arranged a bed. The guest waited a considerable time, and then, attracted by the sound of banging, followed the noise to its source.
“He found Ahmad[as] and the porter hurriedly banging together the framework for a charpoy. All the beds were occupied, and not wanting to disturb the people who normally looked after these arrangements, Ahmad[as] had told the porter they would make the bed themselves while the guest waited.” (Ibid., p. 228-9)
Praying and providing medicine
“One guest, a well-known religious leader, fell seriously ill and appeared to be at the point of death. At midnight, a companion went to [Prophet] Ahmad’s[as] house. It was in complete darkness. He went around the corner to where he knew Ahmad’s[as] bedroom was and called out. Ahmad[as] answered. When the companion told him how ill the religious leader was, Ahmad[as] prayed silently. Then he mixed some medicine for him and said, ‘Make him drink this. God will save him.’
“The next morning, the religious leader was on the road to recovery. ‘Prayer is the real weapon in the armoury of a believer,’ [Prophet] Ahmad[as] told the companion. ‘The medicine was only a palliative.’” (Ibid., p. 230)
Polite in welcoming and kind in saying goodbye
“He [Prophet Ahmadas] was equally polite and welcoming in the morning. Despite the hundreds of people who were now there, he was always the first to offer the Islamic greeting, ‘Peace be with you.’ When a guest left, Ahmad[as] parted from him as though a very dear relative was leaving. He made a point of being there to say goodbye and would ask them to be sure to come again.” (Ibid., p. 231)
Meeting the demands of guests
“Some of them [guests] made unexpected demands. [Prophet] Ahmad[as] had a small-size Quran of which he was very fond. One guest said he would like to have it as a memento of Ahmad[as]. [Prophet] Ahmad[as] immediately handed it over. When he was asked why he had done so, he said, ‘I liked it very much, but I thought of the verse of the Holy Quran which says: Ammas-saa-ila falaa tanhar [i.e. ‘And chide not him who asks’]. I, therefore, gave him the Quran.’” (Ibid.)
The example of profound hospitality set by the Promised Messiahas continues to encourage his followers to carry on his legacy. Under the guidance of Prophet Ahmad’sas present successor, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, members of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat are inspiring many to take part in this blessed deed of looking after each other and selflessly serving humanity. Whether it is during Jalsa Salana or everyday interactions, followers of the Promised Messiahas strive hard to establish an atmosphere of sharing, caring, and showing hospitality.