Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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Impressions of Maulana Hafiz Sher Muhammad:
I shall give my impressions of the Hafiz Sher Mohammad Sahib based on my experiences with him, and what he used to recount to us.
Hafiz Sahib joined the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement at the hand of Maulana Muhammad Ali, and worked under him on the Anjumans staff for about ten years. Maulana Muhammad Alis virtuous character, noble example, and his sympathetic concern for the members of the Jamaat, made a deep and indelible impression on Hafiz Sahib. He used to speak of Maulana Muhammad Ali with the greatest affection and respect; in fact, love and devotion. He often said that the Maulana was a very great man, and that in over ten years of working with him, he had never had cause to entertain the slightest grievance or complaint about the Maulana.
After Maulana Muhammad Alis death, Hafiz Sahib worked closely with, and sat at the feet of, those stalwarts of this Movement whose scholarship as well as saintliness are recognised on all hands, men such as Maulana Abdul Haque Vidyarthi, Shaikh Ghulam Qadir, Hafiz Muhammad Hasan Cheema and Sayyid Asad-ullah Shah. In those days of the 1950s, an Urdu periodical entitled Ruh-i Islam was published, under the overall editorship of Maulana Abdul Haque Vidyarthi, which largely consisted of contributions from these great scholars. Hafiz Sahib was responsible for getting the articles prepared and the magazine printed, and his own first writings appeared in it as well.
Hafiz Sahibs scholarship and research was of considerable assistance in the compilation of several of our Urdu books published during the 1960s. Two such books are: Mujahid-i Kabir (biography of Maulana Muhammad Ali), and Shahadat-i Haqqah (compilation of tributes paid by prominent Muslims to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and to the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement).
I shall speak only about his visits to the U.K., and later about South Africa, which I can do from personal knowledge. Hafiz Sahib came here (to the U.K.) for the Ahmadiyya Convention in 1975, and delivered a speech, in his inimitable style, about the Finality of Prophethood. This opened the eyes of many of us, not only about the views of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, but also about the kind of claims made by Sufi saints who are revered by all Muslims. It was at that time that Hafiz Sahib assisted Hazrat Ameer Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan in laying the foundations of the U.K. Lahore Ahmadiyya Jamaat.
At about that time, he wrote his masterly book La Nabiyya Badi, dealing with the finality of prophethood, and the usage of terms nabi and rasul for non-prophets, by Islamic scholars, consistent with the finality.
An interesting and significant incident of this period may be mentioned, which Hafiz Sahib used to relate. When visiting Canada in 1975, Hafiz Sahib fell so ill that at one stage he was on the verge of death. He used to say that his soul had started to leave the body, and had reached as far as the window of the room, from where he could see his own body lying on the sick bed. He prayed to God to grant him respite as he had yet much work to do. The prayer was heard, and the decree of death postponed. And indeed, Hafiz Sahib did his most important work after this experience.
During the next few years, we received many of the Urdu articles and booklets written by Hafiz Sahib, and learnt much from his lucid and logical writings. He wished us to translate some of these into English, and in fact we had been so inspired by them that we too entertained the same desire. It was a privilege and a great education for me in those years to translate his booklets such Death of Jesus, A Brief Review of Khilafat in the Ahmadiyya Movement, and True Facts about the Ahmadiyya Movement (A Reply to S. P. Tayo).
Cape Town Case
The first case was brought by a member of our Jamaat in Cape Town, Mr. Ismail Peck, against the Muslim Judicial Council (and some other bodies). Despite its name, the MJC is no more than an association of theologians, and is not a legal body of any sort. The grounds for the action were that the defendants were defaming Ahmadis by vilifying them as kafir, and were denying them their due rights as Muslims to use a certain cemetery and a certain mosque. The plaintiff sought court orders to stop the defamation and the denial of rights. Hafiz Sahib first went to Cape Town in 1983 for this case, and stayed there for a few months. His knowledge and personality immediately made a deep impact on the people he came into contact with, whether it was members of our Jamaat, other friends, or the advocates involved in the case. On the one hand, he would be discussing highly technical and scholarly, legal and religious matters with the lawyers, and impressing them with his masterly grasp of the issues. Yet on the other hand, he was daily meeting ordinary people, answering their questions at a level they could understand, and was able to arouse their interest and hold their attention. He sometimes even had to deal with silly questions asked by very ignorant people, and yet he showed no impatience or disdain towards them. This is a rare combination of qualities.
The date of the court hearings was set for 1984, and Hafiz Sahib again went to Cape Town that year. I went there to join him in October 1984 as interpreter and translator, and stayed with him for about four weeks. It was just amazing to see the intensely hard work he was devotedly and laboriously doing there, under the most trying circumstances. He faced a language barrier, as only two or three people there could speak Urdu. The environment was an unfamiliar and difficult one. Above all, he was suffering from several serious medical complaints such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. His room was a sea of pile upon pile of books and journals, making it near impossible to move around in it. Day and night he was preparing submissions on various issues, searching for references, entirely unassisted. In a letter to me the year before, he had described these problems as follows:
Due to heavy work, I have been suffering from heart problems for the last two weeks. I read and write a little, and then feel pressure on my heart. The doctor advises rest, but that is impossible because there are numerous issues to be dealt with. Who knows what question may be raised in court. As we are the plaintiffs, the burden of proof is on us. They [the opponents] have only to quote fatwas, while we will have to produce books and journals to prove each and every thing we say. These are the problems I face here. There is no one here who can assist me. Since two weeks I have to take a sleeping tablet at night, and then I can work in the morning. Each day I die and then come to life again. There is no other way except prayer.
I saw for myself that we would often be having meetings with the advocates from the start of the day till the afternoon. To explain all the issues of difference to advocates who have little knowledge of even the basics of Islam, and spending day after day doing it, is considerably exhausting. Frequently, the advocates would ask for a paper to be prepared on a certain issue within two or three days, and much of the evening would be taken up with that work. On top of this, there was a constant stream of visitors wishing to meet him. Yet despite all this, he was invariably cheerful, smiling, pleasant, and uncomplaining. If anything worried him, it was only a problem with the case or with the Jamaat.
Hafiz Sahib had never appeared in court before. In a letter to me, written during his 1983 visit, he expressed this with typical humility as follows:
I shall have to testify as an expert witness. Please pray for me and ask all friends to do the same, because I have never appeared in any court, and this is the Supreme Court too. And who knows whom the opponents may call from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I have great trust in God. Insha-Allah, He will definitely decide in our favour.
Against him, the defendants submitted a list of some 13 expert witnesses, six of them being judges, constitutional and legal experts, and Islamic law specialists from Pakistan. It was just daunting to read the qualifications of these eminent men and the lofty positions they held in Pakistan. One was described, among other things, as Chairman of the Constitution Commission appointed by the President of Pakistan; another as Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (Shariat Bench); a third as Standing Counsel of the Government of Pakistan in the Federal Shariat Court; and a fourth as Acting President of Pakistan, May 1963, Judge of the West Pakistan and Lahore High Courts, Elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, October 1974. And facing them was a solitary villager from Khoshab who hardly knew any English. Notwithstanding all this expertise available to the defendants, when the hearings began in November 1984 they advanced a technical point of law, in order to prevent the actual religious issue from being discussed. (Their contention was that the court was not qualified to decide, on the basis of religious evidence, as to whether a certain person was a Muslim according to Islamic teachings, and that it must accept their authority to make such determinations.) The case was postponed, pending the judgment on the point of law, and Hafiz Sahib returned from Cape Town.
The defendants, who did not want to go to court (as only became clear later on), tried various ways (through intermediaries) of persuading us to withdraw our claim. Once a group of five or six muscular men came to visit us to exert pressure on us to withdraw. Hafiz Sahib explained to them, in simple terms which they could understand, that our beliefs were exactly the same as theirs, and we were only seeking our just civil rights. He told them that we had the same Kalima, prayer, fasting, etc., the same Quran, books of Hadith and so on. As he explained this, the mens attitude began to change, their hostility diminished, and their interest was aroused by what Hafiz Sahib was saying. At the end of the meeting, they accepted to take some of our booklets to read! And these were men who, we later learnt, had come with revolvers in their pockets. This was all due to Hafiz Sahibs shrewd and wise handling.
Hafiz Sahibs personal security was at risk during this and the later 1987 case. Yet his concern was not for what he might suffer, but for the court case if he was unable to testify as a result of some malicious act against him.
Although this meant that we now only needed to present our case briefly to satisfy the court as to the reasonableness of our claim in the absence of opposing arguments, nonetheless we decided to present all the evidence which had been prepared. Hafiz Sahib entered the witness box (with myself standing just outside it as interpreter). The judge asked him one or two questions about Islam, presumably with a view to ascertaining his competence as an expert. His answers at once seemed to impress the judge. Hafiz Sahib then proceeded to go through his evidence on various topics. It was not only the scholarly content of Hafiz Sahibs evidence, but his whole demeanour and bearing which made a deep impression on the judge. The judge asked Hafiz Sahib if he would like a seat to sit on while giving his lengthy evidence, but the Maulana declined, and stood in the witness box day after day for almost six days. In the judgment, the judge wrote:
Second plaintiff placed before this court the evidence of one Hafiz Sher Mohammad I am satisfied that he is an expert in this field and able to speak with authority on it. In my estimation the witness is a man of great learning and integrity. He gave evidence before me for some six days and created an extremely favourable impression. I accept his evidence without hesitation.
These words cannot fully convey the high degree of respect and regard with which the learned judge looked upon Hafiz Sahib, as I could see. This highly-experienced judge told our advocate in private that Hafiz Sahib was the best witness that had ever appeared before him in court. The impression made by Hafiz Sahib was all the more remarkable when one considers that there was a language barrier and he could not speak directly to his hearers.
After Hafiz Sahibs six days of evidence, our senior advocate, Mr Edwin King, presented his summary of argument to the court. From memory I recall that he began with some introductory words, departing from the prepared text, which were something like the following:
This case has been a story of three remarkable men Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Maulana Muhammad Ali, and Hafiz Sher Mohammad.
How it occurred to him to say this, I do not know, but it sums up things most aptly.
The judgment was delivered in our favour, granting the orders sought for by the plaintiff. It was a remarkable victory, morale-boosting for our members everywhere, to which the following verse of the Holy Quran may justly be applied: Surely We have granted thee a clear victory (48:1). The proceedings of this case, including the background events, the judgment, and the documents of evidence, have been compiled in the book entitled The Ahmadiyya Case, published in 1987.
Scholarship and Approach:
1. In response to the opponents charges, he could have merely repeated the well-known beliefs proclaimed by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement since its inception, and that would have been sufficient to answer allegations directed against this Jamaat. But he adopted the approach of directly defending and explaining the writings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself. This had the advantage of both rebutting the allegations, and showing that our beliefs derive from his. Hafiz Sahibs great anxiety was, in his own words, to clear the position of Hazrat Mirza Sahib.
It should be recorded that during this time Hafiz Sahib along with his helpers had to work literally day and night. After the days hearings in court, there would be lengthy consultations and work to get certain things prepared for the next day. Sometimes they would work through the night till 4 oclock in the morning, and then after a brief sleep get ready to appear in court at 10 oclock. Despite all this exertion, there were many occasions when Hafiz Sahib simply confounded the opponents. From the witness-box he was able to point out to them, several times, references in their own acknowledged books (and English books at that) which supported our stand-point. For instance, there was Yusuf Alis translation of verse 6:88 (and some of their fathers ) which supports the belief that Jesus had a father.
At one stage it was objected that the saying attributed to the Holy Prophet ulama ummati ka anbiya bani Israil (the righteous learned ones among my followers shall be like the prophets of the Israelites), which is cited by Hazrat Mirza Sahib in his support, is not to be found in any collection of Hadith, and is thus not a hadith at all. Hafiz Sahib replied that tomorrow he would bring references from eight (I forget the exact number) recognised Sunni theologians who have accepted this as a hadith. That night Hafiz Sahib searched for the references, and his helpers translated them.
The following day, when the hearing resumed, the opponents advocate asked Hafiz Sahib sarcastically:
Well Hafiz, did you find those references?
Hafiz Sahib turned to the lady judge and began:
I must apologise to the court that I had promised yesterday to find eight references.
The opposition bench beamed with delight when they heard this, but their smiles soon vanished when Hafiz Sahib continued:
I did not find eight references, but I did find five.
Hafiz Sahib then started reading them out one by one. After one or two quotations, as the opponents faces fell, their advocate said:
All right, all right, that will be enough.
Hafiz Sahib said to the judge:
We spent all night finding these references for him, and it is only fair that I read them all out now.
Then Hafiz Sahib read out all the references. He also explained the principle that if a hadith is cited by numerous classical scholars in their writings, then it can be considered as reliable even though it may not be found recorded in any compilation of Hadith as such.
I have it on good authority that, while Hafiz Sahib was in the witness box, the defendants used to transmit the transcript of his evidence, at daily or regular intervals, to Pakistan by Fax, where it was studied by a committee of top-level religious and legal experts, who would then advise the defendants on how to cross-question him in court.
* (Footnote added in 2005 to above para: Prof. Ghazi is at present President of the International Islamic University, Islamabad, and has held the post of Minister of Religious Affairs in the government of Pakistan under Pervaiz Musharraf.)
Another issue which the opposition misrepresented concerns Hazrat Mirzas claim that he excelled the Israelite Messiah in certain respects. This was no doubt raised to inflame Christians against Hazrat Mirza. However, our Christian advocate said to the Professor: I also excel Jesus, in one respect, because I am a qualified lawyer and he was not! The lady judge, too, could see what Hazrat Mirza had actually meant,and at one stage she said to the witness: Professor, cant you see that what Mirza is saying is that the Prophet Muhammad is so great that even his followers, without being prophets, can excel Jesus is certain respects. Hafiz sahib used to say that even these lawyers and judges, belonging to a different religion, could understand so readily what Hazrat Mirza had said, but our Ulama could not understand after a hundred years.
Our opponents are used to writing books and delivering speeches against us in which they make the wildest allegations and claims, without having to prove them and without being challenged. However, testifying in an impartial court of law is a different matter altogether, and was therefore quite a novel experience for our critics, which perhaps explains their performance. I may also add that usually it is Ahmadis who are on the defensive against their critics, which perhaps creates the impression that our opponents own beliefs are somehow entirely correct and beyond criticism. However, during Professor Ghazis cross-examination it was our opponents, for once, whose beliefs were being scrutinised and who had to answer objections raised against them.
When one considers the clash between Hafiz Sahibs evidence and the defences standpoint, the following verse of the Holy Quran comes to mind:
Nay, We hurl the truth against falsehood, so it knocks out its brains, and lo! it vanishes. (21:18)
After Professor Ghazis testimony was over, the defence obtained an adjournment (from December 1987 to February 1988), claiming that their next witness, the well-known former minister, religious writer and Senator from Pakistan, Khurshid Ahmad of the Jamaat-i-Islami, needed time to collect evidence showing that all Muslims regard Ahmadis as outside the fold of Islam. When the hearings resumed in February, the Senator was nowhere to be seen! Instead, the defence presented the Imam (or deputy Imam) of the Washington D.C. mosque, a gentleman of Egyptian origin. As he knew nothing about the case or the issues, he only made conflicting remarks, which contradicted the defendants own standpoint. One statement he made became memorable. He said that the reason why non-Muslims could not be buried near graves of Muslims was that the Muslims would then feel the heat from the hell-fire in which the non-Muslims burn in their graves! The hearings ended only three days after being resumed as the defence could not present any more witnesses.
Let me say that, in both the court cases, it was the person of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement who was himself on trial. Hafiz Sahib represented him and cleared his name. Once, in my presence, someone by a slip of the tongue addressed Hafiz Sahib as Mirza Sahib, which was more significant than just a mistake.
These cases bear a certain analogy to an event in early Islamic history. To escape persecution by the Quraish, it was to a place in Africa (Abyssinia) that some Muslims emigrated. The Quraish sent a delegation after them to the court of the Christian king of that country, and to incite him against the Muslims they put forward the case that the Muslims spoke disparagingly about Jesus. However, the king, on listening to the reply given by the Muslims, exonerated them, and the delegation returned disappointed.
Causes Live and
Perish by Argument:
he might perish who perished by clear argument, and he might live who lived by clear argument (8:42).
The real victory, therefore, is not by means of force of any kind, but by means of argument. And it is by the triumph of argument and truth that one side lives and the other perishes. There are those who think that their cause has the upper hand because they have political power or because they are numerically superior, but these are only self-delusions. In both these court cases, as well as in his many other encounters, Hafiz Sahib made the cause of this Jamaat to live and the cause of its opponents to perish through argument. He had compiled long lists of questions, which are published in Urdu as well as English and some other languages, addressed to various opponents such as the general Sunni Ulama and the Qadianis, regarding the differences in our beliefs. None was ever able to answer these questions.
There is one other quality of Hafiz Sahib, leaving aside his scholarship and services, which I must mention. He showed the most intense loyalty and devotion to the Central Anjuman. Wherever he went, he presented himself as a representative of the Anjuman, and did his level best to protect and further the interests of the Anjuman. He never mentioned any personal complaints or grievances, despite having worked in the Anjuman for fifty years. He never tried to make a name for himself or attract a personal following. Just these qualities, even leaving aside his scholarship and services, set a great example for us to emulate. Due to his loyalty to the cause of the Anjuman, he showed great faithfulness to Maulana Muhammad Ali, and to Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan Sahib in our time.
When, in the distant future, the history is recorded of how this Movement survived and rose up again, against all odds and in the face of the most powerful attempts to annihilate it, the name of Hafiz Sher Mohammad will appear in golden letters as one of its greatest fighters.
In the end, it only remains for me to add my prayers that may Allah admit Hafiz Sahib to His eternal mercy and shower His blessings on him! May the prayer of Zacharias be accepted on Hafiz Sahibs behalf:
My Lord, leave me not alone, and Thou art the best of inheritors. (21:89)