Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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of Iqbal Ahmad Sahib:
Iqbal Ahmad was born on 10th August, 1930, in Shillong, Assam, India. His father, Maulana Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad, at that time was working as a missionary for the Shillong Muslim Mission. This mission was patronised by Sir Sadullah Khan, who later became Chief Minister of the province. Mr. Ahmad had his early education at Woking, Surrey, England, where his father was Imam of the well-known Shah Jehan Mosque. He returned to Lahore in 1939 with his family. He passed his Matriculation at Muslim High School, Lahore and Intermediate in Science at Islamia College, Lahore. He did his degree in Commerce at Government Hailey College of Commerce, Punjab University, Lahore, in 1950. He was well known as a debater, secretary of the Students union and editor of the English section of the College magazine, Al-Iqtisad.
He went to England in 1953 to qualify as a Chartered Accountant and joined Leaslie Green of 115 Mooregate, London, in September, 1955. Along with the articleship, he took a keen interest in the activities of the Woking Muslim Mission. Suddenly, in January 1956, his father died of heart failure in Lahore, and four months later, in May of the same year, Dr. S. M. Abdullah, Imam of the Woking Muslim Mission, also died of heart failure. Thereby, the responsibilities of the Mission fell on his shoulders. He fulfilled these admirably till the arrival of Maulana Muhammad Yakub Khan.
During these difficult times, he represented Islam on behalf of the Mission at various important meetings and attended the annual meeting of the World Congress of Faiths.
While Mr. Ahmad was officiating as the Imam of the Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, a tragic air crash of KLM plane, Hugo de Groote, occurred in the early hours of Thursday August 14, 1958. This disaster caused instantaneous death of all those on board: ninety-one passengers of many nationalities and a Dutch crew of eight. Thirty-two bodies were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean at a point 120 miles due west of Galway Bay, Ireland. Only twelve were positively identified. The remaining twenty-two unidentified victims were interred in the cemetery of St. Mary in the Hill on Tuesday, 19th August 1958. As their religious creeds were, of course, not known, it was decided that the burial should be preceded by a funeral service, in which religious leaders representing all the faiths known to have been held by the passengers would participate.
"First the Te Deum was chanted by a Very Rev. Canon P. Glynn of St. Josephs Galway, assisted by a number of priests and friars. This was followed by rites in accordance with the Muslim faith, the prayers being said by the Imam of London, Mr. I. Ahmad." (Extract from the Condolence Report, published by KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, The Hague, September, 1958).
As the bodies could not be identified, the problem arose as to how to conduct the funeral service for the victims belonging to different faiths. A call came to the mosque at Woking to send somebody to solve the problem. Mr. Ahmad was sent by the Woking Muslim Mission. He made two suggestions. "Let us all read out translations of the funeral prayers and see what is the main purport of these prayers recited by each faith." All agreed that the prayers are meant to seek Gods forgiveness for the deceased and to grant patience to the members of the bereaved family. As regards who should lead off the congregational service, Mr. Ahmad suggested that they should decide the order in accordance with the revelation of each religion in history. It is obvious that Judaism came first, then Christianity and last of all Islam. In this order, the religious leaders of all known faiths led funeral service prayers for all the bodies of the victims. The universal concept of Islam came to the rescue of this rather delicate religious issue. The Imam from Woking did not make any compromise; rather he demonstrated the universal spirit of Islam. Thus the Woking Muslim Mission, during its tenure (1912-1965) at the Shah Jehan Mosque, always tried to present a unified Islam, preaching and practising its universal teachings.
He worked as assistant editor of The Islamic Review from 1956 to 1959, as is evident from the following testimonial of Maulana Muhammad Yakub Khan, dated 10th March 1963:
"This is to certify that Mr. Iqbal Ahmad worked as assistant editor of this magazine, The Islamic Review, from 1956 to 1959. His command of English coupled with his ease of expression made his articles and comments a very readable feature of the Review. I found in him the making of a first-rate journalist and wished he could stay with us. But he left us to improve his prospects. Thereafter too, he has been contributing off and on to The Islamic Review, and his articles are read with great interest."
In 1958, Maulana Abdul Majid, editor of The Islamic Review went on an extensive tour of the Middle East and Indonesia and the entire responsibility of editing The Islamic Review fell upon him.
He obtained his Certificate in Education from the Institute of Education, University of Southampton, in November 1962. He then obtained his BA, with Honours, in the subject of Oriental Studies at Victoria University, Manchester, in July, 1969. During his Honours course, he studied Arabic and Persian under Professor John Andrew Boyle, Professor of Persian Studies, and Professor CE Bosworth of the University of Manchester.
Afterwards, he joined the MA programme to further improve his knowledge in Arabic and Oriental studies. His thesis was Naseer Khusraus Safar Namah, which is in Persian. He started to translate it into English and was compiling details about its history and literary significance. Due to his many commitments he could not continue his MA but he continued working on the translation. The manuscript, half done, is beautifully written. To my knowledge there is only a French translation of this Safar Namah, but none in English.
Later he joined the teaching profession. In the late sixties he came to Manchester to live, teaching first at Temple Junior School and then Levenshulme Girls High School. As a teacher, he won great admiration for being more than a teacher to his students. Here is a testimonial from the Education Committee of the City of Manchester:
5th March, 1966.
Mr. Iqbal Ahmad was a teacher on the staff of Smedley Secondary School from 10/9/62 to 21/7/65, when the school closed. During this period I was Headmaster of the School.
I found Mr. Ahmad to be a popular member of the staff, courteous and most helpful. He was always willing to carry out any task required of him, in or out of school time. In the main he taught general subjects to the younger girls and boys, with whom he established a good relationship. His teaching was sound, well prepared, and he was always keen to try out new ideas. He was able to make many useful contributions to the school because of his unusual background.
Mr. Ahmad inaugurated a games club for chess, draughts, etc., which was well-attended and proved very successful. He also assisted with a number of school outings and with table tennis.
J. R. Evans,
In 1970, the Local Authority approached him to help BBC Radio Manchester with its programmes covering activities of ethnic minority groups and he became actively involved in the presentation of two programmes, Link and Eastward North Westwards for a number of years. In spite of his teaching and broadcasting commitments, he managed to find time to participate in many conferences and seminars and to supervise and edit the first issues of the Muncunian Indian, published by the Indian Association of Manchester. During this time, the Rt. Honourable Harold Wilson OBE, FRS, MP, once Prime Minister of United Kingdom, sent the following message for the Muncunian Indian:
"I am delighted to be able to send good wishes to the Muncunian Indian. I think it is a very useful and helpful newspaper which can do good in keeping the Indians in Manchester informed of events which concern you, and also in helping your fellow citizens to understand your views and your problems. I am glad you have made such a good start, and I wish you well in the future" (Letter dated 27th May, 1971).
A man of high literary taste and knowledge, Iqbal Ahmad earned the respect and affection of many people of many races, cultures and religions. He devoted his time and energy to the welfare of those who could benefit from his help and guidance. Being a Muslim, he even helped in raising funds to build a gurdawara in Manchester. He was also an active member of "The Scribblers Club" of Manchester and contributed to Scribbler Magazine.
Mr. Ahmads articles, besides in The Islamic Review, appeared in the weekly Light and weekly Pagham-i-Sulh, of the Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Lahore, as well. He did some translation work such as the English translation of Taudh-i-Maram (A Clarification) by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. It deals in a scholarly and philosophical manner with the nature and work of angels in the working of the universe. His second translation was Kashf-al-Israr (Unveiling of the Secrets) by the great saint of Lahore, Hazrat Ali Hajveri, generally known as Data Ganj Baksh. He typed and compiled stories and experiences of people who joined the fold of Islam through the Woking Muslim Mission, England, that appeared in the pages of the monthly Islamic Review. The material was published along with other aspects of Islam in the form of a book, Islam Our Choice.
Mr. Ahmad was keen to promote inter-faith meetings, exchange of ideas and mutual love and affection between different communities. Following is an interesting news item from Church of the Growing Light, published in its issue of February, 1955.
A Gift from Islam:
"As this news-sheet goes to press, a presentation copy of the Holy Quran (or Koran) has been received from Iqbal Ahmad who recited so beautifully from it at our Fellowship of Faiths service in autumn. The gift has been made possible by a friend in Pakistan, Lal Khan Malik, who has written this inscription Presented to the Church of the Growing Light for their careful and reverential study of this Holy Book. He goes on graciously to wish us Gods blessings. We are deeply moved by this kind gift and we shall treasure it as we treasure the understanding of fellowship out of which it sprang."
He also tried to apprise British people of the special position of Pakistan as a leading Muslim state which can play a positive role in promoting better economic and political relationship between East and West. An excerpt from the letter of the foreign editor of a leading British daily, The Observer, responds to Mr. Ahmads suggestion in this regard as follows.
"Thank you for your letter of 29th May, 1962. Yes, I remember our meeting with pleasure. I think the main thing, which would interest us, would be your general impressions of Pakistans development during the past decade, with special reference to: 1. Military rule and political democracy, 2. Pakistans world position as between East and West, neutrality or alliances, and relations with India and China, and 3. The role of Islam in Pakistans internal and external development" (Letter dated 31st May 1962).
It was in recognition of his services to the people of Manchester in general and to the Asian community in particular, that he was made a Justice of Peace in January 1976.
Due to failing health, he was compelled to give up teaching in 1975 and presenting Link in 1976, although he continued to produce Eastward North Westwards for Radio Manchester, even after he entered Ladywell Hospital, and until his death on 2nd October 1978.
A special edition of Eastward North Westwards was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Iqbal Ahmad. Its original producer, Mr. Chris Walmsley, and the following persons from different walks of life and belonging to different faiths, paid glowing tributes to him, produced it:
1. The Station Manager, Radio Manchester.
Because of his wide circle of Christian and Muslim friends and admirers, in addition to the congregational funeral prayers at the Central Mosque on Wilmslow Road, Manchester, on a special request, the Pastor of the Church of England, Salford, allowed a Muslim funeral prayer service to be held at the church. This was led by Maulana S. M. Tufail, former Imam of the well-known Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, Survey, and the Christian service was led by Rev. Freeman. His body was flown to Lahore, Pakistan, and was buried in the Lahore Ahmadiyya cemetery in Garden Town, Lahore.
During his 48 years on earth, he entered and enriched the lives of many men and women who felt both proud and privileged to call him their friend. His career varied but the man never changed, bringing to everything he did, both energy and dedication.
He will long be remembered by both the Asian and non-Asian communities of Manchester as a strong believer in the universal brotherhood of man and as a teacher who pioneered ways of solving the educational problems of ethnic groups.