Recollections of Maulana Muhammad Ali
It has already been mentioned that Maulana Muhammad Ali’s first marriage was arranged by the Promised Messiah himself in 1901 and that his wife Fatima died in November 1908. Upon her death, the account that the Maulana wrote about the seven years of his married life, and how his wife stood by him in his migration for the sake of religion, has also been quoted earlier. Then in 1910, on the instigation of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, he married Dr. Basharat Ahmad’s daughter Mehrun Nisa. On 29 April 1910, with a wedding party of only two friends, the Maulana went to Bhera and, after the giving away of the bride, brought her to Qadian. On that occasion he presented his wife with a gift of a beautiful, multicoloured copy of the Holy Quran, in other words the thing he valued and loved most. On 1 May 1946 he wrote the following words on it by his own hand:
The gift of love I gave, on the occasion of my wedding in late April 1910, to my wife Mehrun Nisa, today on the 36th anniversary of this loving relationship, this note has been written on it in memory. This was the period of my life in which Allah the Most High enabled me to do well the work of serving His Holy Word and made my wife Mehrun Nisa’s selfless devotion and love a means to complete the task. — Allah be praised for it.
Muhammad Ali, 1st May 1946.
From his first marriage he had one daughter, and from his second marriage he had six daughters and two sons. Atiya, his eldest daughter from his second wife, died after a long illness in 1922 at the age of ten.
All his daughters and his older son got married during his life. His younger son Hamid Farooq was sent to the U.K. in 1948 for higher education and he was there when the Maulana died.
Upon the death of his father Hafiz Fateh-ud-Din in 1913, when the Maulana went to his village, his brothers asked him to be their guardian, which he accepted. He set an example of maintaining family unity, so much so that for fifteen years the land belonging to all the brothers and the sister was managed collectively, and although he owned a part of it he never asked for any share in the produce for himself. On the contrary, he had his nephews come and stay with him, first in Qadian and later on in Lahore, and arranged for their education. He made sure that his sister was given her share of the agricultural land, as required by Islamic law, even though in those days the custom among Muslims was that girls were not given any share of their father’s property. After his father’s death he respected his older brother Amir-ud-Din like father. Later on he gave the management of his own lands in the village of Murar entirely to his younger brother Ahmad Ali, and he never asked him to show any accounts. On two occasions when he had a residence built in Dalhousie and one in Lahore, he sold a large part of his estate through his brother. (When the residence in Lahore was being built he also sold land that he had bought for himself in Qadian.) In 1945 when he needed to repay a debt he sold some more land through his brother Ahmad Ali. Whenever he needed money he sold off parts of this land, and with the same proceeds he bought some plots of lands in the outskirts of Lahore which he sold later on to meet much of his needs. Basically he was a member of a family of farmers and took interest in work of the land.
During his stay in Qadian he took a very small salary from the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian, and after coming to Lahore he had no source of income for five years, and even afterwards his income from royalty on books was not adequate to meet all his needs. However, God blessed this income so much that he maintained a respectable standard of living and built two residences, though some jealous people made even that a basis for objection. In financial matters he was extremely careful, and led always a life of simplicity and economy. He kept a written account of his personal expenses. Likewise, he supervised the financial affairs of the Anjuman with great care, being cognisant of all the expenditure, so much so that if the office made an error in the accounts, as sometimes happened, his cautious and keen eye always detected it immediately.
Maulana Muhammad Ali was a very loving husband and an affectionate father, and right from the start he helped his wife in domestic chores and the bringing up of the children. In the early days he was involved in momentous research work for the English translation of the Quran, having to study many deep and voluminous reference books, commentaries and dictionaries etc. in Arabic and English, which he did at night because of also being busy with works of the Jama‘at. Nonetheless, despite being absorbed in and concentrating on all this work, he helped his wife in household affairs. When, during his tahajjud prayers in the middle of the night, he would sometimes hear a child cry, he would bring the prayer to a close with taslim and come and attend to the child as necessary, for example by warming up the milk, and then resume his remembrance of God. He was not only content with providing his wife with a loving home and comforts but also paid full attention to her religious education. She married him at a young age and did not have the chance to complete her education while being with her parents. So he started teaching her the translation of the Holy Quran and the Hadith, and took care to do so regularly. His every action showed the respect and regard he had for women, in particular for his wife. If his wife could not concentrate on her education due to being busy with the children, he would be somewhat irritated but only go as far as to say jokingly: “It is very difficult to teach your wife; if she does not learn you cannot even strike her”. Due to his kindest possible treatment of his mother, sister, wife and daughters, he was a perfect example of the Holy Prophet’s teaching: “The best of you is he who treats his family the best”.
He always liked to do personal chores himself and would help others with their work. He was extremely co-operative in domestic tasks and did not consider it beneath him to do the most menial job. Whenever they travelled, he did the packing and unpacking of all the household stuff himself. Though there were others available to do the work, even then he was compelled by his hardworking, uncomplicated nature to do it himself. As far as possible he would not trouble the servants.
He would eat whatever was cooked and partook of only one kind of curry dish or pulse dish at one meal. He did not at all like elaborately prepared meals or rich food, and ate only small amounts, but regarded eating fruit as important. Planting fruit trees and vegetables was always his great interest, and when he had a residence built he had a garden planted in it. This was his only hobby, for which he took out some time from his other engagements to spend in caring for the garden. When he had his residence in Dalhousie built, he specially procured plants for apples and other fruits from elsewhere and had them planted. This house was renowned in Dalhousie for its fruit trees. Likewise, he had a small scale garden planted in Lahore also.
As regards clothing, he always dressed very simply but cleanly and tidily. He always wore white as he liked this colour in clothing. Usually he wore a white kurta (long shirt) and pyjama (Indian style trousers) made of ordinary cloth and would wear a (Western style) coat or an achkan (a long coat having buttons in front) according to the weather. On his head would be a fez cap or a turban. It was while attired so simply that his personality would make such an inspiring impression on others, which few people can make. His personal cleanliness was of such a high standard that in the days when he was translating the Quran, he was always in a state of wuzu (the cleanliness prescribed by Islamic law for saying the regular prayers).
He had a special knack of tending the sick. Whoever was ill, whether child, adult or even servant, he would pay special attention to them. Once his wife was ill and coughed much during the night. So she slept in a separate small room so as not to disturb his sleep as he rose in the early hours to say his tahajjud prayer and had only a little time to rest. During the night she woke up and saw him sleeping on the floor in the small space beside her bed. He also woke and asked how she was. She asked him why he was sleeping there, and he replied that it was because if she needed anything he could get it for her.
His daughter Atiya died at the age of ten after a long illness. He nursed her most diligently. He would leave his office again and again to administer medicine, give her food, take her temperature and sit with her to comfort her. During the last days of her illness he used to work during the day as usual and spend almost the entire night nursing her. He would do everything for the sick child himself and never let his wife stay awake at night to enable her to look after the other children. Even in these circumstances no one ever saw him lose patience or become irritated. He kept smiling, joking to the children and the family, and working cheerfully.
In old age, when the hard work took its toll even on his strong health, and he would fall ill once or twice a year, during even that time he would be mindful to avoid causing inconvenience to others, and would try to do things himself despite being stopped by others. A year before his death, when due to heart trouble he was bed-ridden for a long time and was not permitted to move about, he would say to his wife that she was suffering on his account. When, on 6 April 1951 in Lahore, he had a heart attack in the evening, the doctor advised that it was not safe to take him to hospital at that time but it was necessary to administer oxygen immediately. So an oxygen cylinder was procured straightaway but due to lack of proper facilities someone was needed to hold the nozzle to his face all the time. During the night he asked for the cylinder to be switched off as people would have to stay awake to administer the oxygen. With great difficulty he was persuaded to agree that people would take turns to sit for no more than two hours each. Though all members of the family loved him very dearly and regarded it as their pleasure to serve him, but he did not want to trouble anyone.
God the Most High had blessed him not only with physical handsomeness but, much more than that, with beauty of moral qualities and character. The Promised Messiah, who received assurance from Allah that his physical eyesight would never weaken, and the power of whose spiritual sight we cannot even estimate, had written about Maulana Muhammad Ali:
“During this period in which he has been with me, I have been observing him, both openly and discreetly, to assess his moral character, observance of religion and goodness of behaviour. So, thanks be to God, that I have found him to be a most excellent man as regards religion and good behaviour in all ways. He is unassuming, modest, of a righteous nature, and pious. He is to be envied for many qualities. … It is obvious that such promising young men possessing these qualities, who are able and honourable, cannot be found by searching.”
(Announcement dated 9 August 1899, Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. 3, p. 137, number 206.)
“I am sure that my foresight will not go wrong in this, that this young man will make progress in the path of God, and I am sure that by the grace of God he will prove to be so firm in righteousness and love of religion that he will set an example worthy to be followed by his peers.”
(Announcement dated 4 October 1899, Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. 3, p. 157–158, number 208.)
All the relations of the Maulana, as well as others who had seen him from close quarters (and this includes some persons of independent view who observed him with a critical eye), were deeply impressed by his righteousness, high moral qualities and virtues. They held him in the highest esteem from the bottom of their hearts and admired him greatly.
By nature he observed moderation in all matters and hated going to the opposite extremes of too much or too little. Similarly, he greatly detested pomp, ostentation and show. He was simple in his nature and entirely untouched by arrogance or pride, so much so that he disliked wearing a turban with a high crest or sitting at a reserved place in a gathering. His dress was always very simple. He was in the habit of walking fast but never did he swagger. Humility and tolerance were an innate part of his nature, and he never imposed his authority upon others. Due to his kind behaviour everyone sought his pleasure and satisfaction. At home, he was revered and loved by everyone, including children and servants, and they all had confidence in his affection and love.
As his life was free of pretence and flattery, some superficial-minded people, particularly those who like embellishment and enjoy flattery, could misjudge his true nature. But his simplicity and disregard for ceremony usually won hearts at first sight. He would receive dignitaries in his simple everyday attire. If anyone requested to take his photograph, he asked him to take it as he was, without bothering to dress up for it or adopt some special pose for the photograph. He cared not for such frivolities.
Despite being absorbed in his literary engagements, he never showed any displeasure at the arrival of unexpected visitors. In our culture it is uncommon for people to make an appointment to see someone or inform of their coming in advance, and they call at the door whenever they so wish. A person who is involved in writing work can be distracted by the slightest interruption and lose his train of thought. But the Maulana’s door was always open, whether for dignitaries or ordinary people, and he welcomed everyone with the same cheerfulness and politeness, listened to them attentively and helped them.
Maulana Muhammad Ali was not a dry religious ascetic. Despite his worship, spiritual exertions and mental efforts of day and night, shouldering great burdens and suffering problems, he was very convivial and affable. In earlier life he was very jovial and was in the habit of telling tasteful jokes and indulging in good humour. Though this diminished later on, he nonetheless retained his good spirits and pleasantness till the last. His cheerfulness and cultured wit and humour was most apparent when he was in the company of his friends. Usually before the congregational service, and after it, he would talk to people informally. With some friends he had specially interesting conversation. He used to speak to his friends’ children with great love and cheeriness, their conversation showing the depth of his affection for them.
His medical attendants are witness to the fact that even during his long illnesses he never became irritable; on the contrary, he spoke to his visitors in an interesting and witty manner. Once in Lahore, in April 1951, when he was extremely weak after an attack of illness, Colonel Dr. Syed Bashir Husain, son of the late Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah, came to visit him and, after placing his hand on his pulse for a while, said: “Pulse is now fine”. The Maulana replied instantly: “You couldn’t find my pulse, you are just saying it”. The colonel enjoyed this joke about his medical skill, burst out laughing and kissed the Maulana’s hand.
He excelled at hospitality and personally attended to the needs of his guests, taking care of their comfort. If his wife was busy he would supervise the making of beds for the guests and made sure that food and drinks were provided for them. Despite his other engagements he would see to the smallest of needs of the guests, and he extended this treatment equally to all, whether rich or poor. In the absence of a servant he would carry food and drink to the guests by his own hands. His wife relates that it so happened many times that guests arrived unexpectedly at meal times and there was not enough cooked food for everyone. He would have all the food sent out to the guests, while he himself would sit in the private chambers and eat plain bread with chutney.
He was in the habit of going for long walks regularly and maintained this practice till the last years of his life. To walk almost three miles in the morning was an integral part of his life and the secret of his good physical health. When he was at hill resorts he walked the same distance in the evenings also. He walked so fast that it was difficult even for most young men to keep pace with him. Later on, when he was weakened by illness, he slowed down his speed. In his early life, he used to walk even 25 to 30 miles on foot when the need arose. When going from Batala to Qadian, if a horse cart was not available at night, it was nothing difficult for him to walk that distance of ten to twelve miles.
Maulana Muhammad Ali was very concerned about his children’s education and upbringing, and arranged for his sons as well as his daughters to receive higher education. He also took part, with his wife, in providing them with religious instruction and teaching. He used to teach Arabic and give instruction in the Holy Quran to his children as well as those daughters of Dr. Basharat Ahmad who were still minors. To the very young children, he used to relate the lives of the prophets and events from the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in story form at meal times. He urged that children after reaching the age of seven years must be got into the habit of saying prayers regularly. During their summer stays in hill resorts, congregational prayers were held at home, which he made the children join. In Lahore he instructed the children to go to the mosque to join the congregational prayers.
When his older son Muhammad Ahmad, who had done M.A. in English and Arabic, took up his employment, the Maulana advised him as follows: “Avoid the false allurements of the material world, be regular in prayer, study the Holy Quran and take interest in religious knowledge so that you may at some time be able to serve the religion”. This was his advice not only to his son but to every young man of the Jama‘at: “By all means, earn your own livelihood in the world, but make your aim the service and propagation of Islam, never deviate from truth and honesty, increase your knowledge, and be a source of strength to Islam in one way or another”. Maulana Muhammad Ali’s earnest desire was always that his sons and daughters should be staunch Muslims and firm and true Ahmadis, and have the urge within their hearts to be of service to Islam.
He was fond of young children. He used to be amused by their childish antics and talked to them jovially. When he lived at Ahmadiyya Buildings his own children were very young. Other relatives used to visit, bringing their own children with them. All these children, playing together, would find their way to his office where the Maulana would be busy, his head bent over the writing desk. Hearing their footsteps he would raise his head and glance at them over his spectacles, smile and talk to them. He would ask them if they wanted anything. Sometimes the children wanted plain paper or ink or wanted to remove stamps from the envelopes in the waste paper basket. He would himself rise and get them what they wanted. He would never scold them or tell them to stop interrupting him. Nor did he ever ask the servants or the children’s mothers not to let them come into his office.
So his children never felt that their father was some extraordinary figure absorbed in writing monumental books and busy with various commitments. He shared all their joys and problems and took interest in their education and play. It made one wonder what a man he was, from whose mind and pen poured out an invaluable treasure of Islamic knowledge.
During their stay at hill resorts, his family would on occasion go for long walks. If it got dark they would find that he had sent someone after them with a light to help them return, or if it started to rain they would see someone coming to meet them with umbrellas, whom he would have sent when he saw the gathering clouds. On the insistence of the children of the family, he would accompany them on a day’s picnic, joining it with interest. For a long journey he personally arranged for horses or some other form of conveyance. He would always take some work with him and after spending some time enjoying the company of others, he would sit down separately to do his work. At prayer times he would ask a youngster or one of the children to call out the Azan and everyone, whether young or old, joined the prayers led by him.
Maulana Muhammad Ali was a member of a very large family. All his siblings and those of his wife are Ahmadis, and so are almost all other relatives. He made each and every one of them feel special, each one feeling as if he were the one most loved by the Maulana. He treated rich and poor relations alike. All members of the family were devoted to him. Relatives, both near and distant, loved him and were convinced of his righteousness and kindness towards others. No one had ever seen him lose patience out of anger, shout and scream or make inappropriate or unbecoming remarks. In brief, he was a simply dressed, plain and simple, morally pure, humble, unassuming, smiling, and affectionate personality, who was like a protective shelter for the whole family. They were under the care of a guardian who shouldered all their worries. Whoever had any problems or difficulties would first go to him and he would willingly share their troubles. Never did he tell them that as he was engrossed in concern and worry about the state of the religion of God, they should not burden him with their worldly and personal problems. Everyone believed in the efficacy of his prayers and always turned to him at times of distress. He used to pray for them and help them as far as he was able. In fact, his personality was such that his kindness and attention itself lightened the burdens of others. As to his own sorrows and troubles, he kept them buried in the depths of his heart and never imposed upon others with them.
Throughout his life he provided financial help to a distant female relative of his first wife who was in need. Likewise, he had a relationship of the deepest love and perfect harmony with the family of his second wife. The affection between him and Dr. Basharat Ahmad needs no elaborating. In addition to the family ties between the two of them, the closeness of their religious views strengthened their relationship further. He had great affection for his wife’s brother Naseer Ahmad Faruqui due to the latter’s righteousness and passion for the propagation of Islam, and he loved him like one of his own children.
His affection and kindness was not reserved for his family only, but he also treated members of the Jama‘at as his own brothers and children and shared their joys and sorrows. He respected and valued the rich and poor alike, but above all he honoured those people who had a zeal for the propagation of Islam as he did, and who made sacrifices for this cause. There was an Ahmadi named Chaudhry Rahim Bakhsh of Samana (Patiala State) who was very devout but poor and had to labour very hard to provide for his family. His financial sacrifices were so much that he contributed one fourth of his earnings as regular subscription and participated in every fund-raising campaign according to his means. Once at the annual gathering when Maulana Muhammad Ali made an appeal, Chaudhry Rahim Bakhsh as usual handed over all his meagre savings. Mentioning his name, the Maulana said: “Whenever I meet him, I embrace him very tightly, hoping that some of his spirituality may rub off on me”.
In the same way he would often mention in his khutbas and writings those people who quietly and humbly served the religion, purely in the way of God, and did not seek any high worldly position or greatness. Most members were witness to the fact that the Maulana much appreciated and encouraged such persons for each of their small efforts. However, as the Maulana himself was straightforward, sincere and humble, those who wanted greatness for themselves, and who worked in order to achieve renown, had cause to complain about him.
He loved righteousness and sacrifice, and valued everyone who made progress in this path. He shunned ostentation and show, so he did not indulge in making a gratuitous display of love by clasping children and youngsters to his bosom and embracing them fervently, or other such gimmicks. Like his nature, his love was also sound and solid, and he did not make a shallow display of it but remembered everyone in his tahajjud prayers. Another aspect of his love for the Jama‘at is evident from the fact that he never hesitated to provide references and letters of recommendation on behalf of the poor and needy who were genuinely deservant of them. Besides the impression made by his personality, his recommendations were written with such true sympathy and deep interest that the needy person usually succeeded in achieving his goal.
To sum up, he was a spiritual guide for the Jama‘at and at the same time a leader concerned about the material welfare of his community. This was the reason why members of the Jama‘at, except a few, were so deeply devoted to him and why they missed him so much after his death.
One of his great virtues was that he never spoke ill of people behind their backs. There were certain people who caused him a great amount of distress and vexation for a long time, but his close friends have again and again testified that they never heard him speaking ill of such people behind their backs. He would not even mention such matters, and if anyone else raised them, saying that such and such a man had not done good, the Maulana would dismiss it with a smile. If someone caused him excessive distress he would only say: “God knows when my punishment is going to end”. When a certain person continued his hurtful behaviour, he said: “He has a strange bent of mind”. There was a man about whom the Maulana had a very favourable opinion. He wrote such terribly hurtful letters to the Maulana, again and again, that it cannot be imagined how much pained it caused him. However, the Maulana just said: “Only God knows what he wants from me”.
In the meetings of the Anjuman all members could express their views with complete freedom, and some members in the heat of the moment would say something inappropriate, while some would make baseless objections against him. But his great quality was that no matter how hurtful the comments that he had listened to or had read, he would not only never mention it in front of others but behave as if nothing at all had hurt him. He would come home and talk in the same smiling way and take interest in what the women and the children of the house had to say. These are the high moral qualities, adherence to which, throughout one’s life, is only possible for the truly godly men.
Most people used to wonder how, with his multifarious engagements and deep involvement in literary activities, Maulana Muhammad Ali found time to fulfil his worldly and religious duties so well and capably, and how, despite his administrative and management responsibilities and problems, he was able to leave behind such a valuable treasure of literature. The secret was his strict observance of his time schedule and boundless energy for doing work. He never wasted a single minute of the day or night and every task was performed at its appointed time. He was used to sleeping very little and would rise at about 2 a.m. for his tahajjud prayers. Usually he had a bath daily. After fajr prayer he would go for a long morning walk, and upon his return he would have breakfast. Then, after reading the newspaper for a short while, he would start work in his office, and work continuously till the call was sounded for the zuhr prayer. In the later part of his life, after the morning walk and breakfast he would rest for 15 to 20 minutes before starting work. After lunch he would go to the mosque for prayer. Then he would rest for an hour or an hour and a half. Usually at about 3.30 p.m. he would go back to his office. He used to have a cup of tea at the time of the asr prayer. In Dalhousie he also went for an evening walk of some two to two and a half miles but in Lahore he only went for the morning walk. Usually people visited him in the evening. After the maghrib prayer he used to spend time in the house with the children and have his dinner early. After the isha prayer he used to go to bed soon but if he was involved in some important literary activity or other necessary work then he would work at night as well. God blessed his time so much that all the work he did was done to a very high standard.
In his younger days he did not sleep for more than four hours. In the winter nights he would also do his writing work before tahajjud, from 1 a.m. to about 2.30 a.m., and sometimes after the isha prayer. However, in the last three or four years of his life, due to weak health, he had given up working at night at the insistence of the doctors.
In Lahore till 1930 he used to be busy with teaching Quran study classes after the asr and maghrib prayers. In Dalhousie in the summer, he devoted some time every afternoon to teaching children Arabic and the Holy Quran.
In addition to time-keeping, his other particular quality was his tremendous stamina for work. Those who have worked with him know how much stamina he had. The young would get tired but there would be no sign of fatigue in him whatsoever, the main reason for which was his deep interest in his work which he enjoyed doing with full concentration and total attention. Usually he worked at set times, but when he was involved in some important writing he would be so engrossed in his work, devoting so much energy to it, that he would neglect his health. Once when he was in Abbottabad, working on the English translation of the Quran for the first time, he would sit at the desk after the fajr prayer and continue without break till the zuhr prayer. One day when he got up for zuhr prayer, he fainted and fell in the doorway. Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig and Dr. Basharat Ahmad were also present. They and all others advised him not to work so hard as to put his life in danger, but he paid no particular heed to such advice and never reduced his workload.
The habit of working hard remained with him from his young days till the end. Except in serious illness, he did not care to let minor ailments stop him. Even during serious illnesses, if he felt a little better, he would work lying in bed. Once, mentioning his doing work, he referred to the writing of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in which he had said:
“My daily rest is to be busy in my work. In fact, I cannot live without doing the work of revealing the glory of God and of His Prophet and of His Book. I do not care if I am called kafir. I perceive the hidden Divine hand helping me. Although, like other human beings, I am a weak mortal but I can see that I get strength from an invisible source.”Then the Promised Messiah added: “I hope God will not let my prayers go to waste”.
Mentioning this writing, Maulana Muhammad Ali said:
“This was written in 1891. These were the objectives of this man of God at the time when the fire of opposition was raging all around him. Look at that impregnable fort of faith in God, that when surrounded by fire he is saying that God will fulfil all his aims and hopes. He died in 1908, and though the foundation for the propagation of Islam in the West had been laid during his lifetime in the form of the journal Review of Religions, but the objective of spreading the Holy Quran in English, which had been put in his heart by God, had not yet materialised. Immediately after his death, Allah the Most High put it in the heart of Maulana Nur-ud-Din that the Holy Quran must be translated into English. He and the Anjuman, which was the successor to the Promised Messiah, entrusted this responsibility to a weak person like me. The same invisible hand that the Promised Messiah saw helping him during his life, after his death became my helper in this magnificent task. At that time I was young, lacking in knowledge, but I could see that ‘I was getting strength from the Divine hand’. That strength was, in fact, not for me but for that chosen man of God in whose heart this passion first arose, but as I became the instrument to fulfil that aspiration the same Divine hand came to my aid. From that time onwards till today I see that, despite reaching the age of seventy from that young age and being a victim of many illnesses and frailty, whenever I have embarked upon a religious service, a new vigour has been infused in me. I used to take much exercise, walked long distances, and walked very fast. I could walk twenty-five to thirty miles in a day without getting tired. But now if I walk even two miles or so I get exhausted. My body has weakened but whenever I take in hand any work of serving the Quran, instead of getting tired a fresh wave of energy runs through my body. In reality, in the past too it was not my strength but the help of the hidden hand of Allah, and today also it is the help of that hand by which I am enabled to do this work.”It was due to his love for his work and this strength from the invisible source that despite his old age, weakness and various illnesses he continued to work in the same way as he did in his youth. At the age of 72 years he embarked upon the great task of revising the English translation of the Holy Quran and during that time he became seriously ill in Quetta but the moment his condition improved he busied himself in his work as before. If he was advised to rest he would reply that his work was nourishment for his soul, or sometimes he would say that he had very little time left and there was much to be done. In 1949 in Karachi he had a serious heart attack and was bedridden for a time but he did not give up work or his worship. In December, as his health improved, he came back to Lahore and started working regularly in his office. During the next two periods of his illness he continued proof reading the Holy Quran in bed and dictating letters to members of the Jama‘at, till the work was completed.
(Friday Khutba, 21 July 1944)
On the one hand he was an embodiment of knowledge and scholarship and a fountain of spiritual verities and blessings, and on the other hand he had perfect skill for administrative affairs. Usually it is observed that while the learned and scholarly are good at writing they have no aptitude for administration nor any interest in it. He was, however, not only the Head of the Jama‘at but as President of the organisation Allah had bestowed upon him the skills for administrative, office and organisational work. Firstly, he himself worked whole-heartedly, to the full, and he expected the same of those whom he managed. He could not be pleased by empty gestures or superficial actions. Secondly, he was cognisant of the smallest details of all aspects of the Anjuman’s office work, knowing every matter fully. The English term thorough going can, to some extent, describe this ability of his. Besides a good head for management, God had also endowed him with the analytical ability to penetrate to the heart of any matter.
Some people may think that this leader of the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at would have caused a great commotion on the stage with his oratory, but his nature was far removed from rousing the audience in this way. He never used flowery language or dramatic bodily gestures in speeches. Before starting his Friday khutbas or speeches, he would usually have his hands behind his back. He used to begin speaking in a low voice that gradually increased in volume. His simple but effective words along with solid arguments captured the attention of the audience and penetrated their hearts. God the Most High had placed such special effect in his simple speeches that was not found in other speakers with their bombastic words and dramatic gestures.
Like his speeches, there was simplicity in his writings as well. Whether in English or Urdu, his writings were free of exaggeration and verbosity, and were effective and meaningful, which appealed in particular to readership in the West. This aspect of his style of writing has been admired by many impartial readers. The treasure of literature he left behind has been appreciated and valued by the world and the popularity it enjoyed in all corners of the world is now a historical fact. Dr. Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah, one of the best and most capable missionaries of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore, who carried out very successful work of the propagation of Islam for nearly 25 years in both the U.K. and Germany, and died in Woking, England, wrote the following about the books of Maulana Muhammad Ali:
“We are now realising the value and worth of the religious knowledge that the Hazrat Maulana has left behind. Usually, with the passage of time, the writings of even great authors lose their appeal but the knowledge produced by the Hazrat Maulana is so unequalled and magnificent that its value is increasing day by day. And this is rightly so, because after all it was the Sultan-ul-Qalam [‘Master of the Pen’, the Promised Messiah] who granted him his own pen. I have been propagating Islam in Europe for twenty years, and very often I am amazed to read the late Maulana’s books, as to how a man who had not even been to Europe, the centre of Christianity, has produced so much material for our propagation work. There is no subject on which he has not written, no issue on which he has not shed light and resolved it on the basis of the Quran and Hadith.
His books contain not only a treasure of invaluable knowledge whose scholarly standard is so high that its equal can rarely be found, but by studying it one gains spiritual solace and nourishment. The Hazrat Maulana was not an ordinary scholar but was like a spiritual doctor. His excellent writings not only showed the right path to non-Muslims, but also Muslims themselves were saved from heresy and deviation and became missionaries of Islam.”
Maulana Muhammad Ali concentrated profoundly, to the highest degree, when saying his prayers. He gave importance to saying prayers in congregation, of course, but his practice of saying the tahajjud prayer, a habit acquired in his youth, was so firm that he did not miss this prayer for the rest of his life. Whether he was travelling or ill, he said his tahajjud prayer without fail and always exhorted the Jama‘at in forceful, passionate words to adhere to this prayer. Even during illness he would wake up at tahajjud time and if he could not rise out of bed he would say his prayer sitting or lying in bed. In 1950, when he suffered the most serious heart attacks and the doctors declared it as absolutely essential for him to sleep as much as possible, he still would wake up for the tahajjud prayer. In severe pain the doctors had to give him injections to sedate him but even then he would be awake at the time of the tahajjud prayer despite the effects of the injection. A Christian nurse who was attending him in those days remarked that he must be a “saint” to worship so much on his sick bed.
His children, near relations staying with him, and travelling companions were all witnesses to the fact that in the later part of the night, in seclusion, he would be falling before God the Most High in prayer. Whenever anyone woke, he or she would hear a melodious, wonderful sound of heart-felt crying and supplicating, which included glorification, praise and sanctification of the Almighty. God alone knows if at that time he was in this world or in another world, but his voice was like that of one who is cut off from this world and all its trappings, and was elsewhere, having lost himself in the Divine Being, and expressing before Him the pain and concern in his heart. This was a picture of what the Promised Messiah had expressed in a poetic verse as follows:
“At this time of affliction, we the helpless have no remedy,(Once a lady guest of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s wife, belonging to a family who were well known for their hostility to the Ahmadiyya Movement, stayed for one night in their house when they lived in Ahmadiyya Buildings. Before leaving she disclosed to the Maulana’s wife that she had stayed there purposely in order to know the real truth, at home, about Maulana Muhammad Ali’s reputation for religious observance. She had stood outside the room where he had just started saying his tahajjud prayers and observed him through the slightly open door. She related: “He was reciting the Holy Quran with utter humility. I could hear some echo of his voice. He stood for so long that I got tired. At long last he went into ruku and was in that posture for a considerable time. Then he went into sajda and spent an equally long time in that position. I could not stand any longer, and I found a stool and sat on it. He raised his head from sajda at long last and then went into the second sajda for a long time. As he had taken more than half an hour in the first rak‘a of the prayer, I could not wait any further and went back to bed. Some time later I again went to have a look, and saw him still at prayer. Many hours later, when the call for the fajr prayer was sounded, he went to the mosque. I am now sure that he is not an ordinary man but a saint of God. I came here with many doubts and ill-feelings [about Ahmadis], but I am leaving after being deeply convinced of his righteousness and greatness.”)
But to pray in the morning and cry before dawn.”
Maulana Muhammad Ali used to receive Divine revelations and visions but never publicised these. Even to his family he would not mention that he had such experiences, and this was due to his utmost humility. Mr. Naseer Ahmad Faruqui states that he had been in his company for years and was entirely convinced that he was a saint but had never found out whether he had any revelations. At last in 1943 in Bombay he once plucked up the courage and asked him. The Maulana simply smiled and only nodded his head in confirmation. Then Mr. Faruqui asked how he felt at that time. The Maulana replied that he felt as if a great force had taken hold of him and words came upon his tongue involuntarily. Some of his visions and revelations have already been mentioned in this book, and there are some more in Mr. Naseer Ahmad Faruqui’s article at the end of this book. The Maulana had written some of his revelations and dreams in a note book which was found after his death. Some extracts from it have also been published.
The most prominent and outstanding feature of the life of Maulana Muhammad Ali was his passion for the Quran, which he had inherited from the Promised Messiah and Maulana Nur-ud-Din. The deep desire to spread the Quran in the world kept him restless all the time. In every khutba he stressed upon the need to serve the Quran. Behind every campaign and proposal the aim was propagation of the Quran. Whether travelling or staying, whether in good health or ill, he would continue to serve the Quran under all circumstances. God the Most High, by granting his translations and commentaries of the Quran and his other books world-wide acclaim, showed that He values His sincere servants. He used to receive letters from Muslims and non-Muslims from all over the world, saying that they had found the right path after reading his translation of the Quran or some other book. He used to receive requests from abroad asking for his permission to translate his books into other languages and he always granted it happily. Ambassadors of foreign countries and other international visitors used to call on him, some of them kissing his hands out of admiration. Despite open antagonism against the Ahmadiyya Movement in India and Pakistan, many notable dignitaries were among his admirers and they praised him highly, including government ministers and leaders, high ranking officials, businessmen, politicians and religious leaders. In short, his name had acquired international fame within his own lifetime and his incomparable services to Islam were acknowledged even by his opponents. However, so modest and humble was he that he never exhibited pride or arrogance, nor did he ever make a show of greatness by boasting that high government officials called upon him and acknowledged his services. If he mentioned this, it was by way of rendering thanks to God for this honour, and he always ascribed his work and achievements to the Promised Messiah and the Jama‘at.
This venerable man saw success with his own eyes but always bowed his head before God in humility. All the time, and under all circumstances, he had but one passion: that somehow the message of the Quran and of Islam must reach every corner of the world. Today everyone, friend or foe, acknowledges that his life remained dedicated to the cause of Islam and he departed from this world a successful man.
The following was one of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s most loved prayers which he always used to say after reciting the darood (the salat-un-nabi):
“O Allah! Help him who helps the religion of Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him, and make us from among such people. O Allah! forsake him who forsakes the religion of Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him, and make us not from among such people.”