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Alexander Russell Webb - 2/3


Second section of speech.
Compiler's comments on second section.
(See First section and Third section in separate files.)

Speech: second section

Contact with India.

A Parsee gentlemen from Bombay happened to pass through Manilla and met Mr. Webb. This was just four years after the latter had taken up his duties as United States Consul. Returning to India, the Parsee searched a Muslim correspondent for the Consul General, and interested a certain Badruddin Abdullah Kurr, who was also a member of the Municipal Council of Bombay, and also, to Mr. Webb's delight, a scholar. His new friend showed the American's letters about, and even had some published in a local newspaper. Through these printed specimens of Webb's correspondence, the attention was attracted of a wealthy Indian merchant of Medina, Arabia, one Hajee Abdullah Arab, who possessed business interests as well in Bombay, Jeddah, Calcutta and Singapore. Before long, Arab came to visit Webb in Manilla.

Resigns to become missionary of Islam.

A plan for the propagation of Islam in America was discussed by the two men. Hajee Abdullah was to take it upon himself to collect the necessary funds. Webb was to resign his post as Consul General of the United States to become the leader of an Islamic mission in America. Before setting out upon his missionary work, Webb made an extended tour of India, Burma, China, Egypt, Arabia and Turkey.

Webb in India.

There is in existence at the New York Public Library a very interesting little book containing three of Muhammad Webb's addresses which he made in 1892 before large audiences at Madras, Hyderabad Deccan and Bombay. In the introduction, Maulvi Hasan Ali, who accompanied Mr. Webb as translator in Urdu, has written:
"Mr. Webb is not a dry rationalistic Muslim, but his heart is full of the love of God and His Prophet. God has been pleased to open his heart to the secret philosophy of Islam. He knows the spirit of Islam."
Hasan Ali has here underlined the word spirit. Before Muhammad Webb left India, a testimonial was presented to him from the Anjuman Taide Musulmanan-e-Jadeed of Bombay, printed upon green silk. It welcomed him to Bombay and expressed confidence in him, both as a Muslim convert, and as the future missionary of Islam to New York City or Chicago. "The fact", it declares, "that you have voluntarily sustained a serious loss, by resigning your honourable and lucrative post of Consul General at Manilla, conclusively proves the deep interest you take for establishing a mission on the American continent."

(Speech continues in Third Section.)

Comments on the second section of Speech.

Maulvi Hasan Ali was himself a famous missionary of Islam, and toured throughout India delivering speeches on Islam in English. Shortly after Webb's visit to India, Maulvi Hasan Ali joined the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1894. He died soon afterwards in 1897.

We give below fuller details of Webb's visit to India taken from Dr. Basharat Ahmad's work Mujaddid-i A'zam, the biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, where the author has quoted from Maulvi Hasan Ali's book Ta'id-i Haq.

Haji Abdullah returned to India and started collecting funds for Webb to start an Islamic mission in the U.S.A. He then telegraphed Webb to resign his post in Manilla and tour India to complete the collection of funds. During their tour of various cities of India, they were accompanied by Maulvi Hasan Ali, who writes:

"In Hyderabad Mr. Webb said to me: 'Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did me a great favour. It is because of him that I embraced Islam. I want to meet him.' I told him what I had heard about Mirza sahib's disrepute [for claiming to be the Promised Messiah]. Mr. Webb got a letter written to Mirza sahib, to which the Mirza sahib sent a reply consisting of eight pages, directing me to translate it word for word for Mr. Webb. Thus I did. Mr. Webb listened to the letter with great enthusiasm and reverence. In the letter, Hazrat had explained his claims with arguments, mentioned the opposition to him by the Ulama of the Punjab and the uproar among the public, and written that 'I too have a great desire to meet you'. Mr. Webb, Haji Abdullah and myself held a meeting to decide what to do. The view was that it was not opportune at a time when funds were to be collected in India to go to meet such a reviled man, which would result in damage to the work of the propagation of Islam. We now regret that decision. Mr. Webb visited Lahore, but did not go to Qadian for this very reason. "
Long after leaving India, Webb remained in correspondence with Hazrat Mirza, and expressed his bitter regret at having lost the opportunity to meet the Promised Messiah.

Maulvi Hasan Ali further writes in his above account:

"In short, having toured the famous cities of India, Mr. Webb returned to America to engage in the propagation of Islam. I was with him for two months. Mr. Webb is in reality a good man who entertains true love for Islam in his heart. I tried to increase his knowledge, correct his wrong ideas, and instruct him in the necessary principles as far as I could. His name, Shaikh Muhammad, was also given by me.

"What happened was exactly what I had foreseen. The Muslims of India promised to give funds, but none could actually be seen coming. Haji Abdullah did all he could. Only about Rs. 30,000 were collected, out of which Rs. 16,000 were donated by Haji Abdullah himself."

After returning to the U.S.A. in 1893, Webb began some work of the propagation of Islam, but as the Muslims of India did not provide the promised funds his work had to be discontinued very soon.

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