Alexander Russell Webb - 2/3
Second section of speech.
Compiler's comments on second section.
(See First section and Third
section in separate files.)
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
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
(Speech continues in Third Section.)
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
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.
"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."