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The Great Mujahid: Life Story of Maulana Muhammad Ali

Part 2: Life at Qadian,
From May 1899 to April 1914.

2. The Times of Maulana Nur-ud-Din
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
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Part 2
Life at Qadian
From May 1899 to April 1914

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2. The Times of Maulana Nur-ud-Din

May 1908 to March 1914


After the death of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, his successor Maulana Nur-ud-Din led the Ahmadiyya community from 1908 till 1914. During these six years, whereas on the one hand the Ahmadiyya Movement made tremendous progress and laid the foundations of many great and magnificent works, yet on the other hand there were some destructive activities undertaken by certain elements which not only brought about a split in the community but also did irreparable and lasting damage to the advancement and popularity of the Ahmadiyya Movement.

On the bright side, the annual budget of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya rose astonishingly from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 200,000. This was largely due to Maulana Muhammad Ali’s work because he was the General Secretary as well as the life and soul of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya. However, his success made certain people feel bitter and agitated. During this period a grand building was constructed for an educational establishment, whose physical structure is even today proclaiming that the man who played  the central role in its construction, indeed under whose supervision and advice it was built, possessed a first-rate architectural mind. In the same period, under the guidance of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, Maulana Muhammad Ali laid down firm and permanent foundations for the propagation of Islam in the shape of the English and Urdu translations of the Holy Quran with commentaries. Again in those days, the Ahmadiyya Movement was gaining popularity among the general Muslim public. The Review of Religions edited by Maulana Muhammad Ali and the lectures given by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din in various parts of India raised the Ahmadiyya community to a prominent status among the educated Muslims of India. Later in the same period Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din went to England where he established the Woking mission in 1913.

On the dark side, some destructive activities also started during this period. Plots were made to sow the seeds of distrust in Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s mind against Maulana Muhammad Ali and the members of the Anjuman. Efforts were made to deprive the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya of its powers or to have some members from Lahore expelled from it. According to a conceived plan, a body known as ‘Majlis Ansarullah’ was created, while along with that the doctrine of calling other Muslims as unbelievers (kafir) was invented. In short, just as this was the period of progress for the community, at the same time all these activities were taking place behind the scenes whose devastating results became manifest upon the death of Maulana Nur-ud-Din in 1914. We will turn to the causes of the Split in the next chapter. First we look at the bright side of this period.

Early life of Maulana Nur-ud-Din

Maulana Nur-ud-Din came from a well respected family of Bhera, district Shahpur, Punjab, and was the pride of the family. He was widely renowned for his knowledge, scholarship, rectitude and virtuous character. Besides being a highly capable physician, he was an incomparable and illustrious scholar of all branches of religious knowledge and had a huge collection of books famed as being magnificent and comprehensive. He had travelled to many educational centres in India to learn the Unani system of medical treatment by the use of indigenous drugs, as well as the religion of Islam from the then famous teachers of theology. He was so widely-read and had such minute knowledge that on any topic under discussion he could quote from memory exact references to book and page from the works of scholars. He had a great love for the Holy Quran. During his youth he travelled to Delhi, Lucknow, Rampur and Bhopal etc. for purposes of education. He also went as far as Makka and Madina, and for some time there he joined Shah Abdul Ghani’s students and disciples, gaining knowledge of both the exoteric and esoteric aspects of religion. On his return to India he was appointed personal physician to the Maharaja of Jammu and served there for several years, earning a handsome salary. At the same time he kept up teaching and imparting the vast ocean of knowledge which he possessed. The events of his life can be read in more detail in the book Mirqat-ul-Yaqin Fi Hayat Nur-ud-Din by Maulvi Akbar Shah Khan of Najeebabad.

He happened to read Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s book Barahin Ahmadiyya and came to know of Hazrat Mirza sahib’s claim that today Islam is the only true and living religion by following which a person can find God, that Allah bestows revelation upon His chosen servants, and that Hazrat Mirza sahib himself had personal experience of this so that whoever so wished could come and stay with him and judge for himself. Having read this, Maulana Nur-ud-Din came to Qadian from Jammu to meet Hazrat Mirza sahib and stayed with him for some time. Here he realised that all the knowledge he had gained by travelling to different Islamic countries was inadequate. In 1888 Hazrat Mirza sahib received the Divine command to take the pledge (bai‘at) from people and form a community (jama‘at), and in March 1889 Maulana Nur-ud-Din became the first person to take the pledge. After some time he gave up his royal job and came to stay with Hazrat Mirza sahib, and in his obedience of the Promised Messiah and his sacrifices for the Movement he surpassed all others.

People of all faiths not only benefited by his medical practice but friend and foe alike acknowledged his scholarship, learning and godliness. The most prominent feature of his life was his love for the Holy Quran. God bestowed upon him the knowledge of His Book and he worked day and night to teach it to others. Till his death it was his daily routine to impart knowledge of the Holy Quran, and everyone benefited from his teaching to the extent of his or her ability. As has been mentioned before, he lived in a small part of Hazrat Mirza sahib’s house, the same house where later on Maulana Abdul Karim and Maulana Muhammad Ali also occupied one or two rooms each.

When Hazrat Mirza sahib died, Maulana Nur-ud-Din was the man regarding whom the entire community was unanimous that only he could be his successor. However, he accepted this burden with reluctance. When Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din and some other persons went to him with this request, he proposed one or two other names. When they insisted, he said that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad (eldest son of the Promised Messiah) and Mir Nasir Nawab (father-in-law of the Promised Messiah) did not agree with the proposal. So Mirza Mahmud Ahmad was questioned about it, and he replied that he would have to consult his mother. After that consultation, when both he and Mir Nasir Nawab expressed agreement, only then did Maulana Nur-ud-Din accept this responsibility. First he said two raka‘hs of prayer, then he declared his beliefs and after that he took the pledge from people.

Commencement of the English Translation of the Holy Quran

For almost six years, from May 1908 to March 1914, Maulana Nur-ud-Din was the Head of the Ahmadiyya community. During this period, Maulana Muhammad Ali was every year elected as secretary of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, he continued his duties as editor of the Review of Religions, he was in charge of the Anjuman’s works relating to education, publication and buildings, and in addition he had to devote time to other affairs. However, the time had now come for that work to be started for which God the Most High had been preparing Maulana Muhammad Ali in Qadian. Maulana Nur-ud-Din, through his penetrating insight, selected his beloved student Maulana Muhammad Ali for the service and the spreading of the Holy Quran, and instructed him to start the work of writing the English translation and commentary of the Holy Quran. In 1909, at the age of 35 years, Maulana Muhammad Ali took up this great work which was completed in seven years. During this time, the Split took place in the Movement in 1914 after Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s death; and even during his life, a faction of the community tried to cause problems for Maulana Muhammad Ali and created hindrances which, by the grace of God, were removed.

In 1909 Maulana Muhammad Ali, who was secretary of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian and editor of the Review of Religions, put the proposal for his English translation of the Holy Quran before the Anjuman in the following words:

“As far as I have considered the matter, before starting the translation at least one year is required for a preparatory study of different Urdu and English translations of the Quran and lexicons of Arabic and English. After that, the translation would take no less than two years to be completed. So it will take at least three years to complete the translation, and possibly four or five years. As it will cost eight or nine thousand Rupees, and unlike the magazine there will be no immediately visible results, it is possible that some well wishers of the community might start to have misgivings. This is a very important and delicate matter. The Ahmadiyya Anjumans must be consulted so that I am not blamed later on. This is a new venture and I cannot say at the moment how good a translation I will be able to produce. It is all in Allah’s hands. … Of course if Allah’s help and support comes to us then this work can prove beneficial for the world. … If the expenses cannot be borne then it is possible that Allah will provide some other means for me and I might be able to work in my spare time, little by little. In that way I would hope to accomplish it in eight to ten years.

Signed: Muhammad Ali. 30 May 1909.”

The decision taken by the Anjuman was the following:

“Resolution 919 dated 6 June 1909 was put forward and it was decided that the Holy Quran should be translated into English and Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib should be appointed for this work.”

Accordingly, Maulana Muhammad Ali still remained secretary of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya and editor of the Review of Religions. He was also in charge of the Anjuman’s educational, construction and literary work. The magnificent building of the Talim-ul-Islam High School and Boarding House was constructed entirely by his efforts and under his supervision. Besides these he also did various miscellaneous works.

On 27 December 1911 Maulana Muhammad Ali submitted the following report to the executive committee of the Anjuman:

“Report of the Editor of the Review of Religions:

In the meeting of 26 June 1909 I presented a report to the effect that the English translation of the Holy Quran would take three years or somewhat more to complete. At this time, after two and a half years, 21 parts have been translated and it is hoped that the rest of the work will be finished in the next six months. But to publish only a translation is not very useful and the following additions are necessary:

1. A margin containing cross references from one place to other places in the Holy Quran.

2. In addition to the brief footnotes that will appear on each page below the translation, there should also be notes in the following places:

a. At the beginning of each section (ruku‘) its summary and the inter-relation of its verses should be given as a heading; b. At the beginning of each chapter (sura) its summary showing its connection with the previous chapter; c. At the end of each chapter a note on the important subjects dealt with in it.

3. A detailed introduction in the beginning of the translation.

To accomplish all these, it will take three or at least two years after the completion of the translation. In the two and a half years in which 21 parts have been translated much time was spent on other work, for example one month was spent on the debates in Rampur and Masuri. I have to travel here and there in connection with the work of the Anjuman. Here itself a great deal of time is taken up everyday in completing the work of different sections of the Anjuman. The book The Teachings of Islam was printed during this period. Revising its translation, proof-reading the typescript and re-reading the book took up much time. Then a lecture was prepared for the Convention of Religions in Allahabad. Another point which I have always borne in mind is that when I translate any word I should myself research its meaning, because it is not useful just to copy out the earlier translations. Mr. Macaulif spent fifteen years to translate and publish a few parts of the Granth Sahib. So in my opinion the translation can only be useful when the above mentioned features are incorporated.

Signed: Muhammad Ali. 27 December 1911.”

(From the report of the executive committee)

The records of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian do not show anywhere that Maulana Muhammad Ali was taken in paid employment to do the translation or that, as he was already employed by the Anjuman, his job was now being changed and his pay would be for different work. The Maulana continued to receive his salary for the work he was already doing, which has been mentioned above, and he did the translation either in his spare time or when he was on leave.

It is necessary to make this clear because after the Split the Qadiani community raised the objection that the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya was the owner of the translation. Many years later some members of the Lahore Ahmadiyya community, who had some other differences with Maulana Muhammad Ali, also tried to raise the same objection.

In the same connection it may be noted that on 14 July 1913 Maulana Muhammad Ali submitted the following report to the Sadr Anjuman:

“Resolution 335 dated 14 July 1913. Application from the Editor of the Review of Religions: ‘As I am suffering from weakness after having been ill for a few days, and Hazrat Khalifa-tul-Masih has recommended that I should go to the mountains for a few days, so I have decided to go to Murree hills. I will take with me the work of translating the Holy Quran which has been made my responsibility because I cannot remain idle there. If my absence from Qadian is considered as absence from my duties then I should be granted two months leave.’

This having been presented, it was sanctioned that Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib, Editor of the Review of Religions, should be granted two and a half months leave from 15 July 1913 to 30 September 1913.”

If the work of translation had been assigned to him as a paid job then granting leave becomes meaningless. The Anjuman’s granting him leave, during which he would continue the translation, makes it clear that he was not being paid to do this work though the Anjuman encouraged him to carry it on. Thus during his stay in Qadian the Maulana carried on this work in his own way and according to his own judgment. Sometimes at home, with piles of books on the table, he worked by candle light at night, and sometimes he continued on this work when on leave.

During his absence Khalifa Rashid-ud-Din performed the duties of secretary, and in those days Maulvi Sher Ali was the assistant editor of the Review of Religions.

Maulana Muhammad Ali later on repeated the same facts about this matter. Thus in a Friday khutba published in Paigham Sulh of 6 June 1916 he said:

“I put the proposal of translating the Quran before the Anjuman and wrote in it that if the Anjuman cannot bear the expenses then Allah will provide some other means for me. I did not say to the Anjuman I am your employee so give me some work, but I said I want to translate the Quran and if the Anjuman cannot bear the expenses then God will provide some other means. Allah brought that about as well, that the Anjuman declined to pay the expenses and the generous Lord gave me other means.”

Before this, in July 1914 after the Split, in his correspondence with the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian he clearly wrote that the translation was his writing and his intellectual property.

Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s interest in the English translation

As has been said above, Maulana Nur-ud-Din was a very great expositor of the Quran and Hadith, and a tremendous lover of the Quran. So Maulana Muhammad Ali used to read to him the translation that he did and take guidance and amendments from him. Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s love for the Quran and his interest in Maulana Muhammad Ali’s translation had reached such a height that when in January 1914, following the annual gathering of 1913, he fell very ill and was so weak that even speaking exhausted him, so that on medical advice he discontinued his teaching of the Quran, even then, in a state of the most serious illness, he would still send for Maulana Muhammad Ali daily to listen to his translation and notes and give advice.

The last days of the life of Maulana Nur-ud-Din were chronicled by Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig who was staying in Qadian in those days to treat him. This diary used to be published at that time, in February and March 1914, in every issue of the newspaper Paigham Sulh. It was again published in Paigham Sulh in 1935. Some extracts from it are given here. These relate to Maulana Muhammad Ali and his work on the English translation of the Quran and show a glimpse of Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s love of the Quran. Maulana Muhammad Ali himself, once speaking of these last days of Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s life, said:

“It was my good fortune that even in those days I had the opportunity to learn the Quran from him. When he was on his death bed I used to read to him notes from my English translation of the Holy Quran. He was seriously ill and even in that state he used to be waiting for when Muhammad Ali would come. And when I came to his presence, that same critically ailing Nur-ud-Din would turn into a young man. The service of the Quran that I have done is just the result of his love for the Holy Quran.” (Paigham Sulh, 28 March 1943)

Here are some entries from the diary of Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig:

9 February 1914 — This evening we were feeding Hazur and he said to me: ‘I have learnt something from you too’. I replied: ‘But I have learnt much from you’. He said: ‘I only know the Quran and I can only teach you that’. I said: ‘May Allah grant you a long life so that we can learn the Holy Quran from you’. He said:

‘Ask Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib about my knowledge of the Quran. Having worked very hard Maulvi sahib comes with hundreds of pages and I abridge them. He sometimes says that my opinion is better than all research.’

Then he said: ‘Maulvi sahib has pleased me very much, I am so happy. What wonderful research he has done on Gog and Magog, companions of the cave and Dhu-l-Qarnain! He has searched through encyclopaedias. How clearly he has solved this problem! How excellent!”

(Paigham Sulh, 15 February 1914, 28 October 1935)

Qadian, 11 February 1914 — When Hazrat Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib arrived to read to him the translation of the Holy Quran he said to him: Come that I may live!”

(Paigham Sulh, 26 February 1914)

15 February 1914 — Maulvi Sher Ali sahib, Nawab sahib, Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib, Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain sahib, Marham Isa sahib and many other friends were present. He said:

‘The issue of kufr and Islam is a very subtle matter, which many people have not understood’.

Mian Mahmud Ahmad sahib and Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib were sitting near the Hazrat sahib. He pointed towards them and said: Our Mian has also not understood it.”

(Paigham Sulh, 3 November 1935)

14 February 1914 — Hazrat sahib is still in a critical condition. His diarrhoea is better but he is getting weaker by the day. May Allah have mercy on him. He listens to Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib’s translation of the Quran daily. His courage and determination is very great and his love for the Quran is unequalled. He says: It is the Quran which is the source of my soul and life.”

(Paigham Sulh, 17 February 1914)

16 February 1914 — Yesterday Hazrat sahib was relatively better though the weakness continues. He addressed me and Khalifa Rashid-ud-Din sahib, saying:

‘For fifteen days I have completely obeyed your orders (that is, taken diet and medication according to your instructions). I used to teach seven classes daily (meaning, teaching the Quran and Hadith), but now I don’t teach even one. Let me do something now.’

He wanted permission to teach classes in the Quran. I replied:

‘Sir, at the moment you are teaching Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib. When you are stronger then you can teach a class.’

… His love for the Quran is beyond description, so much that even in this state of extreme weakness all he can think of is giving classes in the Quran and his mind keeps working on the deep meanings of the Holy Quran.

When Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib comes to read the notes of the Holy Quran to him, sometimes even before he begins Hazrat sahib gives a discourse about the topic of the translation of the day and says that throughout the night he had been consulting books and thinking about it. (He does not mean that he actually reads books; what he means is that he keeps running over in his mind what is written in commentaries of the Quran and books of Hadith.) Sometimes he quotes from books of Hadith or the Bible, and does it perfectly accurately. He says again and again that his mind is fully healthy and it never stops working on the Quran.”

(Paigham Sulh, 19 February 1914)

18 February 1914 — Today Hazrat sahib was very weak and frail. Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib came as usual to read notes from the Holy Quran. Although he instructed him regarding certain verses of the Quran but due to weakness he spoke with pauses. … Then he addressed Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib and said:

‘Seeing you every day is also food for my soul’.

Then he added: ‘Maulvi sahib, you are very dear to me. I found one useful weapon (meaning Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib), full of knowledge, it is God’s grace to you’.

Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib replied: ‘It is my good fortune that I can expound your ideas’.

Hazrat sahib said: ‘It is all the grace of God. What has happened is by His grace and what will happen will be by His grace’. … Then he added: ‘This translation will inshallah be beneficial in Europe, America, Africa, China, Japan and Australia’.”

(Paigham Sulh, 3 November 1935)

21 February 1914 — Hazrat sahib called in Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib for a discourse of the Quran. At that time Abdul Hayy’s mother [wife of Maulana Nur-ud-Din] was also present. After the discourse Hazrat sahib got hold of Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib’s hand and slowly took it towards himself and kissed it.”

(Paigham Sulh, 15 November 1935)

22 February 1914 — He was very cheerful today. When told that Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib had come to read the [translation of the] Quran he said in Punjabi: ‘He is most welcome. Let him read it. Does my brain ever get tired of it?’ Then he pointed towards his bed and said to Maulvi Muhammad Ali sahib: ‘Come near me’. Then added: ‘He is very dear to me’.”

(Paigham Sulh, 15 November 1935)

One day Maulana Muhammad Ali was delayed. Maulana Nur-ud-Din was very weak but said in that state: “Send for my dear son, send for my dear son”. People listening to him thought that he was asking for his son Abdul Hayy, but he said again: “Bring the food for my soul, bring the food for my soul”. And he was much pleased when Maulana Muhammad Ali arrived.*

*Footnote: This incident is not reported in Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig’s diary but was related to Maulana Muhammad Ali by one of those present.

In short, these incidents show Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s love for Maulana Muhammad Ali and his interest in the translation of the Quran. During the time when the English translation was in progress, once Mir Nasir Nawab, father-in-law of the Promised Messiah, wanted to get work started on an Urdu translation and commentary of the Holy Quran and even collected some funds for it. But Maulana Nur-ud-Din stopped him and said that the Urdu translation on behalf of the Movement would also be done by Maulana Muhammad Ali, after he had completed the English translation. Maulana Muhammad Ali stated that he was in Murree due to his ill health when Maulana Nur-ud-Din wrote to him saying that as he has also to translate the Quran in Urdu after completing his English translation, he should start doing it along with the English. Hence, according to these instructions, he started doing the Urdu translation as well, little by little, and almost six parts were seen by Maulana Nur-ud-Din.

An announcement dated 3 March 1914, that is, eleven days before the death of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, regarding the English translation of the Quran was published as an appendix to the Review of Religions, February 1914 issue. On the first page there is a statement by Maulana Nur-ud-Din in which he says:

“I want to draw the attention of friends, by this announcement, towards raising funds for the English translation of the Holy Quran. Up to today I have listened to the notes of twenty-three parts, which is more than three-quarters of the work, and have also seen the Urdu translation of six parts. I hope by the grace of Allah that I will complete the rest. Even during my illness I have been listening to the notes and dictating as well. I have spent all my life, from childhood to old age, studying the Holy Quran and pondering over it, and Allah the Most High has given me the kind of understanding of His Holy Word that very few other people have. I have always adhered to the principles of simplicity, avoidance of unfounded stories and following the obvious meaning of the Quran, and I have tried to teach others on the same lines as well. In future times too, servants of the Quran will continue to arise according to the needs of the time.

Now I want to draw the attention of friends to the expenses of publishing the English translation, and after it the Urdu translation. I hope for grace from Allah that He will not let go to waste my efforts in the service of His Word. I am also sure that those people who have a connection with me and who love me have also been granted the zeal to serve the Quran. … This translation will inshallah prove to be beneficial in Europe, Africa, America, China, Japan, Australia, etc.”

After this announcement there follows a statement by Maulana Muhammad Ali in which, among other things, he says:

“To translate the Holy Quran is a monumental work. The way in which the meanings of the word of Allah have been explained, in that respect I can say that this translation of the Holy Quran will not only remove numerous misconceptions in the West and among the English speaking nations, but at the same time it will inshallah show the resplendent picture of Islam in such a manner that at least among fair minded people those adverse views about Islam will be overturned which Westerners have been holding till today. All this will happen only by the grace of Allah. But my hopes rest on the fact that all the important explanations given in this translation have come from a man who has devoted his entire life, from childhood to the age of 80 years, to the study and service of the Holy Quran, and has read thousands of books only to gain insight into the meanings of some verse or other, who is familiar with classical and modern thought and the old and the new sciences, and has studied all these branches of knowledge to bring them into the service of the Quran, who is not only the leader of the Ahmadiyya Movement but is one of those rare personalities who, because of their vast study and extensive knowledge, are entitled to be leaders of communities. He is a unique individual as regards his knowledge, learning, uprightness and faith in Allah. …

The real objective of our movement is the propagation of Islam, and in that work the propagation of the Holy Quran holds the foremost place. … I end my appeal on a verse of the Quran which is the last one in my notes of today: ‘Behold! you are those who are called upon to spend in Allah’s way, but among you are those who are niggardly, and whoever is niggardly is niggardly against his own soul; and Allah is self-sufficient and you have need (of Him), and if you turn back He will bring in your place another people, then they will not be like you’ (47:38).

Humbly, Muhammad Ali, Qadian, 3 March 1914.”

Underneath this announcement there are two notes as follows:

1.   By the time this announcement was printed, the footnotes of 26 parts had been completed.

2.   On 4 March Hazrat [Maulana Nur-ud-Din] said: ‘Our English translation has been accepted by Allah. This good news has come by Divine revelation’.

The good news (basharat) mentioned in this quotation was revealed to a holy man of the Ahmadiyya community, Mir Abid Ali Shah, who had in a vision, while praying, heard this glad tiding. He told it to Maulana Nur-ud-Din during his last illness in the presence of Maulana Muhammad Ali and a large number of other Ahmadis. Hearing this, Maulana Nur-ud-Din, Maulana Muhammad Ali and everyone else who was present at once fell in prostration in thanksgiving (sajda shukr).

Calcutta Convention of Religions

In April 1909, a major, large scale Convention of Religions was held at Calcutta. When the announcement of this convention reached Qadian, then in compliance with Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s instructions Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote a comprehensive paper in English on Islam, and on 2 April he went to Lahore, from where on 6 April he went to Calcutta with Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. The convention started on April 9 in the Town Hall. The first day was taken up by introductory speeches. On the second day, there were three speeches on Christianity and these were followed by three speeches on Islam: the first by Mirza Abul Fazal, the second by Maulvi Khuda Bakhsh and the third by Maulana Muhammad Ali. When the time came for the Maulana’s speech, and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din rose to deliver it, it was already afternoon and the audience were tired, so it was presumed that they would not pay attention. Maulana Muhammad Ali stated that he was sitting on a high stage, from where he could see all the audience. By some manifestation of Divine power it appeared as if the audience were captivated. They were listening in absolute silence with rapt attention, and cheering on occasions.

Witnessing this scene, those Ahmadis from Calcutta who were among the audience rose up from their seats and fell in prostration of thanksgiving there and then in the hall. As soon as the speech finished, all the delegates and many of the audience congratulated Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. The presiding officer of the meeting, Mr. Mitter, asked the Khwaja sahib if he would be available to deliver more speeches after the convention at some venue. As Maulana Muhammad Ali and the Khwaja sahib could not stay at that time, it was arranged that the Khwaja sahib would pay a visit later on. A European delegate remarked to him that the speech had dealt a death blow to Christianity. Thus God granted a distinctive victory. Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote about it as follows:

“The success that Allah the Most High granted to the Movement in this convention was like the success at the Mahutasu conference.* Although the paper read at this convention was not the work of that saintly heart, nonetheless it was an abridgement of his ideas compiled by a servant of his, and Allah sent him aid and support.”

(Badr, 22 April 1909)

*Footnote: In December 1896 a conference of the great religions (dharm mahutasu) was held in Lahore, at which representatives of different religions read papers. The Promised Messiah’s paper on behalf of Islam was read by his respected follower Maulvi Abdul Karim, and  was generally declared as the best paper, surpassing all others. This was later on published in book form under the title Islami Usul ki Philosophy, and translated into English and published as The Teachings of Islam.

Debate in Rampur

In June 1909 the Nawab of Rampur arranged a major debate between Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis. The debator representing the non-Ahmadis was Maulvi Sanaullah of Amritsar. The Ahmadi delegation was led by Maulana Syed Muhammad Ahsan of Amroha, and included Maulana Muhammad Ali, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, Maulvi Sarwar Shah, Maulvi Mubarak Ali, Hafiz Roshan Ali and Shaikh Yaqub Ali. The debate took place from 15 June till 20 June. However, during the debate the Nawab sahib broke his promise and instead of remaining impartial he openly supported Maulvi Sanaullah. So the Ahmadi delegation had to discontinue the debate. A detailed report of the proceedings of this debate was written by Maulana Muhammad Ali and published in the Ahmadiyya community newspaper Badr dated 24 June 1909, and Maulana Muhammad Ahsan of Amroha wrote a book about it.

During the debate the Nawab sahib made a sarcastic remark saying: “Sir Syed Ahmad Khan also believed in the death of Jesus”, alluding to the fact that Sir Syed’s religious views were generally disparaged as being naturi or rationalistic. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din instantly responded: “Indeed, which sensible person does not believe in the death of Jesus!”

Debate at Mansoori

In November 1909 another major religious debate was held at Mansoori between Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis. At that time some local events there had led to a rise in opposition to the Ahmadiyya Movement. So the people of the area organised the debate to decide what was the truth. The delegation sent to participate by Maulana Nur-ud-Din was headed by Maulana Muhammad Ali, with Maulvi Ghulam Rasul, Hafiz Roshan Ali and Mufti Muhammad Sadiq as the other members. From the non-Ahmadi side Maulvi Sanaullah of Amritsar did not come, and in his place Maulvi Muhammad Yaqub of Bihar and some other Maulvis represented the non-Ahmadis. On 15 November, the first day, the speeches were about the death of Jesus or his still being alive, and on the second day about the claims of Hazrat Mirza sahib. This debate created a very good impression of the Ahmadiyya Movement among the local Muslims and many came into the fold of the Movement. The speeches were all recorded in writing but the non-Ahmadi religious leaders refused to sign the record. A brief account of the proceedings of the debate was published in Badr dated 25 November 1909, in which Mufti Muhammad Sadiq made the following comments about Maulana Muhammad Ali:

“The leader of the delegation was Maulvi Muhammad Ali M.A., whom everyone obeyed. However, despite being the leader, he served the delegation the most. He himself dealt with all the arrangements regarding the speeches and did not put his helpers to any hardship.”

Religious convention at Allahabad

In January 1911 a religious convention was held at Allahabad. The organisers invited Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. The Maulana could not go himself because he was extremely busy with the English translation of the Quran and other duties but he sent a lecture in English. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din went to participate. On 9 January, the first day of the convention, the Khwaja sahib gave a lecture which was as usual very successful and well-liked. On the second day, the lecture sent by Maulana Muhammad Ali was read out. It explained that Islam is the true religion which is in accordance with human nature, and it has brought the earlier religions to completion and perfection. This paper received the highest commendation of all the submissions and was considered to be the best one (Badr, 23 February 1911). It was published in 1912 in book form by the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian under the title Islam (in English), and its Urdu translation was published as Usul-i Islam.

Some domestic circumstances and trip to Murree

For some time after the death of the Promised Messiah, Maulana Muhammad Ali continued living in his house, and he lived there altogether for eight to nine years. Probably at the beginning of 1909 he moved to a house adjoining the Promised Messiah’s house which was known as the old guest house. Here he stayed for four to five months. After that, he was given a new house by the Anjuman in the Dar-ul-Ulum area where the Anjuman’s school, boarding house, the Nur mosque and a dispensary were under construction. This house consisted of three rooms, one of which was not of solid construction.  Here he stayed till April 1914. Two of his nephews also lived with him, whom he had called to Qadian for their schooling. It was after moving to this house that he started the work on the English translation of the Quran, and he continued doing it for the last four years of his life in Qadian in addition to his other duties.

As mentioned before, Maulana Muhammad Ali’s wife died in November 1908, leaving a little girl named Ruqayya. About one and a half years later, at the instigation of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, he married Mehrun Nisa, daughter of Dr. Basharat Ahmad. In September 1909, the doctor had written to Maulana Nur-ud-Din enquiring about a suitable match for his daughter. Another match was under consideration and the doctor had sought Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s permission about it, but the latter wrote in reply saying that in his view there was not a better man for marriage than Muhammad Ali. In February 1910, Dr. Basharat Ahmad took a few days’ leave to come to Qadian from Bhera, and the nikah of Maulana Muhammad Ali to his daughter took place. On 29 April 1910 Maulana Muhammad Ali went to Bhera and on 1 May 1910 he brought his wife to Qadian.

When his wife went to visit Maulana Nur-ud-Din, he was giving a discourse of the Quran to women. He patted her head with great affection and said a long prayer in which everyone joined in. Then he said: “I have seen the brightness of spiritual light on the face of Muhammad Ali and of his father, and also on the face of Basharat Ahmad and his wife. I am very pleased about this union.” Then he said to her: “Your father and your husband are very dear to me, and so you are too.” After that, on all occasions for the rest of his life he treated her with much affection.

This was the time when Maulana Muhammad Ali had started the English translation of the Quran. On the one hand, as secretary of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian he was performing all the administrative duties for the Anjuman, on the other hand he was supervising the construction of the building of the Taleem-ul-Islam school. In addition he was writing articles for the Review of Religions and also in some other journals. At night he would sit in his small house and work on the translation of the Quran. He had made a tiny room into his office, where a table was laden with piles of voluminous Arabic and English books in small print, dictionaries and commentaries of the Quran etc. In the solitude of the night he would be poring over one book, then another, holding a candle in his hand as the only source of light available.

At the beginning of June 1912 Maulana Muhammad Ali fell ill with high temperature which lasted for one week. He had not yet fully recovered when he resumed work, so his health deteriorated again and he started getting a high temperature every day. Maulana Nur-ud-Din who was treating him advised him to go for change of weather to some salubrious place with a healthy climate. During those days his wife’s maternal grandfather Safdar Jang, former Police Inspector of Amritsar, had brought his daughter to Qadian to receive medical treatment from Maulana Nur-ud-Din. He owned a shop in Murree, the Punjab Drapery House, and he suggested that as the ground floor of the shop was vacant, Maulana Muhammad Ali could stay there. This place was on Mall Road near the post office. So Maulana Muhammad Ali went to Murree with his family. This house consisted of a large hall and two small rooms. He partitioned the large hall into two by a curtain, and used one part as his office and the other for holding congregational prayers and for receiving friends. The stay in Murree not only improved his health, but he was able to devote more concentration on the translation of the Holy Quran. During his two months’ stay he felt that he had achieved much more than he could in Qadian. So again in 1913, with Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s permission and taking leave from the Anjuman, he went to Murree and stayed in the same house for two and a half months, carrying on the work on the translation while there. This was the start of his practice of going to a cool, mountainous place every summer, which began under the advice and direction of Maulana Nur-ud-Din. Maulana Muhammad Ali often used to say that he had been able to do so much writing work only because of going to the hills. Later on, due to the strain of constant mental work and exertion his health had suffered so that at the start of every summer he used to fall ill. Thus he was forced to retreat to a salubrious location in the mountains for the summer. Even there he used to take no rest, but in fact continue his scholarly work at twice the pace.

Maulana Muhammad Ali bought a plot of land adjacent to his residence in Qadian to have his own house built, and had his father send him some money for this purpose. Bricks had been bought and work on the garden had started when, due to the Split, he had to abandon all the plans and move to Lahore. He always had a great interest in planting fruit trees, flowers and vegetables, and wherever he lived later on he had a garden planted. While being heavily absorbed in his writing work, he would take a little time out for these activities, and this was his only hobby for recreation. Apart from this, he used to go for a long walk every morning after the fajr prayers without fail. The Promised Messiah also had the firm habit of going for a walk after fajr unless prevented by ill health.

Talim-ul-Islam school and construction of the boarding house

It has been mentioned earlier that during the Promised Messiah’s life the decision had been taken to construct a building for the Talim-ul-Islam school and a boarding house, and land for this had been procured outside the old settlement of Qadian. In January 1908 the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya appointed Maulana Muhammad Ali to raise funds for the construction of the school and the boarding house and to arrange for the work to start. After the Promised Messiah died in May 1908, Maulana Muhammad Ali started this project under the headship of Maulana Nur-ud-Din. To arrange for the materials for such huge buildings in a remote place like Qadian required much effort, and even a kiln had to be built for making bricks. Maulana Muhammad Ali carried out all these responsibilities with diligence and personally supervised the building of the kiln and the construction work.

One incident illustrative of his devotion to duty may be noted here. Once, on a very cold and dark winter night, there was a heavy storm of wind and rain and it was feared that water would enter the kiln and cause damage worth thousands of Rupees. Giving up his sleep, Maulana Muhammad Ali attended at the site during that heavy downpour in which even umbrellas were of no avail, in order to supervise the emergency arrangements in person. Seeing his example, all the workers continued working with great enthusiasm, and they managed to avert a substantial loss by timely intervention. The Maulana never hesitated to do the humblest manual labour by his own hand.

The construction of the boarding house was started first because there was inadequate accommodation for the increasing number of students, so much so that some of them had to live in the Nur mosque. The construction started in January 1909, and work also began on building the staff quarters. Besides the construction problems, the raising of funds also took much struggle and effort. So during 1909 and 1910 Maulana Muhammad Ali kept on impressing the need for this upon all branches of the community. He sent a delegation to visit various branches and issued repeated appeals in the newspapers Al-Hakam and Badr. In March 1910 he appealed for every Ahmadi to donate one month’s income so that the boarding house could be finished and the school building constructed. Thus the fund raising and the building work were done in conjunction with each other. After the boarding house a grand building was built for the school, and in May 1913 it started to be used for holding classes though it was not complete till the end of that year.

Activities and health of Maulana Nur-ud-Din

The great works which began in the times of Maulana Nur-ud-Din have been mentioned above. Apart from these, from the year 1911 Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din started a series of lectures in the major cities of India. Due to his lectures and the journal the Review of Religions, the Ahmadiyya Movement acquired great fame and renown throughout the country. The Movement was becoming so popular that it seemed as if the whole of India would be won over to it. The educated sections of the population and important and leading figures became its admirers. Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, the famous Muslim poet and philosopher, remarked in one of his speeches in 1910 that if anyone wanted to see a glimpse of true and pure Islam he would find it in Qadian. In important religious conferences and debates the Ahmadiyya representatives had the upper hand. Within Qadian, the head of the Movement laid stress on the Quran day and night. Maulana Nur-ud-Din used to give several discourses in the Quran everyday separately for different audiences, such as women, students, and people generally. He also gave discourses in Hadith. He made his living from his practice of medicine and treated all his patients from among the general public with great kindness and attention.

By the time he was head of the Movement, Maulana Nur-ud-Din was growing old. In November 1910, one day as he was coming from the residence of Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan on horseback he had a nasty fall from the horse and sustained serious injuries. Dr. Basharat Ahmad, who was in Qadian at the time, and Dr. Ilahi Bakhsh stitched his wounds and it was hoped that he would recover soon. However, after some time his health deteriorated and Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig came from Lahore to treat him and stayed there. He remained confined to bed with one ailment or another for four to five months.

Publication of The Teachings of Islam

Maulana Muhammad Ali had translated several writings of the Promised Messiah into English for the magazine the Review of Religions. His translation of the famous, lengthy paper of Hazrat Mirza sahib entitled Islami Usul Ki Philosophy had appeared in the Review of Religions in 1902 and 1903. In 1910 he revised the translation and had it published as the book The Teachings of Islam. The original Urdu paper had been presented in 1896 at the Congress of Religions held in Lahore and had achieved such glorious success that the triumph of Islam over all other religions by means of knowledge, reason and arguments could be seen as a reality. This book is so powerful and effective that several editions were published in later years in quantities of thousands, large numbers were distributed free throughout the world by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore, and it was translated into numerous other languages of India as well as the outside world.

Beginning of the propagation of Islam in the U.K.

In the years 1912 and 1913, in order to fulfil another wish of the Promised Messiah, another important work was begun through Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din when he went to England in September 1912 on some legal business. Shortly after reaching England, he learnt about the existence of the Mosque at Woking in Surrey, about thirty miles from London. This mosque was built in 1889 by a Western orientalist by the name of Dr. Leitner, who was at one time Registrar of the University of the Punjab, at the expense of Her Highness Shah Jehan Begum, the Begum of Bhopal state, India. The mosque had been lying closed and unused for long. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din had it opened up and went to court, with the help of some leading Muslims of India who were in England, to take possession of it from the heirs of Dr. Leitner and created a Trust to take charge of the mosque and the adjoining house. He himself became its first Imam and based his Woking Muslim Mission at these premises.

Gradually the Khwaja sahib began to succeed in his propagation work and soon an English Lord named Headley embraced Islam through him, and this brought even more fame to the Woking mission.


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