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The Great Mujahid: Life Story of Maulana Muhammad Ali

Part 3: Life at Lahore,
From April 1914 to October 1951.

4a. From 1924 to 1937: Publication of Fazl-ul-Bari and The Religion of Islam (1st of 2 sections)
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

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Part 3
Life at Lahore
April 1914 to October 1951

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4a. From 1924 to 1937:
Publication of Fazl-ul-Bari and The Religion of Islam

(First of two sections)

By 1923 Maulana Muhammad Ali had completed the English and Urdu translations of the Holy Quran with commentary. During this period he also wrote a life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him) in Urdu under the title Sirat Khair-ul-Bashar. Then comes the fourteen year period 1924 to 1937 during which, in addition to other writings, two of his monumental books were published: Fazl-ul-Bari, being an Urdu translation of Sahih Bukhari with explanatory notes, and the English work The Religion of Islam. During this period the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam made tremendous progress under his leadership and performed many major services in the cause of the propagation of Islam. The annual budget of the Anjuman increased to Rs. 200,000 and its branches were opened all over India and in several foreign countries. The Anjuman acquired property worth several millions of Rupees. New editions of the English translation of the Quran were published, the literature produced by Maulana Muhammad Ali spread in other countries in large numbers and it was translated into foreign languages. A building for the Muslim High School at Ahmadiyya Buildings, Lahore was constructed. The Mosque in Berlin was built and work on the German translation of the Holy Quran was started. A mission was established in Java (East Indies) and the Dutch translation of the Holy Quran was published. Maulana Muhammad Ali went on several tours to other parts of India.

While on the one hand the literature produced by Maulana Muhammad Ali and the achievements of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam gained widespread popularity, the community had to endure a severe storm of opposition from some Muslim leaders in its home country. However, even then it remained on the path of progress. During this period, while the Anjuman’s budget increased so much and valuable properties were acquired, at the same time it faced many financial difficulties due to the scale of its worldwide work of the propagation of Islam. However, its work did not suffer because it had a leader who never wavered in the least in the path of the propagation of Islam. There was overwhelming fervour, devotion and sincerity of purpose in his heart which, on the one hand, created in him an iron determination and unflagging energy, and on the other hand it made him rise in the middle of the night to pray to Allah and cry before the Almighty for the success of the Jama‘at and the victory of Islam. This was why Allah placed such convincing power in his speech that even though he would appeal tirelessly for regular donations and for funds for special projects, the Jama‘at for its part never tired of making donations and offering its money in response to his appeals. The financial sacrifices made by Ahmadis were proverbial even among other Muslims.

Publications from 1924–1937: Fazl-ul-Bari

After producing the English and Urdu translations of the Holy Quran with commentaries, Maulana Muhammad Ali began work on translating Sahih Bukhari into Urdu with explanatory notes. Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din during his last days, while listening to the commentary of the last portions of the English translation of the Holy Quran, had said to Maulana Muhammad Ali:

“Maulvi sahib, the Quran has been done but Bukhari still remains.”

Maulana Muhammad Ali has stated that Maulana Nur-ud-Din wanted him to do this work as well. So after finishing the Bayan-ul-Quran and then writing Tarikh Khilafat-i Rashidah (History of the Early Caliphs), he immediately took this work in hand. From 1926 onwards this translation and explanatory notes began to be published in parts under the title of Fazl-ul-Bari and were as much appreciated by the educated classes as was the translation of the Holy Quran. For example, Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi wrote in his newspaper Such of 13 September 1926 as follows:

“There still remained a dire need of a good translation of collections of Hadith. By the grace of God, the time has come for the fulfilment of this vital necessity, and for this service God chose a man who is considered, not only by the mischief makers among the Ulama but by many well-intentioned Ulama as well, perhaps not to be a Muslim at all. The head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at, Maulana Muhammad Ali, M.A., is one of those few entirely sincere sons of Islam who has been quietly engaged for years in rendering the most valuable services to the cause of Islam. His English translation of the Quran has till now succeeded in showing the right path to God knows how many misguided people. A fresh addition to these glorious services is his translation of Sahih Bukhari which he has started publishing under the title Fazl-ul-Bari, the first part of which has just come out of the press.”

The complete work was published by the end of 1937. He had written and published its introduction as a separate book under the title Maqam-i Hadith, containing a detailed discussion on the rightful status of Hadith and how its reports were collected. The biggest obstacle in the translation of Sahih Bukhari is its huge volume which is due to the repetition of reports in different chapters. If the repeated reported are omitted, the reader is deprived of Imam Bukhari’s insight and judgment, and the useful conclusions which can sometimes be drawn from the variation in the wording of the same report cannot be seen. Imam Bukhari repeats a report under different headings in order to show its bearing on different subjects and his method of thus drawing inferences holds an important position in jurisprudence.

Maulana Muhammad Ali has solved this difficulty very skilfully. The chapters are arranged exactly as in Sahih Bukhari. Every hadith report, when occurring the first time, is allocated a serial number. If that report occurs again later on, then just the reference to its serial number is given in the translation, and if there is any variation, addition or omission of wording in that version of the report then that is indicated in a footnote. His footnotes are a work of the most arduous labour. He has followed the principles enunciated by the Promised Messiah, which he has dealt with in detail in his book Maqam-i Hadith, viz., that if he found a hadith report to conflict with the Quran he has tried to give it an interpretation which makes it conform to the Quran, and if that is not possible the report is rejected as unauthentic. In the notes he has taken account of the criticism of Islam by non-Muslims. The translation is in simple language, and while being faithful to the original it is also idiomatic.

Publications from 1924–1937: The Religion of Islam

During the time that Fazl-ul-Bari was being published, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote his famous English book The Religion of Islam in 1934 and 1935. He had in fact been working on it gradually since 1928. That year, a book of the same title written by a Christian clergyman, the Rev. F. A. Klein, was given to Maulana Muhammad Ali by Chaudhry Sir Shahab-ud-Din who was President of the Punjab Assembly. This book presented a grievously distorted picture of Islam, and after going through it the Maulana decided to write a comprehensive book on Islam in English. On one occasion the Promised Messiah had also bidden him to write such a book in English. However, due to other writing work and various engagements he could not complete this task. In March 1935 he was taken ill and his condition become serious enough that he had to be moved to Dalhousie on 11 April for a change of climate and recuperation. When he recovered a little he first completed this task. In December 1935, at the annual gathering, he mentioned this in the following words:

“Not long before his death the Promised Messiah had expressed a wish in 1907, and he expressed it to me by telling me that a book about the teachings of Islam should be written in English. In 1908 I got involved in the English translation of the Holy Quran and in fact I forgot all about this work.

In 1928 a friend gave me a book written by a Christian clergyman in which the teachings of Islam were presented in a highly distorted form. So I embarked upon the task of writing a book about Islam and kept working on it gradually in addition to my other commitments.

Last March I was suddenly taken ill and it took such a serious turn that the doctors had me confined to bed and disallowed me to do any work. At that time I kept wondering whether I would be able to finish this book in my life.

By the grace of Allah I recovered and getting out of my sick bed I started to complete this book, working as hard as a student preparing for his examinations. Sometimes I even had to give up my morning walk and work on it constantly from morning till nine at night. By the grace of Allah the printing of the book is now entirely complete. All the proofs have been checked. Its name is The Religion of Islam.”

(Paigham Sulh, 7 February 1936)

This monumental work of almost 800 pages is divided into three parts, containing all essential knowledge about Islam necessary for a Muslim or non-Muslim. The first part deals with the sources of Islam, that is, the Holy Quran, the Hadith and Ijtihad (inference and exercise of judgment). In the second part the principles of Islam are discussed: Faith, Existence of God, Angels, Divine Revelation, Prophets, Life after death and Taqdir (Predestination), etc. The third part deals with practical religious obligations and Islamic Law and commandments, that is, Prayer, Zakat, Fasting, Hajj, Jihad, Marriage and Divorce, Property and Inheritance, Loan and Interest, Directions about Food and Drink, and other laws. On every issue discussed, references are copiously given from the Holy Quran, Hadith, books of Islamic jurisprudence and other works, there being altogether more than 2500 references in the entire book. The following are some examples of the tributes it received from learned Muslims:

Note: In the reviews marked with an asterisk * the quotation is reproduced in the original English in which the review was written. Other quotations have been translated from the Urdu text given in Mujahid-i Kabir.

Chief Justice S.M. Suleman, High Court, Allahabad, 6 February 1936:

“…a great and comprehensive work, embodying Islamic philosophy and jurisprudence and embracing Muslim theology as well as the cardinal points of Muslim Law. This exhaustive work contains a vast store of information as to the Islamic tenets and doctrines, much of which is not available in English. It is the product of great learning, deep scholarship and enormous labour.” *

Sir Shafa‘at Ahmad Khan:

“This book has been written in a highly scholarly manner and is proof of the learned author’s high ability and ingenuity. In it the learned author has thrown sufficient light on the important Islamic issues and in explaining them he has displayed the highest capability. I hope this will prove to be an authentic and unequalled book on Islam.”

Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, letter dated 6 February 1936:

“I have glanced through parts of it, and find it an extremely useful work almost indispensable to the students of Islam. You have already written a number of books; one cannot but admire your energy and power of sustained work.” *

Chaudhry Sir Shahab-ud-Din, Speaker, Punjab Assembly, 20 January 1936:

“The ‘Religion of Islam’ is the latest masterpiece from the pen of Maulana Muhammad Ali. … It is a mine of very useful information on the principles, doctrines and laws of the Muslim religion. It is a monumental collection of exceptional merit. It contains very full, detailed and reliable information on all questions dealt with in it.” *

Mr. Justice Abdur Rashid, 5 January 1936:

“It reveals great learning, deep research and a thorough mastery of the subject. … The conclusions of the learned author are amply supported by authority, and every controversial doctrine has been critically examined.” *

Eastern Times, Lahore, 28 February 1936:

“For a long time a need has been felt for an authentic book on Islam which could properly explain its meanings and its mission. Such a book was needed all the more because the literature produced by missionaries of other religions about Islam usually portrayed a distorted picture. Realising this need Maulana Muhammad Ali has written this book after years of experience and study. From beginning to end the author has taken extraordinary pains to include references from the Holy Quran, Hadith and other authoritative books and in this way this book is like an encyclopaedia of Islam.”

Nawab Bahadur Yar Jang, Hyderabad, Deccan:

“No one can be unaware of the service rendered to Islam and the Holy Quran by the Head of the Lahore Jama‘at Maulana Muhammad Ali. Most of all I have been impressed by his English book The Religion of Islam. Its greatest merit is that it is written keeping in view modern trends and ways of thinking. I consider this book as the Maulana’s best gift to the Islamic world and a highly effective message for those who are ignorant of the religion of Islam.”

Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, translator of the Quran into English:

“Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore. His literary works, with those of the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, have given fame and distinction to the Ahmadiyya Movement. In our opinion the present volume is his finest work. … It is a description of Al-Islam by one well-versed in the Sunna who has on his mind the shame of the Muslim decadence of the past five centuries and in his heart the hope of the revival, of which signs can now be seen on every side.

“Such a book is greatly needed at the present day when in many Muslim countries we see persons eager for the reformation and revival of Islam making mistakes through lack of just this knowledge. …

“We do not always agree with Maulana Muhammad Ali’s conclusions upon minor points — sometimes they appear to us eccentric — but his premises are always sound, we are always conscious of his deep sincerity; and his reverence for the holy Quran is sufficient in itself to guarantee his work in all essentials. There are some, no doubt, who will disagree with his general findings, but they will not be those from whom Al-Islam has anything to hope in the future.” *
(Islamic Culture, quarterly review published from Hyderabad Deccan, India, October 1936, pp. 659–660)

Publications from 1924–1937: other writings

Apart from Fazl-ul-Bari and The Religion of Islam, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote many other books during the period 1924 to 1937, as well as producing tracts and pamphlets on the need for the propagation of Islam and on the message of the Ahmadiyya Movement which were distributed free in thousands within India and particularly abroad. Details of these publications are given below in chronological order.

In 1924 the English pamphlet The Call of Islam was written explaining the duties and responsibilities of a Muslim in regard to the propagation of Islam and how these are fulfilled through the Ahmadiyya Movement. Up to the present, ten editions of this booklet consisting of more than 30 thousand copies have been published, and in other countries it has been translated into several languages of those countries. He wrote a similar tract in Urdu entitled Da‘wat-i ‘Amal (‘Call to Action’).

In January 1924 the English translation of Sirat Khair-ul-Bashar was published as Muhammad the Prophet. This translation was done by Maulana Muhammad Yaqub Khan.

In November 1924 Tarikh Khilafat-i Rashidah was published, recording the history of the four Righteous Caliphs.

In 1928 he wrote two English pamphlets: Islam the Religion of Humanity and The Prophet of Islam. These two pamphlets have proved invaluable in presenting the religion of Islam and its Holy Prophet to non-Muslims. Numerous editions of these pamphlets consisting of as many as thirty thousand copies were printed from Lahore and distributed free. They were also translated into thirty languages of India and other countries.

During 1927 and 1928 Maulana Muhammad Ali prepared a smaller edition of the English translation of the Holy Quran for publication in which the explanatory footnotes were much condensed and the Arabic text was not included, so that it could be distributed on an even larger scale in the English speaking world. Its first edition, printed in England, reached India in May 1929 and further editions were published later. In total, twenty-one thousand copies have been printed and distributed up to now, a large quantity being disseminated free in foreign countries.

In March 1929, a brief booklet in English, The Islamic Institution of Prayer was published, throwing light on the manner, necessity and value of prayer in Islam.

In August 1929 a short biography of the Holy Prophet Muhammad was published in Urdu, entitled Muhammad Mustafa, being a briefer version of the book Sirat Khair-ul-Bashar.

In December 1929 the Urdu Hama’il-i Sharif was published, consisting of the translation and the text of the Holy Quran, with notes much condensed from Bayan-ul-Quran particularly by omitting the discussion on the lexicology of Arabic words, so that more people would be able to afford this less costly version.

During the same period four booklets Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali were issued, giving brief biographies of these Righteous Caliphs.

In the beginning of 1930 a new writing, Hasti Bari Ta‘ala (‘Existence of God’), was published.

In May 1930 he started writing his famous Urdu book Tahrik‑i Ahmadiyyat (‘The Ahmadiyya Movement’) which was published in December 1931. In the first chapter of this book are discussed a brief history of the Movement, the early life of the Promised Messiah, his claim to be Mujaddid and his services to Islam. The second chapter deals fully with his claims. In the third chapter there is a study of the arising of the Antichrist and Gog and Magog and other signs fulfilled in our times. The fourth chapter sheds light on the real significance of the Ahmadiyya Movement and its distinctive features. The fifth chapter records its practical work and achievements in the field of the propagation of Islam.

In December 1931, a separate Urdu book on the Antichrist and Gog and Magog was published under the title Al-Masih ad-Dajjal wa Yajuj wa Majuj, in which it was proved by interpreting Hadith reports in the light of modern history that the present Western powers in their political aspect are Gog and Magog, and the Christian nations in their religious characteristics symbolise the Antichrist.

In 1932 the English translation of Tarikh Khilafat-i Rashidah, rendered by Maulana Yaqub Khan, was published as The Early Caliphate.

In 1932, when the first edition of Muhammad the Prophet had been exhausted, before publishing the second edition Maulana Muhammad Ali revised it and added two chapters, namely, ‘Islamic wars’ and ‘Alleged Atrocities of the Prophet Muhammad’. The same year he revised Maqam-i Hadith and its new edition came out. That year also he wrote the English book Introduction to the study of Hadith.

In December 1932 his English booklet World-Wide Religious Revolution was published in which the beliefs and achievements of the Ahmadiyya Movement were presented. The same year another pamphlet in English, entitled Pre-destination, came out.

In 1933 he published an English book about Bahaism entitled History and Doctrines of the Babi Movement.

In 1933 the English book Selections from the Holy Quran was published, in which verses from the Holy Quran have been arranged under nearly one hundred and twenty five subject headings. The second book in this series, entitled Collection and Arrangement of the Holy Quran, was published in 1934, dealing with the collection, order and subject arrangement of the Holy Quran.

In April 1935 the Jama‘at in Java published the Dutch translation of the Holy Quran, which was done from the English translation. Earlier they had translated The Teachings of Islam, Muhammad the Prophet and many other pamphlets and books into Dutch.

In November 1934 an Urdu booklet was published entitled Maghrib mein Tabligh Islam ya Islam ka Daur-i Jadid (‘Propagation of Islam in the West or the new era of Islam’), in which the need and importance of the propagation of Islam in the West was stressed and it was explained that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the first to think of this and it was being done practically by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at. The Promised Messiah’s claim and the beliefs and works of the Jama‘at are also discussed in it.

In 1934 and 1935 some Urdu tracts were written addressing the general body of the Muslims such as Ek Dardmandana Guzarish (‘A heart-felt plea’), Taswir ka Doosra Rukh (‘The other side of the picture’) and Hamare Aqa’id aur Hamare Kam (‘Our beliefs and our works’).

In 1936 the English book Introduction to the Study of the Holy Quran was published discussing the arrangement of the Holy Quran, its essential teachings, histories of the prophets as related in the Quran, and answering some criticism about the Holy Quran.

In 1937 the English book Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was published. This is a brief biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, dealing with his life, claims, beliefs and achievements.

In 1937 a small English booklet entitled The Ahmadiyya Movement as the West Sees It was published, being a compilation of the views of Western orientalists and Christian writers about the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at as expressed in their books and journals, with some comments upon these views.

In addition to the books and booklets mentioned above, Maulana Muhammad Ali also wrote many other pamphlets dealing with the then current issues. In 1924 two tracts were published on the question of Apostasy in Urdu whose titles mean ‘Punishment for an apostate according to Islamic Shariah’ and ‘Is there any punishment for reverting to unbelief after accepting Islam?’ In 1925 he wrote Jihad, Saltanat-i Afghanistan aur Ahmadi Musalman (‘Jihad, the government of Afghanistan and Ahmadi Muslims’). Two more pamphlets on the Finality of Prophethood were published, one in Urdu in 1926 entitled Masih Mau‘ud aur Khatm-i Nubuwwat (‘The Promised Messiah and the finality of prophethood’) and one in English in 1930 entitled The Finality of Prophethood. Another tract in English entitled The Prophet’s Message was also published in 1930. The same year the English pamphlet The Alleged Atrocities of the Prophet was published refuting accusations of alleged cruelties by the Holy Prophet. In 1932, in answer to Muwaddat Nama by Maulana Sanaullah of Amritsar, Jawab Mawaddat Nama  was published.

During these years the leaders of the Untouchables of India announced their growing disillusionment with the Hindu religion. This was a golden opportunity for the Muslims to convert some eighty million Untouchables to Islam. As will be mentioned later, the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam undertook this work within its limited resources and achieved much success. But regrettably the large, main Muslim organizations and their leaders paid no attention to this work, and this most valuable opportunity was lost to the Muslims of India. In this connection Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote the following pamphlets to draw the attention of the Muslims towards this issue (the first is in Urdu and the remaining three in English):

  1. Achhutun ki Mushkilat ka Hal Sirf Islam mein hai
    (‘Solution of the problems of the Untouchables is only in Islam’).
  2. Islam’s Great Opportunity.
  3. Islamic Brotherhood and the Harigans.
  4. Depressed Classes and the Poona Mission.

Various other pamphlets he wrote during these years are as follows. (Except for those indicated as English, all are in Urdu.)

  1. Jama‘at Qadian ki Tabdili ‘Aqida
    (‘Change in belief of the Qadiani Community’).
  2. Kya Hazrat Mirza sahib nay Nubuwwat ka Da‘wa Kiya?
    (‘Did Hazrat Mirza sahib claim prophethood?’).
  3. Ahmadiyya Jama‘at Lahore kay ‘Aqa’id
    (‘Beliefs of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at’).
  4. Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s Statement re the Qadianis (English).
  5. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and the Ahmadiyya Movement (English).
  6. Mr. Pickthall on the Revival of Islam (English).
  7. Jama‘at ko Mujahida ki Da‘wat
    (‘Our Jama‘at exhorted to undertake spiritual struggle’).
  8. Qadiani Jama‘at aur Kalima Go’un ki Takfir
    (‘The Qadiani Community and declaring Muslims as kafir’).
  9. Musulmanun ki Takfir ka Nateeja
    (‘Consequences of declaring Muslims as kafir’).
  10. Anjuman Himayat-i Islam ka I‘lan
    (‘Announcement by the Anjuman Himayat-i Islam’).
  11. Jama‘at Ahmadiyya Lahore aur Jama‘at Qadian per Ayk Nazar
    (‘Brief comparison of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at and the Qadiani Jama‘at’).
  12. Mian Mahmud Ahmad per un kay Murideen kay Ilzamat aur Bariyyat ka Nirala Tareeq
    (‘Allegations against Mirza Mahmud Ahmad by his followers and his novel technique of exoneration’).
  13. Ahbab Qadian say Ayk Appeal
    (‘An appeal to Qadiani friends’) .

Quran teaching (Dars-i Quran)

In 1914, immediately upon coming to Lahore, Maulana Muhammad Ali had instituted the daily teaching of the Holy Quran. He continued this till 1930. While on the one hand he was anxious about the propagation of the Quran in the whole world, on the other he wanted to infuse the desire to study and learn the Quran in the members of the Jama‘at. Accordingly, his writings and sermons, from the beginning to the end, show his fervour and heart-felt desire for this.

As has been mentioned before, not only did he give daily teaching in the Holy Quran himself, but he also adopted different ways of doing it. During 1924–1925 the teaching was delivered by holding a Ta‘lim-ul-Quran class in which the whole Quran was covered in six months. In 1925 and 1926 during the month of Ramadan (March and April) he covered one part of the Holy Quran daily, and for this dars he especially invited those people from the outside branches who could stay in Lahore for the entire month and attend the classes. In 1930 he added a new style of teaching, twice a week, by selecting various subjects and discussing all the verses of the Quran bearing upon each such topic. This was in addition to the daily dars of the Holy Quran. From 1930 onwards Dr. Basharat Ahmad was in Lahore and took over the daily sessions at the Ahmadiyya Buildings mosque. He was a unique lover of the Holy Quran; expounding the meanings of the Quran was such a distinctive feature of his life that wherever he was stationed in the course of his employment he always instituted dars of the Quran. God had bestowed upon him a profound understanding of the Holy Quran and his style of delivery was so appealing that people felt drawn to attend. Many young people not particularly interested in religion as well as other persons were captivated after attending just one session.

In March 1932, in order to infuse enthusiasm among the younger generation for the study of Islam, Maulana Muhammad Ali started quarterly examinations. The curriculum was based on the Holy Quran, Hadith and books of the Promised Messiah. These examinations were held from time to time and continued till 1947.

Stay in Dalhousie

As has been mentioned before, from 1922 Maulana Muhammad Ali started going to Dalhousie for the summer, where he found solitude and was able to concentrate. In the beginning he used to stay in the residence known as ‘Mall House’ in the lower part of Dalhousie near the post office. From 1925 he started to reside in a house called ‘Peterborough’ on Bakrota Hill, which was situated at a secluded spot reached after much climbing. Bakrota was very sparsely populated but had the advantage that there was a level, circular road going around it which was two and a half miles long. Maulana Muhammad Ali was always in the habit of taking a morning walk, and here in the hills he went for a walk before maghrib prayer also. This road around Bakrota became the walk for him and the other members who went to stay in Dalhousie.

In 1930 he bought a plot of land a little further along in upper Bakrota at a very low price. At that time this was a deserted place with only one or two houses nearby. That year he sold some of his ancestral land in the village of Murar to his nephews and built his own residence in Dalhousie which he named Darus Salam. From 1931 to 1947 he spent every summer in this house and completed many of his books here.

In 1930 his father-in-law Dr. Basharat Ahmad retired and moved to Lahore in order to devote the rest of his life to the service of the religion. In the summer he too used to go to Dalhousie. On the advice of Maulana Muhammad Ali, he bought a plot of land adjacent to the Maulana’s with his pension fund and built a small house there in 1932. That year, on 4 June 1932, Dr. Basharat Ahmad’s wife, the mother-in-law of Maulana Muhammad Ali, died of pneumonia in Dalhousie. For her burial they both went to Lahore for two or three days. As Maulana Muhammad Ali had a great interest in as well as experience of having buildings constructed, he had the house built for the Doctor sahib under his own supervision with special attention. From then on, the Doctor sahib spent every summer in that house and that is where he wrote his well-known books Anwar-ul-Quran, parts one and two, and Mujaddid-i-Azam. In Dalhousie Dr. Basharat Ahmad started giving daily classes in the Holy Quran which were attended by members of his family and some neighbours. Later on when Shaikh Maula Bakhsh of Lyallpur also had a residence built on upper Bakrota, the dars of the Holy Quran was conducted at his house in the evening.

During his stay in Dalhousie the azan was called out for the five daily prayers and the prayers held in congregation. Any members of the Jama‘at or other guests staying and the whole family used to join in the prayers. Even if no one else was present, just Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulvi Abdul Wahhab (who was for a long time his personal assistant) prayed together as a congregation. There was always a bigger gathering for Friday prayers because many friends who resided some distance away would also attend. As mentioned earlier, the Dalhousie hill resort was not like Simla or Murree Hills; and Bakrota, where Maulana Muhammad Ali and Dr. Basharat Ahmad had their residences, was sparsely populated and located quite far from and at a greater height than main Dalhousie, so the distances to be travelled were greater.

From Dalhousie Maulana Muhammad Ali regularly wrote articles in a series under the title Baradaran-i Jama‘at kay Naam Khatut (Letters to the brethren of the Jama‘at), which acted as a substitute for his Friday sermons in Lahore. These articles contained that same strong passion for the propagation of Islam and spreading the Quran in the world which was generally the topic for his Friday sermons. Some of these letters were specially addressed to certain persons who had become discontented with the Jama‘at  due to personal grievances and disputes.

Muslim High School buildings at Lahore and Baddomalhi

It was decided in 1924 that the Muslim High School, which was located in a rented house in McLeod Road, Lahore, should have its own premises built in Ahmadiyya Buildings. The construction was started in December 1924. At that time the Berlin Mosque was also being built, so Maulana Muhammad Ali made special appeals and toured different areas to raise funds for both constructions. Appeals were made particularly during the annual gathering of 1924, in which he asked members to donate five days’ earnings for this purpose. During the construction of this building Maulana Muhammad Ali and some of his friends personally supervised the work. On 15 February 1925 Maulana Muhammad Ali laid the commemorative stone and in June 1925 the school was moved into this new building. Earlier, in 1918, the Anjuman had also inaugurated a school in Baddomalhi, the building for which was erected by the determination and efforts of Chaudhry Ghulam Haidar and Chaudhry Sarfraz Khan.

Demise of Shaikh Rahmatullah

In August 1924 the death took place of Shaikh Rahmatullah, a pillar of the Ahmadiyya Community since the early days of the Promised Messiah. When Hazrat Mirza sahib established the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Qadian, he was appointed as one of its fourteen members, and was a most devoted, sincere and active member. He had a business in Lahore and had been bestowed by Almighty God with much wealth which he spent profusely for the service of Islam. He frequently visited Qadian to be in the company of the Promised Messiah and later Maulana Nur-ud-Din. After the Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement he became one of the founders of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore. These five senior figures, namely, Maulana Muhammad Ali, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, Shaikh Rahmatullah, Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig and Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah were bound together by the closest ties of deep love and friendship. In Qadian Maulana Muhammad Ali was the moving spirit behind the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya while these four were his best helpers and counsellors. After the establishment of the Anjuman in Lahore these five were the mainstay of the Jama‘at. Shaikh Rahmatullah was the first of them to meet his Maker, having faithfully discharged his compact and duty.

Demise of Syed Muhammad Ahsan of Amroha

On 10 July 1926, another very senior figure in the Movement, Syed Muhammad Ahsan of Amroha, died. He was among the earliest followers of the Promised Messiah and was highly respected by Hazrat Mirza sahib. He was a recognised, leading authority on the Holy Quran and Hadith, and was the right hand man of the ruler of Bhopal, the Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan. After accepting the Promised Messiah he left his high post and came to live in Qadian in a small room near Hazrat Mirza sahib merely for the sake of the Divine cause. Hazrat Mirza sahib received the following Divine revelation about his sincerity and sacrifice:

In praise of Muhammad Ahsan, I see him giving up his livelihood for my sake.

After the death of the Promised Messiah, he went back to live in his native place Amroha. Right from the beginning he had a very high opinion of Maulana Muhammad Ali. In a letter to him dated 5 February 1910 he writes:

“No one else in the Jama‘at has the virtues that you possess. I do not say this out of flattery but out of my faith and belief. I regard a flatterer as a hypocrite, in fact as a cursed one.”
(Paigham Sulh, 7 April 1914)

He was in Qadian at the time of the death of Maulana Nur-ud-Din and it was he who proposed the name of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad as the new head at the gathering in the Nur Mosque. However, as he later explained, he was unaware that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad held such dangerous beliefs as he was out of touch with the situation in Qadian, living in Amroha. In his announcement of 24 December 1916 he writes:

“All of you are aware that at the beginning of 1914 upon the death of Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din sahib a difference arose in our community. So at that time, in order to preserve unity, I considered it advisable that all of us should take the pledge at the hand of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad sahib. I did not know then that his beliefs had undergone corruption.”

Later on the Lahore members drew his attention to the wrong doctrines being promulgated by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, and they quoted from Syed Muhammad Ahsan’s own writings to show that his beliefs on prophethood accorded with the Lahore Jama‘at  and not with the views of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad. Upon this, the Qadiani Jama‘at leadership wrote to Syed Muhammad Ahsan asking him to change his beliefs. He then undertook a visit to Qadian to try personally to bring about reform but was disillusioned. As a result he made the announcement referred to above in which he declared:

“Bearing in mind that I have to please Allah the Most High, and fearing that I am answerable to Him, I declare that sahibzada Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, because of his insistence on his wrong beliefs, is no longer considered by me to be fit to be the khalifa or head of the Jama‘at of the Promised Messiah. Therefore I remove him from this khilafat, which is not a political office but an optional one, and thereby absolve myself before Allah and the people of the responsibility which was upon my shoulders.

“I inform the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at that the beliefs of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, namely, that:

1. All other Muslims, even though they face the Qibla and recite the Kalima, are kafir and excluded from Islam;

2. The Promised Messiah is a full and real prophet, not a partial prophet which is a muhaddas;

3. The prophecy in the words of the Quran “his name being Ahmad” applies to Hazrat Mirza sahib and not to the Holy Prophet Muhammad;

— these doctrines are a source of a dangerous disruption in Islam, and it is the prime duty of every Ahmadi to stand up to refute them.”

At the same time he wrote two comprehensive books entitled Ismu-hu Ahmad (‘His name being Ahmad’) and Khatam-un-nabiyyin (‘Last of the Prophets’). Due to old age and ill health he remained in Amroha but attended the annual gatherings of the Anjuman in Lahore. He breathed his last at the age of more than ninety years.

Missionary work in India

Although the main object of the Jama‘at was the propagation of Islam to the West, yet it also paid attention to preaching in the Indian subcontinent itself. When in 1920 or thereabouts the Arya Samaj Hindus launched a vigorous campaign of shuddi or returning Muslims back to the Hindu faith, the Anjuman did an enormous amount of work in combating this anti-Islamic movement. Missionaries were sent everywhere as required and branches were set up in many places to continue this work. Later on when the Hindu campaign petered out and also the Anjuman was facing financial problems, these activities were reduced. In 1926 the Anjuman decided to propagate the message of Islam among the Untouchable communities of India. Accordingly this work was started in many districts and hundreds of Untouchables were converted to Islam. Maulana Muhammad Ali appealed to the Jama‘at for all members to donate one-sixth of their monthly incomes for this cause. Thus for years missionaries of the Anjuman gave lectures before huge gatherings in refutation of the Ayra Samaj and put them to rout in momentous public debates. There were in particular two such prominent missionaries of the Anjuman whose fame spread far and wide in India: Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi and Maulana Ismatullah. In addition, Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf Garanthi and Mirza Muzaffar Baig also rendered very valuable services. These Ahmadi missionaries were so triumphant in argument that the Arya Samajists began to dread holding debates with them. Similarly, the missionaries of this Jama‘at battled with conspicuous success against Christian missionaries for many years until the latter stopped holding debates with them after receiving confidential instructions from their superior officials that they must cease debating with the Ahmadis or preaching to them.

Organizational tours and other travels, 1924 to 1937

Taking time out from his literary activities, Maulana Muhammad Ali used to visit various branches of the Jama‘at every year, as far as possible. He would visit many of the branches on the occasion of their annual meetings. This practice he continued all during these years. He would also be invited to meetings of the Anjuman Islamia (a general Muslim body) in many places which he would attend and in his speeches draw the attention of non-Ahmadi Muslims towards the magnificent work that was the goal of the Ahmadiyya Movement and his own goal, namely, the propagation of Islam and dissemination of the Holy Quran in the whole world, especially among the Western nations.

In November 1924, accompanied by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din and Dr. Mirza Yaqub Baig, he went to Aligarh, travelling through Delhi, and reached there on 21 November. There he and the Khwaja sahib gave several lectures in the Muslim University. In those days the solid work done by this Jama‘at and the invaluable writings of Maulana Muhammad Ali had created a highly favourable impression among the educated sections of the general Muslim public. Sahibzada Aftab Ahmad Khan, who was then the Vice-Chancellor of the University, expressed great appreciation of these achievements during the course of these lectures, especially the English translation of the Holy Quran. In his speech introducing the speakers he mentioned that during his stay in England he once had occasion to meet some Egyptian Muslim dignitaries who told him that although Arabic was their mother tongue but it was through the English translation of Maulana Muhammad Ali that they had learnt the meanings of the Holy Quran. He also mentioned some other famous public figures who had benefitted from this translation.

In 1929 Maulana Muhammad Ali undertook a major trip to Mangrol, a small state in Kathiawar. He went there on 20 February, accompanied by Maulvi Ismatullah, Maulvi Sadr-ud-Din and Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf Garanthi. The Nawab of this state, Shaikh Muhammad Jahangir Mian, was a great admirer of Maulana Muhammad Ali and the work of the Anjuman, and from time to time he made financial donations to the Anjuman. Maulana Muhammad Ali stayed in Mangrol till 1st March. He delivered a lecture in a public meeting, and spent much of the time in discussion with the Nawab and his officials.

During the winters of 1931 and 1932, Maulana Muhammad Ali could not go out much to visit other branches in person due to ill health. So he deputed Dr. Basharat Ahmad and Mian Ghulam Rasul who made tours of different branches for organisational purposes. In 1933 also he was indisposed for a long time, suffering from eczema.

In 1934 Maulana Muhammad Ali was again able to tour several cities in the Punjab, and he also went to Peshawar where he delivered a speech to the students of Islamia College, Peshawar.

From 1935 onwards he reduced his tours of the branches of the Jama‘at both due to a decline in his health and a great increase in his writing work and other engagements.

In December 1937 he had occasion to go to Qadian. He had been called to Batala as a defence witness in connection with a court case against a Qadiani, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, which had been brought because he had written in a pamphlet that Guru Nanak was a Muslim. Maulana Muhammad Ali went to Batala by car, accompanied by Dr. Syed Muhammad Husain Shah and Babu Manzur Ilahi. After he had testified in court, they went to Qadian and offered a prayer at the grave of the Promised Messiah, returning in the evening.

Arrival of Lord Headley in India, December 1927

Among the British people who had accepted Islam within a short period after the establishment of the Woking Muslim Mission by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, the most prominent man was Lord Headley. His conversion became much talked about both in Britain and India and proved a great help to the cause of propagation of Islam, bringing further successes to Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s mission. In December 1927, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din and Lord Headley came together on a tour of India from England. The annual gathering of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at that year was delayed by a few days and held from 28th to 30th December to enable Lord Headley to attend it. He presided over the first session. On 28 December 1927 when Lord Headley and the Khwaja sahib arrived in Lahore, they were given a grand reception at the railway station where not only Maulana Muhammad Ali and members of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Community but also thousands of other Muslims of Lahore were present. Lord Headley, the Khwaja sahib and Maulana Muhammad Ali were driven in a car around the city in a huge procession. On the way the procession halted at various places and Lord Headley addressed the crowds briefly. The first session was held at the grounds of Islamia College where Maulana Muhammad Ali presented an address to Lord Headley. Also present in that session, and delivering speeches during it, were Sir Muhammad Shafi, Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan. After staying in Lahore for a few more days Lord Headley, in the company of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, toured other cities of the Punjab as well as India generally before he returned to England.

Construction of the Berlin Mosque and translation of the Holy Quran into German

As mentioned before, the construction of the mosque in Berlin had started. The original estimate of the cost was between Rs. 50,000 and 60,000 but due to certain circumstances this subsequently increased to almost Rs. 100,000. When by the end of 1924 the minarets of the mosque had not been constructed, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote to Maulana Sadr-ud-Din to postpone the construction of the minarets. Raising of funds for the Berlin Mosque had been going on for quite sometime at the special appeals of Maulana Muhammad Ali. During the annual gathering of 1924 also, funds were raised for this purpose. On the first day of this Gathering, the day of the ladies conference, Maulana Muhammad Ali made a speech mentioning that work on construction of the minarets had been halted. He especially appealed to the women in the following words:

“Perhaps many of the sisters in our Jama‘at may think that because their husbands, fathers or elders take part in services to the religion, this is enough for them as well. But this view is not right. Just as the virtuous deeds of the husband are not credited by Allah to the wife, similarly his giving to charitable causes would not be considered as that of the wife. Where the Holy Quran mentions men who spend in the way of Allah, it also mentions mutasaddiqat or women who spend in the way of Allah. So just as Allah has made it a duty for men to serve the faith, He has also imposed this duty on women. The women of our Jama‘at must bear in mind that no matter how much their husbands serve the religion if they themselves do not take part in service of the faith then they are as deprived of participating in that noble work as any other woman…”

In response to this appeal a most inspiring scene was beheld: the women responded so generously that they took off their jewellery and donated it for the propagation of Islam. At the main gathering the men provided enough further funds to reach the required amount for the completion of the construction. The opening ceremony of the mosque took place on Eid day in April 1925, and in May Maulana Sadr-ud-Din returned from Germany.

In 1928, at the suggestion of a member of the Jama‘at Malik Ghulam Muhammad, it was proposed that the Holy Quran be translated into the German language. On 13 March 1928 the following appeal for funds by Maulana Muhammad Ali appeared in Paigham Sulh:

“I am fully aware that this small Jama‘at is already bearing a heavy burden. But I believe that the help of Allah comes only to those who work in His way. So I am pleased that, after a suggestion from an honourable friend of ours, the plan for the German translation of the Holy Quran has been put forward. The opening of the mission in Germany, the starting of a quarterly magazine, and then the completion of the mosque at a cost of a hundred thousand Rupees, were all achieved by the grace of Allah. Our Jama‘at took the first step and Allah opened many doors of His help. But it is obvious that whatever has been achieved is incomplete until we put before those people the translation of the Holy Quran in their own language.”

With this appeal he started the fund-raising through his sermons and newspaper articles. The first announcement from the Anjuman about this translation appeared in Paigham Sulh in March 1928 in the following words:

German Translation of the Holy Quran:
The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore has decided to translate the Holy Quran into the German language. The work will be done by two German converts to Islam, who know the German, English and Arabic languages, under the supervision of Maulana Sadr-ud-Din. It is a great opportunity for those Muslims who feel passionately about Islam to participate in this noble task.
Muhammad Din Jan,
Assistant Secretary, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore.
(Paigham Sulh, 30 March 1928)

But due to some unavoidable circumstances this translation could not be started. Then in February 1932 a Doctor Mansur who had lived in Germany for a long time came to Lahore and the work of translation started under the supervision of Maulana Sadr-ud-Din.

From May 1925, after the return of Maulana Sadr-ud-Din from Germany, one Fazal Karim Khan Durrani was in charge of the mission for three years. Previously he had been sent to Trinidad as missionary by the Anjuman, but as his attitude there was not satisfactory he had been dismissed. Afterwards, at his own request, the Anjuman employed him again as missionary and sent him to Berlin. During his stay there he again acted inappropriately, spending large sums of money on the construction of the mosque without the Anjuman’s permission and running the mosque into debt. So in March 1928 the Anjuman sent Dr. Muhammad Abdullah to Berlin to take charge from him. At that time the Anjuman was faced with many financial problems. The debt of the Berlin mosque and its expenses amounted to twenty thousand Marks. Maulana Muhammad Ali made repeated appeals for this and finally the money owed was cleared in November 1932, releasing the mosque from debt.

Coming of Baron Umar Ehrenfels to India

On the occasion of the annual gathering of the Anjuman in December 1932, an Austrian convert to Islam, belonging to the aristocracy, Baron Umar Rolf Ehrenfels, came to India from Berlin in the company of Dr. Abdullah. He was given a grand reception at the Lahore Railway station on 24 December. Besides Maulana Muhammad Ali and other prominent Ahmadis, a large number of leading Muslims from outside the Movement were present at the station, including Sir Abdul Qadir, Nawab Mamdot and Maulana Ghulam Muhy-ud-Din Qasoori. From the station the Baron was brought in a procession to Ahmadiyya Buildings where Nawab Mamdot presided over the first session of the annual gathering of the Anjuman. After the recitation of the Holy Quran the session was inaugurated by Abul Asar Hafiz Jalandhary by reciting his poem which he had written upon the acceptance of Islam by Baron Umar. During his stay in Lahore, Baron Umar was invited by various associations, societies and dignitaries of Lahore and he made many speeches. Later on both he and Dr. Abdullah toured the country. In May 1933 Baron Umar went back to Vienna (Austria), and for a time he was in charge of a mission which the Anjuman opened there.

Java mission

This mission was opened in 1924. At that time Java, Sumatra, etc. were being ruled by Holland and were known as the Dutch East Indies. The Muslims there were in a state of the utmost destitution and backwardness. The Anjuman sent three men, Maulana Ahmad, Hafiz Muhammad Hasan Cheema and Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig, to that country. Due to certain reasons the Hafiz sahib stopped in Singapore. Maulana Ahmad was taken ill after arriving in Java and had to return to India after four months. This left Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig there by himself, facing many problems such as being a stranger in the country and not knowing its language. However, he persevered in his activities and over a period of fourteen years he brought about a transformation in the religious situation. Muslims rose out of their slump and despondency and were able to counter the attacks of the Christian missionaries. The Ahmadiyya Movement expanded in large numbers, the Holy Quran and other essential literature was translated into Dutch, and a strong, magnificent Jama‘at was established.

Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig returned to Lahore from Java after fourteen years, on 16 December 1937. Maulana Muhammad Ali paid him the following tribute in his Friday khutba on 17 December, published in Paigham Sulh, 22 December 1937:

“It is by the grace of God that even in this day the spiritual power of the Promised Messiah has produced such persons who follow the path of the Companions of the Holy Prophet in their exertions and in their humbleness. If I had to give an example of hard work and humbleness from our Jama‘at I would name Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig.”

He then went on to mention Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig’s achievements, how in a vast country of fifty-five million people, an awakening took place creating a defence to counteract the Christian missionary activity against Islam. Fourteen years earlier when Mirza Wali Ahmad Baig was leaving along with another missionary he was asked in his farewell meeting to make a speech. He only said: “What can I say at this time? If I am able to achieve something then I will speak about it on my return”. In those fourteen years he had done unparalleled work. A strong Jama‘at had been created, Islamic literature had been spread in the country, all our important books had been translated in Dutch, and now this embodiment of humility and modesty had returned. He had gone in his youth and returned aged and ill, but still he had no complaint or grumble.

Then Maulana Muhammad Ali urged the missionaries and the Jama‘at to produce such exemplary workers who can go on working tirelessly and still think that they had done little. He added:

“How many of us are working for our cause? A part of the Jama‘at is idle, not realising that there is so much work yet to be done. How many of us realise the importance of this work, and the greatness of our goal, that we have to spread Islam in the world. To spread Islam is no easy task. It is to continue the work of the Holy Prophet Muhammad as his successors. When you join this Jama‘at, do not keep on thinking of worldly allure, thinking of how you could have achieved much success in the world if you had not come here, because there is no way here of achieving worldly gains.”

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