Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, UK

Epigraph: 

“When you smile to your brother’s face, it is charity.” The Holy Prophet of Islam, recorded in Sunan al-Tirmidhî

Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad in white turban with Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad

By BA Rafiq, UK

Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad (Huzur) was the first Khalifa of Islam who travelled widely outside the sub-continent of India throughout his Khilafat. This travelling bridged the gap between the Khalifa and his flock and knitted the Community together into one unit under a strong Centre. He made seven trips to Europe in total, and each trip began or ended in the UK—in 1967, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1980. Other than 1980, I had the privilege of being the Imam of the Fazl Mosque, in London, throughout these many visits of Huzur, and witnessed at close hand his love and affection for the UK Jamaat. His presence and smiling countenance was something that the members of the UK Jamaat grew to love and look forward to seeing on a regular basis throughout the 1970’s.

I was the Imam of the London Mosque and Missionary in charge of UK when Hadhrat Khalifat ul Masih IIra passed away in 1965. Thousands of miles away from the centre, all Ahmadis in Britain were impatiently waiting for the news of the election of the third Khalifa. Many Ahmadis had assembled in the Mission House in London.

A very pious and devoted British Ahmadi Muslim, Bilal Nuttal, approached me and told me that he knew who the next Khalifa would be. I was very surprised. I asked him, how he knew, ahead of the election, the person who would be chosen to be the new Khalifa. Bilal Nuttal gave me a photograph that he had in his hand and in a choking voice said: “Here is a photograph of Sahibzada Mirza Nasir Ahmad, taken in the garden of the London Mosque. In those days, he was up at Oxford for his studies. Whenever he used to come to London I used to be close to him and spent time with him. I found him to be God fearing, well-mannered and an arch lover of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsaw. After my first glimpse at him I had always been absolutely certain that he deserved to occupy the exalted position and that the Jamaat (community) would surely elect him”.

Bilal Natal was still with me when we received a telegram from the Centre giving the glad tiding that Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad had been elected as the third Khalifa. Bilal Nuttal, being far sighted saw in Huzur all the qualities that were required for the fulfilment of the monumental task as a Khalifa. He was a witness that Huzur was a chaste, pious and God-fearing person. He was also a witness that he was an arch lover of the Holy Prophet of Islam.

On 26 July, 1967 he visited England for the first time after being elected Khalifatul Masih. All of us in the British Jamaat were very happy and over the moon. At Queen’s Building, Heathrow Airport a modest stage had been arranged for his reception and a microphone had been provided. On his arrival, the building resounded with slogans of ‘Takbeer’ and other Islamic slogans.

I asked him if he would like to address the audience. He said that he was so impatient to meet the members of the Jamaat that he would like to shake hands with all those who were present. No plans had been made for shaking of hands and certain difficulties arose. However, he insisted and shook hands with all the Ahmadis who had assembled there to receive him. He embraced some of those that he knew personally from Pakistan. He had to remain on his feet for an hour and a half but his face was aglow with pleasure, and he never indicated in any way that he was tired or exhausted from his 8 hour journey from Pakistan. The UK Jamaat were overcome with love and emotion to have the Khalifatul Masih amongst them.

Over the years it became his custom to come down each morning and work in his office for most of the day. He would regularly and diligently attend to the affairs of the Jamaat which invariably involved replying to letters and holding meetings with members of his staff on various matters concerning the Jamaat.

In the late summer afternoon he would take a short trip to a horticultural garden, or stately house usually in Surrey or its near environs. He would be accompanied by a small group of Jamaat members and Huzur would enjoy indulging in his love of nature and also talk to the members of the Jamaat accompanying him. Huzur was an accomplished amateur photographer and carried his Leica camera with him wherever he went and would enjoy taking photographs of landscapes of the English countryside.

Later in the evening after Isha prayers he would sit amongst the Jamaat members and would enjoy talking and having lengthy discussions with them over a wide array of subjects. Huzur was a very loving and kind individual and encouraged members of the Jamaat to talk freely and frankly on any subject. His nature was open and he took time to answer any question that was asked of him, and we would all be awe struck at the wealth of knowledge that he had at his fingertips.

Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, BA Rafiq and MP Tom Cox at the entrance to the House of Commons (St Stephens Gate)

Over the years it became Huzur’s practice to make the UK his base for all his foreign trips be they to Europe, USA or Africa, Huzur would always leave or return to the UK. There is little doubt in my mind that Huzur had a special bond with the UK Jamaat and this love was reciprocated by the members of the Jamaat who would gather in droves at the Fazl Mosque to gain the blessings of Allah, by being in the presence of Huzur.

Announcement of Nusrat Jehan Scheme in London.

During his West African tour in 1970, at Gambia, Almighty God instilled into his mind another grand scheme. The people of Africa had for centuries suffered persecution under the yoke of colonialism and it was time to liberate them by illuminating Africa through the divine light of Islam. The Scheme, known as the Nusrat Jehan Scheme, was launched through an announcement made in the Mahmud Hall, London and had been directed towards the establishment of schools, hospitals, clinics and broadcasting stations in Africa.

I still remember when Huzur asked me as Imam and Missionary in charge to ensure, that before he left the United Kingdom, a week later, a sum of £l0, 000 should be raised for the scheme. Knowing fully the financial ability and position of the U.K. Ahmadiyya Community, I frankly admitted the hopelessness of the mammoth task and said that I felt, that the target could not be achieved. Huzur told me that this was a divine mission and that Allah would ensure its success. The UK Jamaat rose to the challenge and lo and behold those people of whose financial sacrifices I had some apprehension began to pay in their contributions in their droves. By the end of the week, (and before Huzor departed), I reported to him that the sum of £l0,000 had been deposited at the bank. This three-year scheme went on to an accumulated fund of more than £50,000 within a short space of time and with the greater part of the sum pledged by the U.K. community. Countless schools, colleges, clinics and hospitals have been opened in Africa and many qualified teachers; doctors and dentists are operating on the African continent even to this day under the auspices of the Nusrat Jehan Scheme that was launched from Mahmud Hall, London those many years ago. His Excellency, The High Commissioner of the Gambia in the U.K. admitted to me the success of the Nusrat Jehan Scheme and often said that the day was drawing near when the whole of the country (Gambia) in some way or the other would receive some benefit from this excellent scheme.

A Message of Peace and a Word of Warning.

A grand reception was given to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III by the UK Ahmadiyya Jamaat at the Wandsworth Town Hall on 28th July, 1967. The Mayor of Wandsworth presided over the ceremony. Among the guests were Ministers, MP’s and local dignitaries, including government minister Hugh Jenkins (Later Lord). Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khanra also attended the event. The Mayor of Wandsworth welcomed Huzur. Sir Zafrullah Khanra and a few of the dignitaries also made welcoming speeches.

Huzur responded to the welcome speeches and delivered his famous speech entitled, “A Message of peace and a Word of Warning”.

Huzur warned that if the world did not listen to the message of peace of Islam and Ahmadiyyat then a great catastrophe would overtake them in the shape of a third world war. It would be a nuclear war. He said:

The Promised Messiah also prophesied that a Third World War of even bigger dimensions would follow the second. The two opposing camps will clash with such suddenness that everyone will be caught unawares. Death and destruction will rain from the sky and fierce flames shall

engulf the earth. The colossus of modern civilization will tumble to the ground. Both the communist and the opposing blocks will perish in the process. Russia and its satellites on the one hand and the U.S. and its allies on the other, shall be destroyed, their might broken, their civilization ruined ,their systems shattered. The survivors shall stand aghast and amazed at the tragedy.

Signs of acceptance of prayers

At every step during these tours the British Jamaat witnessed signs of the acceptance of his prayers.

When Hazrat Khalifatul Masih came to England in 1967, I vacated the Mission House and moved with my family to another flat. This flat was not yet ready and my wife had to clean it every day. As a result, there was a considerable amount of dust in the air. My eldest daughter, Jamila, suffered from asthma ever since childhood. Because of the change of environment and the floating dust in the air, my daughter had a severe attack of asthma, but as I was busy with Huzur, I could not attend to her needs. She continued to worsen in health and finally had to be admitted into hospital. A couple of days later I had the opportunity to visit her in hospital. I saw her in an oxygen tent in very poor health and was told by the staff that her condition was worsening daily. In her condition, I wondered if she knew that I was there at all. When I consulted the doctor on call, I was told in muted words that there was no response to medicine administered and there was a 50-50 chance of her survival. In fact, the doctor was preparing me for the worst. Full of grief, I returned to the Mission-House where Huzur was busy with his correspondence. I slipped in a note about my daughter’s condition and later told him that there was very little hope of her survival. Huzur immediately comforted me and said he would pray. The next day, Begum Sahiba, the wife of Huzur, informed me that Huzur had not sleep that night and had continued to pray for Jamila throughout the whole night. When that evening I went to the hospital, I was truly amazed to see my daughter sitting on a chair. The doctor told me that her survival was indeed a miracle. Within a few days she was fully recovered and was discharged from the hospital.

I can personally testify to countless examples of how his prayers were accepted, and in particular how members of the Jamaat were blessed with the fruits of his prayers.He had been gifted with a special sign; i.e. acceptance of his supplications.

In personal characteristics he was kindness personified. He would become restive at the slightest problem faced by those around him. Nobody who met hi would ever forget his beaming smile and shining countenance.

I had the privilege of being a recipient of his continuous kindness, affection and love for a period of seventeen years of his Khilafat. Because of his kindness and love every single particle of my body prays that in the next world Allah Almighty would grant him the proximity of his master, Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa (saw) Ameen.

Fourth Annual Jalsa of UK Jamaats.

The Fourth Annual Jalsa of the UK Jamaat was held at Wandsworth Town Hall on 30th of July 1967. More than a thousand Ahmadis and their non Ahmadi friends attended.

Huzur addressed the Conference twice. He urged the Jamaat to accelerate their Tabligh activities and to bring among them a spiritual change. This was the first time that the Khalifa of Islam had addressed a Jalsa Salana outside of the Indian sub-continent and was a great honour for the UK Jamaat.

Visiting Scotland.

Huzur decided to visit Scotland to meet the members of the Jamaat there. On July 31 Huzur left for Glasgow. Sir Zafrullah Khanra also accompanied him on this trip. Having an overnight stay at the Scotch Corner Huzur arrived in Glasgow the next day. The Jamaat received him enthusiastically.

Huzur also addressed a crowded Press Conference in Glasgow.

Among other journalists the Correspondent of The Daily Times was also present. He reported, in

The Times, August 18, 1967. He Wrote:

The Caliph from Balliol.

I DONT suppose many Caliphs have been educated at Balliol. One such is Caliph Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, leader of the three million strong Ahmadiyya Community, one of Islam’s 72 larger sects, who is here for the first time since he read economics at Balliol from 1934 to 1938. Caliph Ahmad points out that he, like the original Caliphs following the Prophet Muhammad, has no temporal power” I have no regard for material wealth.”

His tour, which includes visits to Ahmadiyya communities here and on the Continent, is a “mission of peace “. He has also revisited Balliol and has renewed some old acquaintances. ” I know many of those who are in authority now. In the last Conservative government there were seven Ministers who were at Balliol while I was there:’

At 57 Caliph Ahmad is gentle of manner and has a kind smile. Although a Pakistani, he is a distinguished Arabic scholar and was principal of the Ahmadiyya Taleem- ul-Islam College now in Rabwah, Pakistan……… He was elected by the Ahmadiyya College of 150 elders to succeed his father as the sect’s third caliph. He still lives there.

Prophet without a law.

Of the nature of Islam he says: “Why, the very name means peace. Holy War is not a Muslim phrase. It is something you must ask the Christians about. We have no such word.” How did his sect stand over the Arab-Israeli war? “It is not my place to discuss that.”

Founded in 1889 by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (” like Jesus a Prophet without a law”, says the Caliph) the Ahmadiyya sect claims to be Islam’s only missionary movement. They believe Christ died a natural death in Kashmir aged 120 and was known as Yus Asif, the Prophet of Palestine. Before his death the Hazrat prophesied five world catastrophes. “Two have already come, the First and Second World wars. We believe the next could be a nuclear war started in the Middle East. Muslims and Christians should get together to prevent it.

During Huzur’s visit of the UK, he addressed numerous Press Conferences. On 9th of July, 1970 he was interviewed by the well-known journalist Philip Howard. He wrote:

The man who is considered to be “the grandson of the promised Messiah” by his disciples, spiritual leader of four million Muslims, Caliph and Prophet in direct communion with Allah arrived in London yesterday and held a press conference in the faintly improbable Edwardian setting of the Cafe Royal. Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, a Balliol man is leader of the Ahmadiyya movement, a proselyting set of Islam that his grandfather founded 80 years ago. As a Hafiz he is one of the few who know the Koran by heart. His election as caliph of the movement seems to fulfil a prophecy of the Talmud: ” The throne of the Messiah descending to his grandson “.

Aged 61, married, with five children the caliph is a gentle, quiet impressive man. Wearing a snow-white pagri and beard, and sporting a sense of humor. Beaming, he shook, both hands warmly with the gentlemen, but not the ladies of the press, saying that he wanted to break the ice but not the coffee cups. The room bristled with Jinnah caps, including one on the head of an English Imam of the movement, Mr. Bashir Orchard, who runs its Glasgow mission. ‘He was converted to Islam’ in 1945 after serving in the Far East during the war. The Ahmadis have about 4,000 members, 21 branches, and one mosque ‘in the United Kingdom. In the chair was the president of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Sir Mohammed Zafrulla Khan.

Speaking to the youth of Britain the caliph, sounding more than ever like Socrates, said. ” Young people are not living a human life. They are living like animals, to my mind. I may be wrong. But that does not mean that I hate or despise them. I have sympathy for them because they are the losers. They should know themselves.” He uttered a verse about a revolution in which the world would become quite different and a much better place. ‘But if the world did not come back to Allah there would be a great catastrophe.

Visiting his college (Balliol) in Oxford.

During his 1967, visit to England, he expressed his wish to re-visit his College at Oxford. Arrangements were made and on 27th July 1967 he visited his old institution. Huzur studied at Balliol College and got his degree from Oxford University.

On arrival at the gate of the College an old gatekeeper told us that visitors were not allowed to enter the College premises without an admission card. Obviously we had not obtained the Card from the College administration. While I was talking to the gatekeeper Huzur stepped forward and told the Gatekeeper that he was an old student. The Gatekeeper looked at Huzur’s face and said, are you Nasir. We were surprised, as the Gatekeeper had seen him as a young man. Huzur had since grown beard and was wearing a turban and was meeting the old man after about thirty years.

The Gatekeeper then came out of his cabin, shook Huzur’s hand and opened the gate. Huzur took us to the room in the hostel where he had spent his three years term at Oxford.

Huzur’s holidays at Trenodden Farm.

Many members of the family of the Promised Messiah had a close relationship with a British farming family in Cornwall (England) The Pearce family were well to do and had a farm called Trenodden near Liskeard. While Huzur was a student at Oxford, he would often spend his holidays at the farm. His cousins Mirza Muzaffar Ahmad (M.M.Ahmad) and Mirza Zafar Ahmad, also accompanied him.

Once, along with Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khanra, I also spent a few days at the farm. 
In the evenings at the dinner table Mrs. Pearce would repeat the old tales concerning the times the three grandsons of the Promised Messiah had spent at the farm. Once during the course of our conversation, Mrs Pierce enquired about Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad. She was told that he was now the Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement. She pointed to the room where he used to stay and said that whenever she passed in front of his room she could hear a fascinating hum. She would stand next to the window and hear what was being recited. Once she asked Nasir about it. He replied that he recited a portion of the Holy Quran every morning. Mrs Pearce also said that at the evening meals the grandsons of the Promised Messiah often talked about their future plans. When it was Nasir’s turn, he would say:

I intend to serve Islam and I am determined to devote my life for this purpose. I have no other desire or ambition and I am certainly not inclined towards worldly affairs.

The British are normally somewhat diffident about talking about matters of faith. Mrs. Pearce admitted that on hearing this discussion she said: “Oh! What a waste of time.” She continued: 
“Now that he was the Head of the Jamaat I feel sorry that I let such a remark escape from my lips. Indeed, he had been granted the kind of life that he had wished for. Even in his youth he was very shy and a very affectionate person. During his holidays, he would assemble children and would give them chocolates. He was very particular in eating only Halal meat and as Halal meat was not easy to come by he would arrange for Halal meat himself from amongst the farm animals

His knowledge of honey bees and Arab horses.

He was very knowledgeable about horses, bees and other animals. He could keep the most learned expert on these subjects utterly amazed with his mastery of these topics. On all his tours of England he made sure that a visit to an Arab horses breeding farm be made. Arabian horses are famous for their loyalty and their speed. He used to say that Allah made Arabian horses especially for the use of the Holy Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him and for the service of Islam.

Once while talking to an Arabian horse breeder in Seven Oaks, Kent, he described the qualities of the Arab horses in such detail that the owner of the stud was stunned. He asked him whether he was the owner of Arabian horse studs in his country.

Huzur could hold lengthy and learned discourses on the healing properties of honey and reference it to Quranic and scientific sources. He was a veritable font of knowledge on nature and would have been regarded as an expert in his field, had he decided to take up this study full time.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III was a learned man who loved nature and humanity and served the members of the Jamaat selflessly and with great dignity throughout his Khilafat. Huzur’s 17 years of Khilafat were filled with immense achievements, but they also took a great toll upon his health and finally in 1982 whilst leading his Jamaat in salat Huzur suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away, shortly thereafter. (Innna lillah wa inni illayi Rajioon)

Categories: Europe, UK

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2 replies

  1. Jazakallah, brother Rafiq & TMT for sharing these wonderful memories with us.
    Hadhrat Khalifa III also had a very good memory, I remember being recognized by him in a jalsa in Ohio, USA. He waved his hand to me & said ” Aren’t you the daughter of Bismil Sahab?” You can imagine the pride I felt to be recognized by our beloved Imam!! May Allah bless him with the highest status in Jannah, Ameen.

  2. Regarding the smile I am reminded of the following: In the early days of MTA TV I was discussing Ahmadiyyat on the internet with a Bangladeshi residing in Hong Kong. I told him that he should watch MTA TV and if he found anything wrong I would be happy to discuss it with him. His response was: That Hazoor of yours (Khalifatul Masih IV), with his
    ‘golden smile’ is deceiving the whole world. Well, I answered to him, if that is your only objection I can only say ‘thank you for your comment’…

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